Political Science State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa
by
Elliott Green
  • LAST REVIEWED: 01 July 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0050

Introduction

State-building in Africa has long been a concern of scholars and policymakers. The subject is particularly fascinating because of the large and quick shift from a continent largely populated by small states and acephalous societies in the precolonial era to one partitioned among European powers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and then to one in which four dozen new sovereign countries were created upon independence. For decades the ongoing question in Africa has been how these new states could build themselves into modern nation-states. This issue became especially pertinent in the context of large-scale political and economic collapse from the 1970s onward and the resultant donor-driven structural adjustment and reform programs. The effects on state-building of both political and economic instability and the subsequent attempts at reform have been the subject of major debate, as has the relationship between the continent’s numerous civil wars and state formation. Africa is also a continent rich with numerous natural resources, such as oil and diamonds, many of which have had an effect on state-building together with continued supplies of foreign aid.

General Overviews

Numerous textbooks on African politics and African studies could be useful to readers; however, the eight books that are listed here directly engage with the more specific topic of African state-building. Both Bayart 1993 and Chabal and Daloz 1999 are by Francophone scholars and thus wrestle slightly more than the others with the French-language literature on state formation and state-building. Others such as Englebert 2009 and Young 1994 treat both Francophone and Anglophone Africa and are thus unusually comprehensive in their coverage of the continent. Young 1994 is the only book here that discusses North Africa as well. Although Boone 2003 and Mamdani 1996 both largely rely upon select case studies, they also develop frameworks that are generally applicable throughout the continent and are thus essential reading for scholars. Herbst 2000 is unusual in its use of political geography and political demography, and Hyden 2006 is perhaps the closest book on the list to a textbook on African state-building.

  • Bayart, Jean-François. The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly. London: Longman, 1993.

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    A highly influential book from an expert on Cameroon noting the way that African politicians have neglected state-building in favor of coalition-building, with adverse consequences for most African citizens. Originally published in French as L’État en Afrique: La politique du ventre (Paris: Fayard, 1989).

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    • Boone, Catherine. Political Topographies of the African State: Territorial Authority and Institutional Choice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511615597Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Despite the geographical focus on West Africa, this book proposes a general model of state formation across Africa’s uneven political terrain, with an eye toward the current importance of territorial, or “sons of the soil,” politics.

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      • Chabal, Patrick, and Jean-Pascal Daloz. Africa Works: Disorder as Political Instrument. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999.

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        A book that reverses the dominant idea that African politicians have tried to avoid economic, social, and political disorder in arguing that, on the contrary, African politicians have survived and flourished through the promotion of disorder and state failure.

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        • Englebert, Pierre. Africa: Unity, Sovereignty and Sorrow. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2009.

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          A new work that explains why African states have formed around former colonial boundaries and have largely avoided secession, with attention to the entire continent. Based in part on field work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Zambia.

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          • Herbst, Jeffrey. States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

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            An overview of state-building in Africa from the precolonial period through the postcolonial era, with a focus on the role of the extension of state power over space.

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            • Hyden, Goran. African Politics in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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              A textbook that builds upon Hyden’s previous work on Tanzania by stating that African state formation has floundered due to the “uncaptured peasantry” who live outside the bounds of the state and formal economy.

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              • Mamdani, Mahmood. Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

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                A modern classic that argues that the modern African state is bifurcated between urban citizens and rural subjects due to the impact of colonial policies of “indirect rule.” The two prime examples used are South Africa and Uganda.

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                • Young, Crawford. The African Colonial State in Comparative Perspective. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994.

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                  An ambitious book relating the creation of modern colonial states in Africa to previous colonial efforts in other parts of the world with attention to the legacy of colonialism in contemporary efforts at state formation in Africa.

