Political Science Democratization in Africa
by
Clark Gibson, Brigitte Zimmerman
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 October 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0134

Introduction

On a continent once dominated by dictators and one-party states, elections are now entrenched in Africa. From the end of colonialism until 1991, not a single incumbent party or dictator was replaced by a peaceful vote. Since the “third wave” of democracy hit Africa’s shores, however, only two countries have not held some form of electoral contest for their president or legislature and, as of this writing, elections have replaced ruling parties or presidents thirty-five times since the early 1980s. There remains, however, great debate about the quality of electoral processes in Africa. Many incumbents use a variety of legal and illegal means to remain in office, employing strategies to conduct elections so as to meet only the minimum standards of the “free and fair” judgment typically rendered by international and domestic groups. Widespread fraud still taints the majority of elections, although different countries possess quite varied trajectories. Reverse transitions are increasingly common as well, as democratic consolidation falls prey to coups, economic recessions, or other challenges. Democratization in Africa remains incomplete and elusive, and the literature leaves much to be explored.

General Overviews

Understanding the political evolution in Africa requires knowledge of many aspects of the continent’s history. UNESCO 1981–1993 provides the broadest overview and has the farthest historical reach. Fage and Tordoff 2002 discusses Africa’s evolution through a political economy lens, discussing both external colonial factors and internal religious and ethnic dynamics. A comparatively different approach considers each country in its evolution from before colonial times (Schraeder 2004).

  • Fage, J. D., and William Tordoff. A History of Africa. 4th ed. New York: Routledge, 2002.

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    This extensive volume examines a broad range of topics pertaining to African development and politics. Drawing on case studies across Africa, it provides a narrative history of the continent’s experience with colonialism, development trends, and current cultural and religious movements.

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  • Schraeder, Peter J. African Politics and Society: A Mosaic in Transformation. 2d ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2004.

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    Provides a comprehensive review of the evolution of African politics and society from precolonial times to the present. The volume also contains a valuable appendix with country-specific research references.

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  • UNESCO. General History of Africa. 8 vols. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981–1993.

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    The most ambitious undertaking in the academic literature on Africa, these eight volumes consider all facets and periods of African history, from prehistoric society to the late 20th century.

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Journals

Although no journal solely devoted to democratization in Africa exists, several peer-reviewed journals within the political science discipline often contain articles on democratization in Africa. Comparative Politics tends to include articles based on research in individual countries, whereas Democratization and Journal of Democracy both tend toward cross-national analysis. These journals should be the first stop for any researcher seeking the most current research on the subject.

Colonialism

The core debate when considering Africa’s experience with colonialism is whether colonial powers are responsible for Africa’s stalled development (Fanon 2004, Fanon 2008) or whether colonialism exploited preexisting tensions for economic opportunity (Ekeh 1975 and Kapuscinski 2001).

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

    DOI: 10.1017/S0010417500007659Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Presents the theory that African societies face two public realms: the primordial and the civic. The interactions of these two publics influence African politics.

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  • Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove, 2004.

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    Considered to be one of the canonical books about black liberation movements, Fanon analyzes the Algerian struggle for independence from colonial rule. Drawing on both Marxist tradition and psychology, this book provides a stark portrayal of the challenges faced by Africans in the 1960s.

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  • Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove, 2008.

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    Originally written in 1952, this book was recently reprinted. It uses psychoanalytical theory to understand the influence of colonialism on African cultural identities at the individual level.

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  • Kapuscinski, Ryszard. Another Day of Life. New York: Vintage International, 2001.

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    Examines the various political players involved in the Angolan war of independence. Written in the first person, the book is jarring in its vivid portrayal of war, while including the political motivations of all groups involved.

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Independence

Despite differences in colonial powers, natural endowments and individual events, many commonalities exist across independence movements of different countries in Africa. Some of the books in this section generalize across independence movements (Mamdani 1996, Rodney 1988, Young 1994) whereas some provide detailed narrative about specific cases (Achebe 1958, Anderson 2005). Achebe 1958, Mamdani 1996, Rodney 1988, and Anderson 2005 argue that colonial rule left a negative legacy in Africa, whereas Young 1994 provides a rigorous analysis without a normative bent.

  • Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Johannesburg: William Heinemann, 1958.

