Jennifer Brass, Ph.D.

Indiana University at Bloomington

Address: 1315 E 10th St #457

City: Bloomington, Indiana - 47405

Country: United States

Research Interests

African Politics


Energy And Climate Policy

Environmental Policy


Public Administration

Nonstate Service Provision

Electricity Policy

Development Africa

Civil Society Africa

State Development

Governance In Africa

Countries of Interest





My Research:

My research focuses on service provision and governance in developing countries, particularly African countries. I work on three major lines of research within this area. The first examines the role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the provision of public services and state development. The second focuses on one specific service, electricity, and examines the policy and administrative requisites for successful small-scale, localized renewable electrification. The third investigates causes and effects of poor governance in developing countries. Geographically, I have done field research in Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti, and Senegal.


Journal Articles:

(2016) Expectations of Power: The Politics of State-Building and Access to Electricity Provision in Ghana and Uganda, Journal of African Political Economy of Development

Why do some states provide access to a key public good, electricity, to their citizens, while others do not? We examine this question by explaining the remarkable differences in the level of access to electricity between Ghana and Uganda. Today, Ghana is ranked second in its electrification rate while Uganda is placed among the lowest on the African continent. The comparison of these two cases is valuable because these countries were at roughly similar starting points prior to British colonial rule; both countries shared similar centralised precolonial state capacity and the potential resource endowment for large-scale hydropower. We argue that divergent political histories of state building in the energy sector in the two countries created contrasting citizen expectations around the public provision of electric power over time.

(2015) Democracy and the Distribution of NGOs Promoting Renewable Energy in Africa, Journal of Development Studies

Roughly 60 per cent of Africans lack access to electricity, negatively impacting development opportunities. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have started promoting distributed generation – small-scale, localised electricity generation – to change this situation. Despite widespread need, however, the dispersion of these distributed generation NGOs (DG-NGOs) is uneven, with high concentrations in a few African countries. Drawing on an original database and field research, we analyse location variation among DG-NGOs across the continent. We find that DG-NGOs are likely to operate in democratic settings with large populations that lack access to electricity. International DG-NGOs are also likely to operate where aid allocation levels are relatively high.

(2015) Foreign Aid, NGOs and the Private Sector: New Forms of Hybridity in Renewable Energy Provision in East Africa, Africa Today

This article examines growing NGO-business hybridization of nonstate service providers in a dynamic, new sector: small-scale renewable energy in East Africa. Drawing from the literature on the commercialization of NGOs and social enterprises, we first conceptualize a spectrum of commercialization, highlighting how three types of hybrid organizations vary in their definition, motivation, level of integration, and financial model. We then investigate the causes for the recent growth of hybridity among NGOs and businesses. We argue that changes in donor funding patterns, neoliberal ideology, and government policies on renewable energy have stimulated these entrepreneurial forms of hybridity. Finally, we examine the consequences for equitable access and accountability of these hybrid types of nonstate service provider.

(2015) Scandals, Media and Government Responsiveness in China and Kenya, Journal of Asian and African Studies

Conventional wisdom holds that democratic governments listen to their populations, while authoritarian governments do not. This paper questions the extent to which this dynamic applies in cases of government scandals, using the illustrative cases of China and Kenya. We expect democratic countries with free media to be responsive and authoritarian states to ignore public pressure. Counter to this expectation, however, authoritarian China is more responsive to public pressure to clean up scandals than democratic Kenya. Using case studies and quantitative analysis, we argue that while democracy and free media are important for government responsiveness to scandal, they are neither necessary nor sufficient conditions. We assert that political will, state capacity to respond and high public expectations for state action are also necessary.

(2012) Why Do NGOs Go Where They Go? Evidence from Kenya, World Development

Using Kenya as a case study, this paper provides preliminary evidence of the factors influencing Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to choose their locations within a country. Interpreting the findings from a range of models evaluating 4,210 organizations in 70 districts, and drawing on in-country interviews with NGO leaders and workers, government officials, and politicians, it finds that sub-national NGO location corresponds to an area’s objective level of need, as well as the convenience of the location for accessing beneficiaries, donors, and elite goods. Contrary to dominant theories of African political economy, political factors like patronage appear to have little or no significant influence.

(2012) Blurring Boundaries: The Integration of NGOs into Kenyan Governance, Governance

This article examines the impact of the proliferation of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on governance in Kenya. Looking specifically at service provision, it analyzes how the growth of NGOs has begun to change the way decisions are made and policy is formulated. In so doing, the article explores shifting NGO–government relations over time. The governance of service provision has become a complex, intertwined affair in which NGOs sit on national policymaking committees, government integrates NGO plans and budgets into national policy, and government actors learn from and copy NGOs' participatory, accountable approach. Through (1) the integration of former NGO leaders in government, (2) increasing the variety of voices heard in government decision making, (3) lobbying by NGOs, and (4) mimicry of NGOs by government, governance of Kenyan service provision has begun to become more democratic. Through such changes, developing countries are witnessing a blurring of the line between public and private.