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                  Journals

                  All major journals that are devoted to African studies publish articles on state-building in Africa, often from a variety of disciplines. Perhaps the most prominent journal in the field is the Journal of Modern African Studies. Also well known are the official journal of the British African Studies Association, African Affairs, and that of the American African Studies Association, African Studies Review. With its primary focus on anthropology and history, Africa is the only journal listed here that does not publish a broad range of social science scholarship. Many journals, such as Africa, African Affairs, the Journal of Modern African Studies, and the Review of African Political Economy are based in the United Kingdom, with African Studies Review and Africa Today published in the United States, the Canadian Journal of African Studies published in Canada, and the Journal of Contemporary African Studies published in South Africa. All of the journals listed below are peer-reviewed and are available in both hard copy and online.

                  The Precolonial Era

                  Precolonial Africa remains of interest to scholars of state-building for two reasons: first, due to the wide variety of states that existed before European colonialism, and, second, due to the ongoing influence of the precolonial era on contemporary African politics. Some of the works here are written from a political anthropological perspective, perhaps most famously Evans-Pritchard 1940, but also more general works such as Goody 1971 and Southall 1974. Kopytoff 1987 is also anthropological in focus but contains a wide variety of essays in an edited format. McCaskie 1995 and Wrigley 1971 view the era from a political historical standpoint, the former focusing on precolonial Ghana while the later more generally discussing the relationship between slavery and state formation. Green 2010 examines political identities and states in the Great Lakes region, with a focus on the kingdom of Buganda. Lastly, Bates 1983 offers a fascinating reinterpretation of Evans-Pritchard’s work from a public choice perspective.

                  • Bates, Robert H. Essays on the Political Economy of Rural Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

                    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511558740Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    In one noted chapter Bates reinterprets Evans-Pritchard 1940, arguing that statelessness, violence, and underdevelopment are inherently linked, and that statelessness in precolonial Africa was thus correlated with poverty.

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                    • Evans-Pritchard, E. E. The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1940.

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                      Perhaps one of the most famous books ever written on Africa, The Nuer describes one example of many of how and why Africans avoided creating modern states in the precolonial period.

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                      • Goody, Jack. Technology, Tradition and the State in Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1971.

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                        With a focus on West Africa, Goody argues that it is incorrect to claim that precolonial African states were in any way feudal, and that African technologies were directly linked together with the degree of state formation across the continent.

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                        • Green, Elliott. “Ethnicity and Nationhood in Pre-Colonial Africa: The Case of Buganda.” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 16.1 (2010): 1–21.

                          DOI: 10.1080/13537110903583310Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          Far from others’ claims that ethnicity and nationhood are solely products of European history, Green shows that the precolonial Great Lakes region contained a great variety of political identities with a direct correlation between state capacity and nation formation.

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                          • Kopytoff, Igor, ed. The African Frontier: The Reproduction of Traditional African Societies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

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                            An excellent collection of essays on the role of population migration and the “Frontier” in precolonial state formation, with a long introduction from Kopytoff and numerous examples from across the continent.

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                            • McCaskie, T. C. State and Society in Pre-Colonial Asante. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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                              McCaskie focuses on one of the most famous of Africa’s precolonial states in modern-day Ghana, including the state’s successful use of religion and hegemonic control over its citizens. Reprinted in 2003.

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                              • Southall, Aidan. “State Formation in Africa.” Annual Review of Anthropology 3 (1974): 163–165.

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                                An anthropologist of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and northwestern Uganda gives a slightly outdated but still insightful overview of state formation in the precolonial era, with some additional discussion of 20th-century state formation as well.

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                                • Wrigley, C. C. “Historicism in Africa: Slavery and State Formation.” African Affairs 70.279 (1971): 113–124.

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                                  An excellent overview of the debate on the role of internal and external slavery in precolonial African state formation, with Wrigley discussing the subject in relation to a previous article by fellow historian J. D. Fage.

