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(Under)privileged bureaucrats? The changing fortunes of public servants in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, 1960–2010

Simson, Rebecca (2017) (Under)privileged bureaucrats? The changing fortunes of public servants in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, 1960–2010. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.3fq9ixb2r5b9


At independence the emerging African elite was dominated by employees of the state. Many academics have since speculated that this over-reliance on public employment contributed to the continent’s poor economic performance, as resources extracted from society were captured by a rent-seeking public sector class. Because this elite was directly beholden to the state, it also lacked the independence needed to hold the political class to task. Was this diagnosis accurate and has the state’s role as a creator of the elite persisted? This dissertation explores how three East African governments –those of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda - have used their powers as the single largest employer in their respective countries to influence the structure of society. Using quantitative evidence, it traces how public employment and pay evolved between the 1960s and the present. It examines the effects of these changes on the economic standing of public sector employees and the educational, regional and ethnic backgrounds of the people who came to work for the state. This long-run perspective shows that the public services in all three countries have changed a great deal over the past half-century and suggests that public sector salaries have declined in importance for the region’s educational and income elites. It also reveals that public sector jobs have been more evenly distributed - on a regional, ethnic and gender basis - than is sometimes presumed. The thesis relates these findings to a rich political economy literature on public employment, social stratification and the development of the African postcolonial state.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Rebecca Simson
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Supervisor: Roy, Tirthankar and Gardner, Leigh

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