Date of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Political Science, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Melissa Rogers

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Pierre Englebert

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Yi Feng

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2019 Lisa Jené


Africa, Congo, DRC, Energy, Environment, Patronage

Subject Categories

Political Science


Part 1: Climate Change, Urbanization, and Government Responses in Sub-Saharan Africa This paper examines the relationship between climate change, rising urbanization rates, and regime types in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This project uses the national-level ND-GAIN (Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative) score and a selection of its sub-variables. The ND-GAIN score is a composite index that grades a country’s vulnerability to climatic disruptions (exogenous) as well as its readiness in terms of adaptation investment (endogenous); sub-variables used here include Governance Readiness, Vulnerability, and Adaptive Capacity. Data are used for all 49 SSA countries, over the years 1995-2016, in a set of panel regression analyses to empirically support the literature that links climate change to decreased agricultural viability and, as a result, increased urban growth rates. This paper also offers the unique finding that democratic regimes (measured by Polity IV) tend to be more responsive to climate change compared to their autocratic counterparts. Competing explanations are offered. One possible explanation follows the democratic rural bias theory, whereby democratic governments are expected to be more responsive to rural, agrarian constituents (Lipton 1977; Bates 1981) who are suffering from climate change. The second potential explanation suggests that as democratic leaders seek to collect votes by expanding their winning coalition (Bueno de Mesquita et al. 2001) of local patrons in exchange for patronage, these local patrons are sometimes required to funnel down targeted benefits that address problems brought about by climate change (Poulton 2014). This project presents a series of interaction terms that explore the nuances and dynamics of ND-GAIN climate scores, agricultural productivity, urbanization, and regime type. Findings suggest that democratic regimes are especially incentivized to address climate change when agriculture is very important to their economies. Results also suggest that democratic governments are responding to rising urbanization rates by improving their climate change adaptability. Policy recommendations include designing policies similar to those enacted by the country models of Rwanda and Botswana. Investing in targeted subsidies and innovation is also recommended.

Part 2: Cinderella Country: Charcoal vs. Clean Energy in the DR Congo The informal charcoal production industry in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is growing. Charcoal harvesting, production, and use have detrimental effects on the environment and health, particularly for women and children. International organizations and NGOs have dedicated numerous policies and programs toward the transition to cleaner energy sources in the DRC and Central Africa more generally, yet these cleaner energies (including electricity and solar) have struggled to take root. Given the detrimental effects of charcoal and the engagement by international actors, why has charcoal persisted as such an entrenched source of energy in Congo? The answer is partially political, partially economic, and partially cultural. Politically, the Congolese government has failed to provide modern energy services to an overwhelming majority of its citizens, and informal charcoal production is a reaction to this. Relatedly, the nation desperately lacks navigable roads, rendering the vast majority of the country unreachable by anyone intending to build energy infrastructure (whether domestic or foreign). Economically, charcoal and woodfuel continue to stand as the cheapest sources of energy. Even in areas where electricity is available (in a handful of larger cities), and even when electric stoves are provided free of charge by NGOs, the cost of running electric stoves outweighs the cost of running charcoal stoves, particularly with staples foods, like beans, which take much time to cook. Informal charcoal production is also economically important because it provides a much-needed source of income to producers and traders—a factor often overlooked by NGOs seeking to replace charcoal with cleaner energies. Culturally, many Congolese have a strong preference for the taste provided by charcoal cooking. Moreover, households wealthy enough to afford electricity often hire rural cooks for their homes, and these cooks may only be familiar with charcoal cooking techniques. All of these factors combine and interact to entrench charcoal as the primary source of energy used in the DRC. This project utilizes survey data from Enquête 1-2-3 to analyze energy consumption habits of Congolese citizens. This paper also draws on experience, interviews, and anecdotal evidence from fieldwork in the DRC. Policy recommendations for more effective and conscious energy transition strategies are offered in the conclusion section of this paper.

Part 3: Tangled! Patronage Politics and Provincial Elites in the DR Congo Expectations that Congolese decentralization would result in improved provincial governance were predicated upon an understanding of provincial elites as autonomous from Kinshasa. In reality, they are deeply embedded in informal patronage networks that reach out across the country, emanating from the presidency outwards. These networks are highly centralized, weaving a web that largely neutralizes the political, financial, and administrative autonomy of provinces. Drawing on fieldwork evidence based primarily on elite interviews conducted over 2017-2018, we investigate the intricate workings of this patronage web and we find that its main features—including a set of mechanisms that allowed for the continuation and even strengthening of central control over provincial politics—demonstrate the resiliance of Congo’s informal patronage structures in the face of formal institutional changes. Under such conditions, effective decentralization remains elusive. We propose policy recommendations that may work within this existing system.