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                                  The Colonial Era

                                  The colonial period has drawn a great deal of attention from political scientists interested in African state-building for the simple reason that almost all of Africa’s states owe their existence to European colonial rule. Ekeh 1975 provides a concise argument about the way Africans do not view their states as politically legitimate, a theme later taken up in Englebert, et al. 2002 with regard to the effects of artificial borders. Ranger 1983 famously argues that colonialists invented African traditions to help them rule over their African colonies, a point that was extended in Mamdani 2001 in a work on the colonial division of African societies along citizen and subject lines. Berman 1998 offers perhaps the most forceful analysis of the colonial use of ethnicity and its subsequent consequences, whereas Spear 2003 counters Berman and others in noting the limits to colonial invention of political identities. Boone 1998 argues that state-building in Africa had much to with local political economies, especially the nature of cash crop production.

                                  • Berman, Bruce J. “Ethnicity, Patronage and the African State: The Politics of Uncivil Nationalism.” African Affairs 97.388 (1998): 305–341.

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                                    An influential article on the role of ethnicity in African politics from the colonial period to the 1990s. An expert on Kenya, Berman controversially ascribes a great deal of importance to colonialism in the way African states are currently governed along ethnic lines.

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                                    • Boone, Catherine. “State-Building in the African Countryside: Structure and Politics at the Grassroots.” Journal of Development Studies 34.1 (1998): 1–31.

                                      DOI: 10.1080/00220389808422527Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      A shorter version of Boone 2003 (cited in General Overviews) with a critical analysis of colonial efforts at state-building in select regions of Ghana, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal. She argues that the degree to which states successfully extend control over their territories and citizenries is dependent on both economic and social factors.

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                                      • Ekeh, Peter P. “Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 17.1 (1975): 91–112.

                                        DOI: 10.1017/S0010417500007659Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        A noted article arguing that colonialism created modern states in Africa, but ones that were not viewed as legitimate by the Africans themselves, who created one “public” state superstructure that failed to engage with a preexisting African “public” that was based more on communal exchange than on state institutions.

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                                        • Englebert, Pierre, Stacy Tarango, and Matthew Carter. “Dismemberment and Suffocation: A Contribution to the Debate on African Boundaries.” Comparative Political Studies 35.10 (2002): 1093–1118.

                                          DOI: 10.1177/001041402237944Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          An investigation into the consequences of Africa’s state boundaries that were created during colonial rule, in which the authors find that the more such boundaries broke up indigenous polities and ethnic groups, the more resultant states have suffered from civil wars, political instability, and secessionist attempts.

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                                          • Mamdani, Mahmood. “Beyond Settler and Native as Political Identities: Overcoming the Political Legacy of Colonialism.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 43.4 (2001): 651–664.

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                                            An extension of Mamdani 1996 (cited in General Overviews) which argues that colonial state practices of indirect rule have left a legacy of legitimate “natives” and foreign “settlers,” which have themselves had severe consequences in the postcolonial era.

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                                            • Ranger, Terence. “The Invention of Tradition in Colonial Africa.” In The Invention of Tradition. Edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, 211–262. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

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                                              A famous book chapter by a British historian of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe who argues that colonialists ruled Africa by inventing traditions that could help to make the colonial state legitimate. Ranger later recanted some of this argument upon criticisms that he ascribed too much power to European rulers and not enough to Africans themselves.

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                                              • Spear, Thomas. “Neo-Traditionalism and the Limits of Invention in British Colonial Africa.” Journal of African History 44.1 (2003): 3–27.

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                                                Spear argues against such authors as Berman and Ranger with regard to the effects of colonial states on indigenous African ethnic identities, claiming that Africans and their ethnopolitical identities were never as malleable as previous scholars claimed.

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                                                Early Postcolonial Analyses (1960s–1970s)

                                                Initial analyses of African state-building from the 1960s and early 1970s focused on the need for “political integration” (also called “national integration”), or the way in which African leaders could form their new states into modern nation-states. Wallerstein 1960 focuses attention on the political consequences of African ethnic diversity, whereas Apter 1961 uses the case study of Buganda to demonstrate the ways in which African societies could modernize without shedding all of their precolonial or colonial institutions. Ake 1966 focuses on how charismatic political leadership could promote political integration, and Coleman and Rosberg 1964 examines a similar role for political parties among Africa’s multiparty and one-party states. More quantitative analysis of political integration can be found in Morrison and Stevenson 1972, the findings of which foreshadow a focus on African ethnic diversity in the 1990s. Sklar 1967 also foreshadows the 1970s focus on class, and Zolberg 1968 places similar importance on conflict in shaping political integration.

