Following Political Economy Analysis testing in several countries, Jean Bossuyt of the European Centre for Development Policy Management offers his insights on good practice as a member of the Political Economy Analysis team in Senegal.

Jean Bossuyt of the European Centre for Development Policy Management is part of the Political Economy Analysis Team in Senegal, and is currently assessing how the methodology is being applied in that context.

Speaking recently to in Brussels, he considers the first important step to be “the buy-in”: to ensure that the process has full support of the Head of Delegation and that the whole delegation is involved. “This is the moment to work together and, as per the Agenda for Change, please also involve the Member States. Political Economy Analysis is not an academic study; its purpose is to better understand where the reform processes come from, where the dynamics come from, who are the ‘blocking’ actors etc.,” he said. 

“Everything that comes out of Political Economy Analysis is dynamite, so you have to be sure that you can use it properly and politically.  If you don’t have this from the start it is not a useful exercise.”


The second important starting condition, said Mr Bossuyt, is to define the purpose of the PEA.  Is it to inform donor agency programming processes, or are there larger ambitions to use it as a tool to engage in reform processes, to engage with the government and with non-state actors?  “You will need to clearly define the objective and the function of that objective, and then you can define the scope of the PEA.” 

“These are two very important points – if you go too quickly through these issues you will have problems later.”


Country context will influence the way in which PEA outcomes can be shared with government.  “In Senegal there has been a change in government and the government itself wants reform.  The new government is raising the same questions that the EU Delegation raises in the PEA – in such a context, a PEA can help fuel the debate,” continued Mr Bossuyt.

“If you can share (a PEA), do share it because you can build something more than your programming; you help to build a real society debate about these vital issues, because that is Political Economy Analysis – to better understand why there is no reform, why are the results poor?  What are the powers behind this and how we, as an external actor, can influence real reform? Who has similar interests and can be allies? If you do this with society you have much more chance to succeed, but sometimes the first step is to do this only as a donor. “

Jean Bossuyt considers it very important to take sufficient time to do a PEA.  “In Senegal, our Terms of Reference are to do this over a period of five months – you need a process.  It is a good practice to do this over several missions, so sequencing becomes very important.”

Mr Bossuyt also cited the importance of managing expectations from the study. “My last point is that we should not expect that an initial study can solve all the problems, identify all the bottlenecks and can understand the whole system.  That is not realistic.  But we can have a better overview of what really drives reforms and this can be used later on, in a sequenced way, to perhaps do more targeted PEAs  - for instance in a sector, ” he concluded.

Please visit the Political Economy in Practice Public Group which includes the country level PEA framework, and the EC/EEAS access only Political Economy Analysis Group.

There is further information in the Public Group on Governance, which includes a presentation of a case study of the PEA in Zambia.

This collaborative piece was drafted with input from Jean Bossuyt, Joseph Gallacher and Chantal Marijnissen with support from the Coordination Team.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission, or any other organisation.

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