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The rise and fall of Africa’s bureaucratic bourgeoisie: public employment and the income elites of postcolonial Kenya and Tanzania

Simson, Rebecca (2017) The rise and fall of Africa’s bureaucratic bourgeoisie: public employment and the income elites of postcolonial Kenya and Tanzania. Working Paper (10). International Inequalities Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.

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In 1961 Frantz Fanon scathingly characterised the emerging African elite as a bourgeoisie of the civil service. Many others have since described Africa’s public sector employees as a privileged rentier class that grew disproportionately large in relation to the continent’s under-developed private sector. Is this characterisation accurate? Using household budget survey and administrative data from Kenya and Tanzania, this paper aims to situate public sector employees in two African countries within their respective national income distributions and establish the share of highincome households that were headed by public servants. It finds that while public sector employees formed a considerable share of the top 1% - 0.1% at independence, their share of the broader middle class was never that large and fell substantially over the postcolonial era. In 1975 Kenyan public sector employees comprised roughly 36% of the top income decile, but by 1994 this ratio had dropped to 30% and by 2005/06 to 17%. In Tanzania the public sector share of the top decile fell from an estimated 25% in 1969 to 14% in 2011/12. In both countries moreover, public sector-headed households relied on multiple income sources to meet household consumption needs during the economic crises of the 1980s and early 1990s. Without recourse to secondary incomes from farming, businesses or other employment, public sectorheaded households would have seen a considerably larger relative income decline. The corollary to the declining share of public sector employees among high income earners was an increase in the share of private sector employees and business owners at the top of the income distribution. This suggests that after a long teething period, East Africa’s private sector may finally be coming into its own.

Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Additional Information: © 2017 The Author
Divisions: Economic History
International Inequalities Institute
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 04 Oct 2019 13:18
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2020 00:10

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