                                                • Ake, Claude. “Charismatic Legitimation and Political Integration.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 9.1 (1966): 1–13.

                                                  DOI: 10.1017/S0010417500004291Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  The noted Nigerian political scientist discusses the role of charisma—as initially propounded by Max Weber—in promoting political integration; he gives special attention to Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, who was overthrown just before the article went to print.

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                                                  • Apter, David E. The Political Kingdom in Uganda. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1961.

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                                                    A classic study of the central Ugandan kingdom of Buganda, which, Apter claims, was able to survive and prosper as a state within a state during the colonial period due to its ability to modernize itself while still preserving its hierarchical nature and autocratic structure.

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                                                    • Coleman, James S., and Carl G. Rosberg Jr. Political Parties and National Integration in Tropical Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964.

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                                                      Containing numerous case-study essays of how political parties can promote national integration, whether in multiparty democracies or in the then rising number of one-party states, which the authors differentiate along the lines of “pragmatic-pluralistic” and “revolutionary-centralizing” tendencies.

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                                                      • Morrison, Donald G., and Hugh Michael Stevenson. “Integration and Instability: Patterns of African Political Development.” American Political Science Review 66.3 (1972): 902–927.

                                                        DOI: 10.2307/1957486Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        A focus on the various aspects of integration: horizontal integration (across space), vertical integration (across class), value or cultural integration, and centralization. Evidence especially supports the importance of value integration, which would later become a focus for scholars of ethnic diversity in the 1990s.

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                                                        • Sklar, Richard. “Political Science and National Integration—A Radical Approach.” Journal of Modern African Studies 5.1 (1967): 1–11.

                                                          DOI: 10.1017/S0022278X00013987Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          A political scientist of Nigeria, Sklar here places great importance on the role of class in postcolonial national integration, an emphasis that would reach its peak in African studies in the 1970s.

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                                                          • Wallerstein, Immanuel. “Ethnicity and National Integration in West Africa.” Cahiers d’Études Africaines 1.3 (1960): 129–139.

                                                            DOI: 10.3406/cea.1960.2951Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                            The sociologist Wallerstein, who would later become famous for his “World-Systems Theory,” here discusses the ways in which modern ethnicity, which he contrasts with tribalism, can both promote and hinder national integration.

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                                                            • Zolberg, Aristide R. “The Structure of Political Conflict in the New States of Tropical Africa.” American Political Science Review 62.1 (1968): 70–87.

                                                              DOI: 10.2307/1953327Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              With Africa’s political problems already becoming apparent, Zolberg, a scholar of the Ivory Coast, here examines the role of conflict in 1960s Africa. Unfortunately, he ends by claiming Ivory Coast to be one of the few African examples of “incipient modernity,” unaware that the country would descend into civil war thirty years hence.

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                                                              Structural Adjustment and Crises (1980s–1990s)

                                                              Africa entered its “lost decade” in the 1980s, experiencing negligible and often negative economic growth rates, leading donors to promote structural adjustment programs (SAPs) to put African economies back on track by “getting prices right.” The effect was notoriously mixed, not the least its supposed negative effect on state capacity and state-building. Doornbos 1990 and Lewis 1996 both provide good overviews of the debates on the political effects of SAPs. Many scholars, such as Jeffrey Herbst (in Herbst 1990), argue that SAPs undermined state formation in Africa, whereas others, such as Richard Jeffries (in Jeffries 1993) and Richard Sandbrook (in Sandbrook 1985), claim that problems with the African state predated structural adjustment. In fact, Bayart, et al. 1999 controversially argues that the effect of economic decline and SAPs was to merely return the African state to its precolonial “criminal” roots. In contrast, Mkandawire 2001 argues that claims about the demise of the African state were very mistaken. Van de Walle 2001 similarly discusses the continued persistence of African governments despite often deep-set reforms.

