This panel investigates the resurgence of traditional authority in state-governance. Since the mid-1990s many African states have officially recognized traditional authorities such as elders or ‘chiefs’. This trend has coincided with a wave of electoral democratisation and can be seen as an attempt at securing grass-roots participation, as well as bolstering state outreach and legitimacy. African states have put their faith in the role of traditional authorities as both assistants of the state and local community representatives. They expect partnerships with traditional authorities to produce stability, good governance and development in weak states, thereby reducing transaction costs and facilitating grassroots collective action. Does the recognition of customary authorities challenge the centralist and authoritarian post-colonial African state? Is there a ‘new dawn’ for traditional leaders in managing public affairs or, conversely do we observe a continuity of ‘indirect rule’? Has the resurgence of traditional authority in local development significantly changed power configurations and the distribution of resources? With these questions in mind, the panel explores past and present processes of traditional authorities’ involvement in state governance.