Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis


Political Science

First Advisor

J. Mark Ruhl




This paper examines the impact of decentralization on political corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the recent literature finds that decentralization reduces corruption, an outcome which is often attributed to the ability of citizens to hold local officials accountable through the democratic process. However, no studies focus on this region in particular, a gap given the prevalence of neo-patrimonial politics, weak institutions, and a lack of democracy in many countries. Multiple regressions found no significant results, but indicated that decentralization might reduce corruption – albeit only slightly. Case studies of Uganda and South Africa illustrate difficulties in implementation. In Uganda, decentralization led to a decrease in corruption, because local democracy proved somewhat effective in disciplining corrupt officials. In South Africa, decentralization has increased corruption levels due to an overburdened bureaucracy and the lack of democracy at the local level. Seeing as the problems experienced by South Africa are common problems for many Sub-Saharan African countries, this paper argues that the enthusiastic embrace of decentralization by many international organizations might be somewhat overeager, and that findings on decentralization and corruption should not be generalized across contexts.