                                                              • Bayart, Jean-François, Stephen Ellis, and Béatrice Hibou. The Criminalization of the State in Africa. Oxford: James Currey, 1999.

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                                                                Building on Bayart 1993 (cited under General Overviews), the authors argue that the effects of economic crisis and structural adjustment have been to increasingly criminalize the African state itself, controversially claiming that such processes are returning Africa to its “natural” precolonial state.

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                                                                • Doornbos, Martin. “The African State in Academic Debate: Retrospect and Prospect.” Journal of Modern African Studies 28.2 (1990): 179–198.

                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/S0022278X00054410Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  An overview of writing on the African state since the 1960s by Doornbos, a Dutch scholar of Uganda, with specific attention to Tanzania, civil society, political identities, and the structural adjustment debates of the 1980s.

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                                                                  • Herbst, Jeffrey. “The Structural Adjustment of Politics in Africa.” World Development 18.7 (1990): 949–958.

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                                                                    An analysis of the donor policies and the effects of structural adjustment on state-building in Africa, with Herbst arguing that SAPs have made politics more volatile inasmuch as African leaders have become constrained in their ability to purchase peace through redistribution.

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                                                                    • Jeffries, Richard. “The State, Structural Adjustment and Good Government in Africa.” Commonwealth and Comparative Politics 31.1 (1993): 20–35.

                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/14662049308447646Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      A British scholar of Ghana, Jeffries argues that state-building had faltered in Africa before the advent of structural adjustment, and that such failures meant that implementation of SAPs would not be as beneficial as donors had thought without a major reform of African bureaucracies.

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                                                                      • Lewis, Peter. “Economic Reform and Political Transition in Africa: The Quest for a Politics of Development.” World Politics 49.1 (1996): 92–129.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1353/wp.1996.0021Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        An excellent review article of six prominent books on the politics of African economic decline, structural adjustment, and democratization by an American scholar of Nigeria, with attention to Ghana and Nigeria.

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                                                                        • Mkandawire, Thandika. “Thinking about Developmental States in Africa.” Cambridge Journal of Economics 25.3 (2001): 289–314.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/cje/25.3.289Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          A Malawian economist provides a robust critique of previous analyses of African development that have de-emphasized the role of state-directed development; instead, Mkandawire suggests that African states have had and can continue to have major roles in promoting development.

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                                                                          • Sandbrook, Richard. The Politics of Africa’s Economic Stagnation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511558931Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            The author investigates the origins of the weakness of the African state, with attention to the minimal role of the African bourgeois class in general in comparison to state formation in European history; instead, Sandbrook argues, states in Africa have formed around patrimonialism and “personal rule.”

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                                                                            • van de Walle, Nicolas. African Economies and the Politics of Permanent Crisis, 1979–1999. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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                                                                              An overview of the political effects of structural adjustment in which van de Walle shows that, contrary to expectations, a reduction in state expenditures has actually led to the consolidation of power for many African leaders.

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                                                                              Post-Washington Consensus (2000s)

                                                                              The negative reaction to structural adjustment programs (SAPs) both in Africa and elsewhere led many in the donor communities to focus instead on the so-called Washington Consensus policies, which were designed not only to change economic policies, but also to promote “good governance.” This period also coincided with the onset, and continuation, of a number of important civil wars, which forms the basis for the discussion in Bates 2008. Boone 2003 focuses on the politics of the donor-led decentralization programs in West Africa, whereas Mengisteab 1997 examines the nature of Ethiopia’s unusual federal system. Many scholarly works focus on the relationship between the wave of democratization that swept the continent in the 1990s and state-building: Joseph 2003 argues that democratization is key to future state-building in Africa, whereas Bratton and Chang 2006 claims that certain types of state-building, especially establishment of the rule of law, can support democratization. Goldsmith 2000 and Young 2004 offer excellent overviews of the diversity of African state institutions across time and space. Finally, Thies 2009 tests to see if various government policies have had any effect on state-building.

