Essays on institutions and economic development in Kenya

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis focuses mainly on three related issues of the broader new institutional economics and political economy research: (i) the evolution of formal economic and political institutions over time (ii) the causality between political institutions and economic institutions, and that between institutions and economic development; (iii) and the role of institutions on economic development through the channel of foreign direct investment, and on the control of rent seeking and corruption in Kenya. These issues are discussed in four distinct essays, each essay constituting an independent and self-contained chapter. It adopts the conceptual framework on institutions proposed by Douglass North. The central theme of the thesis across all chapters is the demonstration of how political players holding de-facto political power operating under weak political rights and civil liberties use legal operators to benefit themselves and their close associates. For instance, starting with British rule - protectorate period (1885-1920) and colonial period (1920-1963) - an extensive legal apparatus designed by those holding de-facto political power expropriated much of the land and redistributed it to themselves at the expense of the indigenous populations whose political rights and civil liberties were crossly undermined. However, even after independence, several political players in the newly independent Kenya made little effort to fundamentally change the colonial laws that governed land rights and could not as well promote strong political rights and civil liberties. The thesis argues that despite pressures from the populace, political leaders and their interest groups holding de-facto political power entrench themselves in the system under weakly institutionalized environment, and oppose the constitutional reforms by all means including force, since such reforms go against their interests. The delay in such reforms often leads to the breakdown of governance. Such breakdown inevitably leads to conflict and social crisis such as the Kenya post-election crisis of 2007. The chapters in the thesis are organized in such a way that they start by tracing the evolution of rights promoted by people holding de-facto political power, then later the remaining chapters take on the assessment and implications of how such rights promoted under weakly institutionalized environment affect economic outcomes.

Includes bibliographical references