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    Published immediately before Nigeria fought for independence, this novel provides an account of the consequences of the replacement of indigenous institutions by colonial institutions at the village level.

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  • Anderson, David. Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005.

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    Depicting the politics surrounding the Mau Mau insurrection in Kenya, this book demonstrates how colonial forces in Africa exacerbated and even created ethnic divisions to maintain control.

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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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    Challenging the common typology of colonial rule as either direct or indirect, Mamdani uses the cases of Uganda and South Africa to show how all colonial rule in Africa promoted authoritarian tendencies and reproduced racial and ethnic divisions among its subjects.

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  • Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. 8th ed. London: Bogle-L’Ouverture, 1988.

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    Written by a Guyanan, this book provides a scathing review of Europe’s intervention in Africa’s development. Considering geographic, political, and economic factors, the book concludes that Africa’s economic performance today is a legacy of colonialism.

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

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    Assumes that colonialism is responsible for Africa’s economic underperformance today and attempts to explain why the European powers left this legacy behind. Young begins his analysis by considering the characteristics of the European countries in question and then rigorously examines cases across Africa to identify the commonalities in their experiences with colonialism.

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Authoritarianism

In general, independence movements in Africa were immediately followed by a lasting period of authoritarianism. The citations in this section portray different manifestations of authoritarian rule, ranging from a monarchy (Kapuscinski 1989) to army rule (Decalo 1990) to warlords (Reno 1998) to personalistic regimes (Wrong 2000).

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

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    Analyzes the role that tradition, ethnicity, and religion play in the political environment of Africa in the late 20th century. The authors argue that political elites use disorder as a tool to remain in power.

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  • Decalo, Samuel. Coups and Army Rule in Africa: Motivations and Constraints. 2d ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1990.

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    By considering four African cases, Decalo refutes the argument that military rule can breed stability.

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  • Kapuscinski, Ryszard. The Emperor. New York: Vintage International, 1989.

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    Based on in-depth interviews, this book depicts the reign of Haile Selassie, the emperor of Ethiopia for forty-four years. Kapuscinski’s entertaining journalistic style accurately documents one type of government in Africa.

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  • Reno, William. Warlord Politics and African States. London: Lynne Rienner, 1998.

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    Considers four African countries in developing a theory explaining the prevalence of “weak states” in Africa.

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  • Wrong, Michela. In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Bring of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo. London: Fourth Estate, 2000.

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    Profiling Mobutu Sese Seko, this book describes the historical and economic factors that led to the rise of the autocrat.

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Protest and Democratization

Democratization in Africa has rarely been seamless. The authors included here dissect transitions across cases, sometimes describing the chain of events and sometimes analyzing the factors that differentiate the successful movements from the unsuccessful ones. Part of the “third wave” (Huntington 1991), democratization in Africa has been generally violent and volatile (Bratton and van de Walle 1992; Bratton and van de Walle 1997), with South Africa (Mandela 1994, Wood 2000) and Ethiopia (Keller 1991) standing out as the cases involving the greatest violations on political freedom. Stabilizing democracy in Africa has been challenging, and one case that has overcome extensive challenges is Mozambique (Hall and Young 1997, Manning 2002).

  • Bratton, Michael, and Nicolas van de Walle. “Popular Protest and Political Reform in Africa.” Comparative Politics 24.4 (1992): 419–442.

    DOI: 10.2307/422153Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Analyzing the protest and subsequent political reform prevalent across Africa in 1990, this article considers the causes and responses to democratization movements in Africa.

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  • Bratton, Michael, and Nicolas van de Walle. Democratic Experiments in Africa: Regime Transitions in Comparative Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139174657Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Explains the presence and absence of democratization movements in the countries of Africa in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and considers the future prospects for democracy in the continent.

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  • Hall, Margaret, and Tom Young. Confronting Leviathan: Mozambique Since Independence. Columbus: Ohio University Press, 1997.

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    Considers the liberation movement in Mozambique and the politics of the country since independence. It analyzes both external forces as well as internal political parties.

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  • Huntington, Samuel P. “Democracy’s Third Wave.” Journal of Democracy 2.2 (1991): 12–34.

    DOI: 10.1353/jod.1991.0016Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Analyzes the “third wave” of democracy, which occurred between 1974 and 1990.

