Personal rule, patron-client networks and that whole set of values which may be subsumed under the phrase ‘political culture’ ensure that the formal rules are only guidelines. That would be true, to some extent, of any political system. In Africa, as in the more developed world, politicians must deal with a variety of interests; in Africa, too, there is an administra­ tion to manage, or be managed by; and in Africa, above all, the positive aims for social and economic change held by most governments require a change in behaviour from the majority of their subjects. What would be dangerously misleading would be to deduce from the lack of institutionalised conflict at the national level that Africa was short on political action. Nothing could be further from the truth; African politics are vibrant with the struggle for power and preferment, the determination to advance political interest, the readiness to use bureaucratic structures or to frustrate them, and the granting or withholding of support for government policies.