                                                                              • Bates, Robert H. When Things Fell Apart: State Failure in Late-Century Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                Bates draws upon many years of work to argue that state failure in Africa is a consequence of three factors: a loss of tax revenues; the rewards from political predation, including revenues from oil and other natural resources; and democratization.

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                                                                                • Boone, Catherine. “Decentralization as Political Strategy in West Africa.” Comparative Political Studies 36.4 (2003): 355–380.

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                                                                                  Boone, originally a scholar of Senegal, interrogates the donor focus on decentralization and argues that successes and failures of decentralization policies have much more to do with local political economies than had been previously thought.

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                                                                                  • Bratton, Michael, and Eric C. C. Chang. “State Building and Democratization in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Comparative Political Studies 39.9 (2006): 1059–1083.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/0010414005280853Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    The authors investigate the effects of state-building on democratization with survey data from the Afrobarometer, showing that state capacity is far less important than the establishment of the rule of law.

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                                                                                    • Goldsmith, Arthur A. “Sizing Up the African State.” Journal of Modern African Studies 38.1 (2000): 1–20.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/S0022278X99003225Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      Goldsmith questions the idea of the “African state,” showing that they are not only very heterogeneous, but also have expenditure and employment patterns that are very similar to developing states in other parts of the world.

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                                                                                      • Joseph, Richard A. “Africa: States in Crisis.” Journal of Democracy 14.3 (2003): 159–170.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.1353/jod.2003.0052Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        A scholar of Nigeria produces an excellent overview of the continual decline of African state institutions despite efforts at reform, arguing that democratization and a reconfiguration of African state borders and sovereignty could help to arrest the decline of the state on the continent.

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                                                                                        • Mengisteab, Kidane. “New Approaches to State-Building in Africa: The Case of Ethiopia’s Ethnic-Based Federalism.” African Studies Review 40.3 (1997): 111–132.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/524968Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          A case study examining one of the more radical political reforms in Africa, namely, the creation of an ethnic-based federal system in Ethiopia after the previous Marxist regime of the Derg was overthrown in the early 1990s.

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                                                                                          • Thies, Cameron G. “National Design and State-Building in Sub-Saharan Africa.” World Politics 61.4 (2009): 623–669.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1017/S0043887109990086Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            Thies interrogates Herbst’s prescriptions for African state-building along political geographical lines (see Herbst 1990, cited under Structural Adjustment and Crises), finding that a variety of policies have not had the effect of promoting higher revenue collection or greater road density.

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                                                                                            • Young, Crawford. “The End of the Post-Colonial State in Africa? Reflections on Changing African Political Dynamics.” African Affairs 103.410 (2004): 23–49.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.1093/afraf/adh003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              Young builds upon his earlier book (see Young 1994 under General Overviews) and argues that it is no longer valid to claim that African states are “postcolonial,” especially after the effects of economic collapse and structural adjustment eroded state capacity in so many African countries.

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                                                                                              Aid, Natural Resources, and State-Building

                                                                                              Throughout the postcolonial period a question has persisted as to which degree African state-building has been driven by governments or by factors out of their control, especially donors and natural resources. Regarding the latter, many works, such as Moss, et al. 2006, have argued that foreign aid can undermine state formation by directing government accountability toward donors rather than toward Africans. Birdsall 2007 raises similar questions about the need for middle-class Africans to support good governance rather than donors, and Robinson 1995 questions the ability of aid to support the growth of African civil society. On the other hand, Goldsmith 2001 argues that aid has supported economic and political freedom in Africa since 1975, whereas instead Dunning 2004 claims that aid has promoted statehood only in the post–Cold War era. As regards natural resources, Jensen and Wantchekon 2004 argues that natural resources are antithetical to democratic state formation in Africa, as does Sala-i-Martin and Subramanian 2003 in the case of Nigeria. However, Robinson and Parsons 2006 claims that certain institutions and policies have allowed Botswana to develop a strong and responsive state despite its large diamond deposits.

