African Ethics and Public Governance: Nepotism, Preferential Hiring, and Other Partiality (repr.)

In Abiola Olukemi Ogunyemi (ed.), Accountable Governance and Ethical Practices in Africa's Public Sector. Palgrave Macmillan (forthcoming)

Thaddeus Metz
University of Pretoria
Shortened and mildly revised version of an essay that initially appeared in Murove (ed.) African Ethics (2009). This chapter is a work of applied ethics that aims to provide a convincing comprehensive account of how a government official in a post-independence sub-Saharan country should make decisions about 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 public? Which of these factors should be considered an unjust or corrupt basis on which to allocate state goods and which should not? Drawing on an African ethic, this chapter answers these questions with what it calls a “moderate partialism,” according to which a government agent may rightly favor at some cost to the public veterans and victims of state injustices, but not those in her family or party. This chapter seeks to provide a new, unified explanation of why characteristically sub-Saharan values permit some forms of partiality, such as the preferential hiring of those who suffered from or struggled against colonialism, but forbid other, nepotist or prebendalist forms of partiality.
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