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  • Keller, Edmond J. Revolutionary Ethiopia: From Empire to People’s Republic. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

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    Addresses the Ethiopian revolution while considering a myriad of societal and historical factors and grounding the analysis in extensive details of the case.

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  • Mandela, Nelson. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994.

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    Mandela’s autobiography is a passionate and vivid depiction of the transition to democracy in South Africa.

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  • Manning, Carrie. The Politics of Peace in Mozambique: Post-Conflict Democratization, 1992–2000. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.

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    Drawing on extensive field research, Manning examines the factors that have contributed to the stability of the democratic political agreement in Mozambique.

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  • Wood, Elizabeth Jean. Forging Democracy from Below. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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    In the chapters about South Africa, Wood demonstrates that the transition to democracy was driven by societal factors active across the populace, not merely the political elite of the country.

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Democratic Consolidation

After the transition to democracy comes the consolidation of democracy. Often seen as two distinct phases, the authors featured in this section focus on the factors that allow democracy to endure rather than simply occur. Some scholars argue weak political institutions are preventing consolidation in Africa (Gibson 2002, Harbeson 2005), whereas others argue primarily cultural or colonial legacy (Gyimah-Boadi 2004, Meredith 2011, Ndegwa 1997) or economic barriers (Diamond and Plattner 2010, van de Walle 1999) explain differences across the continent in consolidation experiences. Miguel 2004 considers consolidation as an independent variable, arguing that public goods provision improves continuously with consolidation.

  • Diamond, Larry, and Marc F. Plattner, eds. Democratization in Africa: Progress and Retreat. 2d ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

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    Considering economic, political, and societal factors, the authors in this edited volume analyze the democratization efforts of many African countries.

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  • Gibson, Clark C. “Beyond Waves and Ripples: Democracy and Political Change in Africa in the 1990s.” Annual Review of Political Science 5 (2002): 201–221.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.5.111401.151327Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This review engages the early literature of Africa’s experiences during the third wave of democracy and calls for more comparative research in addition to complement single country studies.

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  • Gyimah-Boadi, E., ed. Democratic Reform in Africa: The Quality of Progress. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2004.

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    Considers the factors contributing to (and preventing) democratic reform in Africa. It includes four in-depth case studies as part of the analysis.

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  • Harbeson, John W. “Ethiopia’s Extended Transition.” Journal of Democracy 16.4 (2005): 144–158.

    DOI: 10.1353/jod.2005.0064Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Analyzes Ethiopia’s transition to democracy after fourteen years of single-party rule, concluding that recent gains from the opposition could be a harbinger of greater democracy in the country.

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  • Meredith, Martin. The Fate of Africa: A History of the Continent Since Independence. New York: Public Affairs, 2011.

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    Painting a somewhat bleak picture, this book rigorously analyzes Africa’s evolution since decolonization. Drawing on voluntarism, Meredith pays tribute to those political leaders who have not succumbed to tools of violence, corruption, and political repression, as is common across the rest of Africa.

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  • Miguel, Edward. “Tribe or Nation? Nation Building and Public Goods in Kenya versus Tanzania.” World Politics 56.3 (2004): 327–362.

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    Concludes that nation-building efforts in Tanzania have resulted in better local public goods outcomes than in neighboring Kenya.

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  • Ndegwa, Stephen N. “Citizenship and Ethnicity: An Examination of Two Transition Moments in Kenyan Politics.” American Political Science Review 91.3 (1997): 599–616.

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    Article argues that Kenyans experience citizenship differently at the national and local levels of government, which creates conflict and prevents a complete transition to democracy.

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  • van de Walle, Nicolas. “Economic Reform in a Democratizing Africa.” Comparative Politics 32.1 (1999): 21–41.

    DOI: 10.2307/422431Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This article attempts to explain the reasons why democratization has not consistently led to economic growth in Africa, as was anticipated.

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State Development

The size and strength of the state are separate considerations from whether or not the state is democratic. This section explores these more general attributes of the state, with authors weighing in on the causes of state power and state downfall. The main determinants of state development in Africa are geographic and ethnic features dating to before colonialism (Herbst 2000, Joseph 1999), contemporary events (Keller and Rothchild 1996), or a combination of both (Apter and Rosberg 1994). Regardless of the historical or external determinants, state development is also affected by the specific individuals and events within a country (Branch and Cheeseman 2009; Cruise O’Brien, et al. 1990).

