In nations without strong property rights or a consistent rule of law, there tends to be little or low-quality provision and management of public and common goods. Governments don’t have the incentives, resources, or institutional structure to manage them effectively, and private efforts are informal, inconsistent, and often outright barred by law. Atlas Network partner Audace Institut Afrique (AIA), based in the Ivory Coast, organized a February symposium to explore the problems with common goods in Africaand how they affect prospects for development throughout the continent. Produced in collaboration with ARIS-intelligence, the event included contributions from professors with backgrounds in economics, philosophy, history, and law.
One participant, philosopher and professor Yahot Christophe of the University of Bouaké, outlined how African governments often ignore the terms of their fundamental governing documents and don’t maintain a separation of powers, so that “the three branches of government maintain an incestuous relationship.” The lack of an ability to plan and manage resources effectively leads to widespread contempt for the law. “For want of a functioning system of checks and balances, state behavior is not controlled,” he notes. “Civil society is underdeveloped if not inexistent, and always very politicized.”