(2012) Power for Development: A Review of Distributed Generation Projects in the Developing World, Annual Review of Environment & Resources

The paradigm for providing affordable electricity for the world's poor—power for development—has begun to change. Historically, centralized governments built large consolidated power plants and distribution and transmission lines with the ultimate goal of providing electricity to all of their citizens. It has become increasingly common in recent decades, however, for donors, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), firms, and communities to collaborate with governments to develop small-scale localized energy systems known as distributed generation (DG) either as complements or alternatives to centralized operations. DG programs have been implemented around the world but with a mixed record of success. Based on an analysis of the existing case study literature, we examine DG program goals and outcomes, identifying major factors that affect these outcomes, including appropriately chosen technology, adequate financing and payment arrangements, ongoing end users' involvement, and supportive national policies. We highlight the importance of institutions for collaborative governance in the pursuit of these factors.

(2008) Djibouti’s Unusual Resource Curse, Journal of Modern African Studies

An extensive literature on the ‘resource curse’ posits that abundant natural resources ‘curse’ countries possessing them with negative economic, social and political externalities. Usually, scholars identify tangible resources like oil, diamonds or timber, rarely questioning whether other kinds of resources might have the same impact, and under what conditions. This paper examines how little-studied Djibouti's non-tangible resources – geo-strategic location and aid-inspiring poverty – have produced ‘curse’ effects; with an economy dominated by US and French military spending (and concomitant aid) and rents on trade passing to and from Ethiopia, tiny Djibouti suffers from this curse. It draws four conclusions. First, resource curse effects can derive from non-traditional sources. Second, leaders' policy decisions matter at least as much as the presence or absence of resources. Third, advanced countries' spending patterns in their less-developed allies often produce unintended consequences. Finally, even tiny countries can provide scholars and policy makers with new insights.

Books Written:

(2016) Allies or Adversaries? NGOs and the State in Africa, Cambridge University Press

Governments throughout the developing world have witnessed a proliferation of non-governmental, non-profit organizations (NGOs) providing services like education, healthcare and piped drinking water in their territory. In Allies or Adversaries, Jennifer N. Brass explains how these NGOs have changed the nature of service provision, governance, and state development in the early twenty-first century. Analyzing original surveys alongside interviews with public officials, NGOs and citizens, Brass traces street-level government-NGO and state-society relations in rural, town and city settings of Kenya. She examines several case studies of NGOs within Africa in order to demonstrate how the boundary between purely state and non-state actors blurs, resulting in a very slow turn toward more accountable and democratic public service administration. Ideal for scholars, international development practitioners, and students interested in global or international affairs, this detailed analysis provides rich data about NGO-government and citizen-state interactions in an accessible and original manner.

Book Chapters:

(2016) Development Theory: Trends in Governance since Independence, Edward Elgar Publishing

This chapter provides an understanding of the evolution of theories of international development, focusing on paradigmatic changes over time. It highlights the way that scholars of international development use the term "governance" in ways that agree with and diverge from conventional understandings of the term.

Media Appearances:

Radio Appearances:

(2015) To the Point: KCRW Radio

"An Atrocity in Kenya" - interview about terrorist attacks in Kenya.

(2015) KCBS-San Francisco Radio

Interviewed about terrorist attacks in Kenya.

Newspaper Quotes:

(2017) Washington Post - Monkey Cage

Authored an assessment of NGO-state relations in Kenya ahead of the August 2017 elections. Title: Kenyans will vote in August. Why are NGO-government relations an issue?


Interview for an article about NGO-state relationships in Kenya, as the country was looking to restrict expat NGOs workers in the country. Title: "Kenya is pressuring thousands of expat NGO workers and volunteers to go home"

(2016) International Business Times

Interviewed for the article, "With China’s Naval Base, Djibouti Could Become ‘Africa’s Singapore"

(2016) International Business Times

I was interview for this article, "Djibouti Presidential Election 2016: Guide to Candidates, Key Issues, Rules and Results."

Blog Posts:

(2016) African Up Close: Wilson Center

I was interviewed for this piece: "What Djibouti’s Election Means: A Q&A with Professor Jennifer Brass."

(2015) Marc Bellemare's blog

I wrote a guest post related to an exercise I use to teach undergraduates about international trade: "The Trading Game: New and Improved International Trade Edition."


(2016) The Conversation

I wrote an article about the Kenyan government working to increase restrictions on civil society organizations, "Kenya’s clampdown on civil society is against its self interest."

(2015) The Conversation

I wrote an article about terrorist attacks in Kenya, "Making sense of horrific violence in Kenya."