  • Apter, David, and Carl Rosberg, eds. Political Development and the New Realism in Sub-Saharan Africa. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1994.

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    A collection of essays about postwar sub-Saharan Africa, this edited volume analyzes the changing politics of the region.

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  • Branch, Daniel, and Nic Cheeseman. “Democratization, Sequencing, and State Failure in Africa: Lessons from Kenya.” African Affairs 108.430 (2009): 1–26.

    DOI: 10.1093/afraf/adn065Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Through the lens of the Kenyan presidential election in 2007, this article considers whether democratization and political reform can be undertaken simultaneously.

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  • Cruise O’Brien, Donal, John Dunn, and Richard Rathborne, eds. Contemporary West African States. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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    Contributing to the refutation of dependency theory and Marxian analysis, this book analyzes nine west African states to develop new theories of politics in the region.

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

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    Herbst argues that unique features of the African landscape influenced state development in Africa. He departs from those that assert state development in Africa was entirely determined by the legacies of colonialism.

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  • Joseph, Richard, ed. State, Conflict and Democracy in Africa. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1999.

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    Examines the successes and failures in democratization across Africa in the 1990s, as well as the dimensions of underlying social conflicts.

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  • Keller, Edmond J., and Donald Rothchild, eds. Africa in The New International Order: Rethinking State Sovereignty and Regional Security. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1996.

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    This book analyzes how the Cold War both mobilized and otherwise affected countries in Africa.

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Institutional Development

Democratic institutions are the de jure manifestations of a democratic state. This section considers institutions ranging from executive structure (Posner and Young 2007, Shugart 1999) to civil society (Boone 2003, Harbeson, et al. 1994) to the politicization of ethnic group structures (Hyden 2006).

  • 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 »

    Examines relations between rural Africa and government in three different states: Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ghana. It concludes that state-centric analyses overlook the importance of rural influences and that the rural environment differs by regions across Africa.

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  • Harbeson, John W., Donald Rothchild, and Naomi Chazan, eds. Civil Society and the State in Africa. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1994.

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    Considering many cases across Africa, this edited volume considers both the role that civil society plays in democratic transitions and the interactions between civil society and the state in stable periods.

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  • Hyden, Goren. African Politics in Comparative Perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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    This textbook covers many of the themes in African politics and is a valuable resource for anyone beginning study in the field.

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  • Posner, Daniel N., and Daniel J. Young. “The Institutionalization of Political Power in Africa.” Journal of Democracy 18.3 (2007): 126–140.

    DOI: 10.1353/jod.2007.0053Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Considers various paths out of power for African leaders in recent history, using extensive case knowledge to support asserted theories.

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  • Shugart, Matthew Soberg. “Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, and the Provision of Collective Goods in Less-Developed Countries.” Constitutional Political Economy 10.1 (1999): 53–88.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1009050515209Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Argues that presidentialism can encourage national public goods provision in less-developed countries.

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Personal Rule

The literature on African politics asserts that the traditional leadership structures have affected the prevailing relationships between governments and their citizens. Specifically, the authors in this section are the foremost experts on political and traditional leadership structures in Africa, demonstrating that personal rule in Africa has deep personal roots (Kenyatta 1965, Schaffer 1998, Schatzberg 2001) but can also be activated to fulfill political agendas (Humphreys, et al. 2006; Jackson and Rosberg 1984)

  • Humphreys, Macartan, William A. Masters, and Martin E. Sandbu. “The Role of Leaders in Democratic Deliberations: Results from a Field Experiment in São Tomé and Príncipe.” World Politics 58.4 (2006): 583–622.

    DOI: 10.1353/wp.2007.0008Save Citation »Export Citation »

    The experiment discussed in this article exploits the random assignment of moderators to decision-making groups in São Tomé and Príncipe to conclude that leadership matters.

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  • Jackson, Robert H., and Carl G. Rosberg. “Personal Rule: Theory and Practice in Africa.” Comparative Politics 16.4 (1984): 421–442.

    DOI: 10.2307/421948Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Concisely reviews the literature on personal rule in Africa, contributing to the debate both theoretically and with deep case knowledge.