                                                                                              • Birdsall, Nancy. “Do No Harm: Aid, Weak Institutions and the Missing Middle in Africa.” Development Policy Review 25.5 (2007): 575–598.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-7679.2007.00386.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Building upon previous scholarship on the role of the middle class in promoting good governance, Birdsall argues that Africa is stuck in a “bad institutions trap” and that donors need to be wary of aid policies that harm the African middle class.

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                                                                                                • Dunning, Thad. “Conditioning the Effects of Aid: Cold War Politics, Donor Credibility and Democracy in Africa.” International Organization 58.2 (2004): 409–423.

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                                                                                                  Dunning claims that aid has been able to promote democracy in Africa, but only during the post–Cold War period due to the effect that the demise of the Soviet Union had on making Western aid conditionalities more effective.

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                                                                                                  • Goldsmith, Arthur A. “Foreign Aid and Statehood in Africa.” International Organization 55.1 (2001): 123–148.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1162/002081801551432Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Goldsmith argues against the dominant idea that aid and aid dependency are antithetical to state-building in Africa, showing instead that aid has contributed to both political and economic freedom in Africa since 1975.

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                                                                                                    • Jensen, Nathan, and Leonard Wantchekon. “Resource Wealth and Political Regimes in Africa.” Comparative Political Studies 37.7 (2004): 816–841.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/0010414004266867Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      The two authors show that natural resource sectors are antithetical to democratic development in Africa, whereby resource-poor countries, such as Benin, have democratized much more than resource-rich countries, such as Nigeria.

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                                                                                                      • Moss, Todd J., Gunilla Pettersson, and Nicolas van de Walle. “An Aid-Institutions Paradox? A Review Essay on Aid Dependency and State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Center for Global Development Working Paper 74. Washington, DC: Center for Global Development, 2006.

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                                                                                                        Three authors, one of whom (Todd Moss) was briefly the US deputy assistant secretary of state for West Africa, argue that aid can have detrimental effects on state-building in Africa inasmuch as it promotes accountability to donors rather than to citizens.

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                                                                                                        • Robinson, James A., and Q. Neil Parsons. “State Formation and Governance in Botswana.” Journal of African Economies 15, AERC Supplement 1 (2006): 100–140.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/jae/ejk007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          The two authors examine in more detail the remarkable case study of Botswana, which has developed strong and legitimate state institutions despite its natural resource endowments; they argue that the effects of limited kingship, “defensive modernization,” and the promotion of ranching have all contributed to Botswana’s unusual trajectory.

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                                                                                                          • Robinson, Mark. “Strengthening Civil Society in Africa: The Role of Foreign Political Aid.” IDS Bulletin 26.2 (1995): 70–80.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1759-5436.1995.mp26002008.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Robinson argues that, despite wide recognition that a robust civil society is important for state-building, donors are ill-equipped to strengthen civil society through aid programs, for a variety of reasons.

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                                                                                                            • Sala-i-Martin, Xavier, and Arvind Subramanian. Addressing the Natural Resource Curse: An Illustration from Nigeria. NBER Working Paper W9804. Washington, DC: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2003.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.3386/w9804Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              Two economists address the negative relationship between natural resources and poor state formation using the example of Nigeria. They propose that state formation and economic growth would both be enhanced by the direct distribution of Nigeria’s oil resources to its citizens rather than through the state.

