African Moral Theory and Public Governance: Nepotism, Preferential Hiring and Other Partiality

In Munyaradzi Felix Murove (ed.), African Ethics: An Anthology for Comparative and Applied Ethics. UKZN Press. 335-56 (2009)
Abstract
This chapter describes an ethical principle, informed by sub-Saharan values, and applies it to how a state should allocate resources to its citizens. Suppose a person lives in an African country that has won its independence from colonial powers in the last 50 years or so. Suppose also that that person has become a high-ranking government official who makes decisions on how to allocate goods, such as civil service jobs and contracts with private firms Should such a person refrain from considering any particulars about potential recipients, or might it be appropriate to consider, for example, family membership, party affiliation, race or revolutionary stature as reasons to benefit certain individuals at some cost to the general public? Which of these factors should be considered unjust, or even corrupt, as a basis on which to allocate state goods and which should not? This chapter seeks to provide a new, unified explanation of why sub-Saharan values permit some forms of distributive partiality, such as the preferential hiring of those who struggled against colonialism, but prohibit other nepotistic forms of partiality. In so doing, this chapter implies that Africans need not appeal to Western or other foreign moral systems for a principled foundation for good governance in modern states.
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