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  • Kenyatta, Jomo. Facing Mt. Kenya. New York: Random House, 1965.

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    Written by the first president of Kenya, this book depicts Kikuyu culture in vivid detail. As such, it also provides a striking portrait of the form of rule prevalent in Africa before democracy.

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  • Schaffer, Frederic C. Democracy in Translation: Understanding Politics in an Unfamiliar Culture. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

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    Asserts that Africans use the act of voting as a means of reinforcing community ties, thus raising issues about the transportability of democracy to Africa.

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  • Schatzberg, Michael G. Political Legitimacy in Middle Africa: Father, Family, Food. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

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    Analyzes how Africans view the state and think about politics, drawing on extensive content analysis of the popular press.

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Patronage and Clientelism

Clientelism and patronage are widespread political practices across Africa. This section considers the historical origins, empirical patterns, and theoretical explanations of these political tools in the African context. Patronage and clientelism are widespread in Africa, caused by both societal factors (van de Walle 2007) and the perversion of political institutions (Lindberg 2003). Although patronage and clientelism can distort the political sphere (Boone 2009), there is both individual demand and systemic benefits for these practices (Arriola 2009, Wantchekon 2003). Wrong 2009 discusses corruption in Kenya, one of the African countries most plagued by clientelistic and patronage practices.

  • Arriola, Leonardo. “Patronage and Political Stability in Africa.” Comparative Political Studies 42.10 (2009): 1339–1362.

    DOI: 10.1177/0010414009332126Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Analyzing the relationship between patronage and regime stability, this article concludes that each additional ministerial appointment decreases the risk of regime overthrow.

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  • Boone, Catherine. “Electoral Populism Where Property Rights Are Weak: Land Politics in Contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa.” Comparative Politics 41.2 (2009): 183–201.

    DOI: 10.5129/001041509X12911362971990Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Using Cote d’Ivoire as an example, this article argues that land can become a patronage good where property rights are weak.

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  • Lindberg, Staffan I. “‘It’s Our Time to “Chop”’: Do Elections in Africa Feed Neo-Patrimonialism Rather than Counter-Act it?” Democratization 14.2 (2003): 121–140.

    DOI: 10.1080/714000118Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Argues that elections in Africa serve as a patronage mechanism in Africa rather than an accountability mechanism.

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  • van de Walle, Nicolas. “Meet the New Boss, Same As the Old Boss? The Evolution of Political Clientelism in Africa.” In Patrons, Clients, and Policies: Patterns of Democratic Accountability and Political Competition. Edited by Herbert Kitschelt and Steven I. Wilkinson, 50–67. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511585869Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Using extensive case knowledge, this chapter analyzes the historical factors that led to the widespread clientelism found in contemporary Africa.

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  • Wantchekon, Leonard. “Clientelism and Voting Behavior: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Benin.” World Politics 55.3 (2003): 399–422.

    DOI: 10.1353/wp.2003.0018Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This innovative project randomized the campaign message received in villages in Benin, comparing public policy platforms to clientelist promises. Wantchekon finds that voters consistently respond positively to clientelist messages but that the effect of public policy platforms is mixed.

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  • Wrong, Michela. It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

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    This book tells the heroic story of John Githongo, who was appointed head of the anticorruption bureau in Kenya in 2003 after Mwai Kibaki took office.

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Elections

Elections in Africa have not always been free and fair, but this section attempts to depict them as completely and fairly as possible, focusing on two of the most commonly studied election variables in political science: political parties (Kuenzi and Lambright 2001, Manning 2008) and incumbency (Posner and Simon 2002; Throup and Hornsby 1998). Contrary to some of the other literature on African voters and politicians, these pieces demonstrate that both parties are acting rationally to protect their interests (Block, et al. 2003; Posner and Simon 2002; Throup and Hornsby 1998).

  • Block, Steven A., Karen E. Ferree, and Smita Singh. “Multiparty Competition, Founding Elections and Political Business Cycles in Africa.” Journal of African Economies 12.3 (2003): 444–468.

    DOI: 10.1093/jae/12.3.444Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This article builds on prevailing theories about political business cycles, finding significant evidence that political business cycles only occur where there are competitive elections.

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  • Kuenzi, Michelle, and Gina Lambright. “Party System Institutionalization in 30 African Countries.” Party Politics 7.4 (2001): 437–468.