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                                                                                                              War and the International Relations of State-Building

                                                                                                              Scholars such as Michael Mann and Charles Tilly have long argued that state formation in Europe was driven by the need to fight and win wars, inasmuch as states that failed to compete against their neighbors would be conquered. Among other works, Herbst 1990 has argued similarly in the African context, claiming that the lack of interstate wars on the continent is at least partially responsible for poor state formation. Kirby and Ward 1991 provides evidence that links military expenditure and state-building in Africa, and Thies 2007 offers additional supporting evidence that African leaders do promote state-building when threatened. Tull 2003 suggests a more ambiguous relationship between war and the persistence of local government institutions, whereas other works, such as Eriksen 2005 and Reno 2002, argue instead that wars have not promoted state collapse in central Africa. Jackson and Rosberg 1982 claims that a major problem in Africa is the way international society has promoted “juridical states” rather than “empirical states,” which Clapham 1996 argues has allowed nonstate actors to rise to prominence across the continent. Englebert and Hummel 2005 affirms that the large rewards to sovereignty do not create any incentive for African leaders to promote secessionist movements.

                                                                                                              • Clapham, Christopher. Africa and the International System: The Politics of State Survival. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511549823Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                A prominent scholar of Ethiopia argues that the leaders of Africa’s weak states have been so focused on state survival that nonstate actors have become as important as governments in African international relations.

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                                                                                                                • Englebert, Pierre, and Rebecca Hummel. “Let’s Stick Together: Understanding Africa’s Secessionist Deficit.” African Affairs 104.416 (2005): 399–427.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1093/afraf/adi008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  A shorter version of Englebert 2009 (cited under General Overviews) in which the authors demonstrate that postcolonial Africa has had a remarkably low number of secessions. They argue that the material returns to state sovereignty are responsible for this deficit.

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                                                                                                                  • Eriksen, Stein S. “The Congo War and the Prospects for State Formation: Rwanda and Uganda Compared.” Third World Quarterly 26.7 (2005): 1097–1113.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1080/01436590500235694Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Eriksen asks whether Africa’s largest war has promoted state formation in Rwanda or Uganda, arguing that neither state has been strengthened by their military interventions into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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                                                                                                                    • Herbst, Jeffrey. “War and the State in Africa.” International Security 14.4 (1990): 117–139.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2538753Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      A shorter version of Herbst 2000 (cited under General Overviews) in which he argues that the peaceful way in which African states have obtained and continue to maintain their sovereignty has been detrimental to state formation on the continent.

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                                                                                                                      • Jackson, Robert H., and Carl G. Rosberg. “Why Africa’s Weak States Persist: The Empirical and the Juridical in Statehood.” World Politics 35.1 (1982): 1–24.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.2307/2010277Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        The authors ask why it is that African states are all “juridical states” while very few are “empirical states,” arguing that international society has promoted juridical statehood on the continent for a variety of reasons but has similarly failed to promote empirical statehood.

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                                                                                                                        • Kirby, Andrew, and Michael D. Ward. “Modernity and the Process of State Formation: An Examination of 20th Century Africa.” International Interventions 17.1 (1991): 113–126.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1080/03050629108434772Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          The authors build upon Charles Tilly’s work and evidence from Europe that war and state formation are linked, and they find a similar link among military expenditures, urbanization, taxation, and productivity in Africa.

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                                                                                                                          • Reno, William. “Uganda’s Politics of War and Debt Relief.” Review of International Political Economy 9.2 (2002): 415–435.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1080/09692290210150671Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            Reno, a scholar of Sierra Leone, examines the effect of Uganda’s intervention into the Congo war and, like Eriksen, argues that warfare has failed to promote state formation; Reno places significant blame on donors who were willing to ignore Uganda’s predatory behavior.

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                                                                                                                            • Thies, Cameron G. “The Political Economy of State-Building in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Journal of Politics 69.3 (2007): 716–731.

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                                                                                                                              Thies shows that the existence of internal and external rivals has led African governments to increase their extractive state capacity just as one would expect from European history, albeit without the development of responsive and democratic states such as took place in Europe.

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                                                                                                                              • Tull, Denis M. “A Reconfiguration of Political Order? The State of the State in North Kivu (DR Congo).” African Affairs 102.408 (2003): 429–446.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1093/afraf/adg046Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                A German scholar looks at the effects of the Congo War on one region in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, arguing that, despite the appearance of state weakness due to civil war, state institutions and traditional authorities continue to hold power.

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