    DOI: 10.1177/1354068801007004003Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Applies the framework of Mainwaring and Scully to assess party system institutionalization in Africa, as well as the links between society and the party system and the level of competition.

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  • Manning, Carrie. The Making of Democrats: Elections and Party Development in Postwar Bosnia, El Salvador and Mozambique. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230611160Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This book argues that intra- and interparty politics determine whether elections foster the development of democracy. In the chapters about Mozambique, Manning analyzes the development of Renamo as a political party.

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  • Posner, Daniel N., and David J. Simon. “Economic Conditions and Incumbent Support in Africa’s New Democracies: Evidence from Zambia.” Comparative Political Studies 35.3 (2002): 313–336.

    DOI: 10.1177/0010414002035003003Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Tests the theory linking economic conditions to incumbent electoral support. Using two surveys conducted in Zambia, the authors find evidence that voters respond to economic crises via withdrawal rather than via support for the opposition.

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  • Throup, David, and Charles Hornsby. Multi-Party Politics in Kenya. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1998.

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    Well-grounded in empirical analysis, this book argues that multiparty politics in Kenya have failed to redistribute the country’s resources beyond the ruling elite.

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Electoral Fraud and Election Observation

Fraud is commonplace in elections in Africa (Abbink 2006; Gibson and Long 2009; Herskovits 2007; Makumbe 2002). Election observers have been generally unsuccessful in securing free and fair elections across the continent (Abbink and Hesseling 2000; Bjornlund, et al. 1992; Laakso 2002). The practice of holding elections is one way to improve their fairness over time (Lindberg 2006).

  • Abbink, Jon. “Discomfiture of Democracy? The 2005 Election Crisis in Ethiopia and Its Aftermath.” African Affairs 105.419 (2006): 173–199.

    DOI: 10.1093/afraf/adi122Save Citation »Export Citation »

    In addition to offering a poignant review of the 2005 elections in Ethiopia, this article advocates for a shift away from traditional political science approaches to the study of African politics, and toward analysis grounded in knowledge of history and culture.

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  • Abbink, Jon, and Gerti Hesseling, eds. Election Observation and Democratization in Africa. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2000.

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    Grounded in theory and history, this book provides a realistic portrayal of the triumphs and downsides of election observation in Africa.

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  • Bjornlund, Eric, Michael Bratton, and Clark Gibson. “Observing Multiparty Elections in Africa: Lessons from Zambia.” African Affairs 92.364 (1992): 405–432.

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    Considers the degree to which African countries have truly democratized and achieved “free and fair” elections.

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  • Gibson, Clark C., and James D. Long. “The Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in Kenya, December 2007.” Electoral Studies 28.3 (2009): 497–502.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.electstud.2009.01.005Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Provides detailed evidence of electoral manipulation and violence in Kenya’s 2007 election.

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  • Herskovits, Jean. “Nigeria’s Rigged Democracy.” Foreign Affairs 86.115 (2007): 115–130.

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    Written by a historian, this article analyzes the chain of events prior to and following the 2007 presidential elections in Nigeria.

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  • Laakso, Liisa. “The Politics of International Election Observation: The Case of Zimbabwe in 2000.” Journal of Modern African Studies 40.3 (2002): 437–464.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0022278X02003993Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Compares and contrasts the differing viewpoints of international election observers in the Zimbabwean parliamentary elections in 2000.

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  • Lindberg, Staffan I. Democracy and Elections in Africa. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006.

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    Utilizing a data set of all national elections in Africa from 1989 to 2003, this book concludes that democratic behavior is learned over time and that the act of holding elections cultivates democracy.

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  • Makumbe, John M. “Zimbabwe’s Hijacked Election.” Journal of Democracy 13.4 (2002): 87–101.

    DOI: 10.1353/jod.2002.0071Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Documents the widespread fraud in Zimbabwe’s 2000 presidential election and analyzes the motivations and strategies of both voters and politicians.

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Identity Politics

The political science literature has thoroughly dissected the role that identity dimensions such as race, religion, and ethnicity play in influencing African politics. This section contains some older works that laid the groundwork for this line of research by demonstrating that African politics is heavily influenced by ethnic cleavages (Laitin 1986). Ethnic ties in Africa are activated by political factors (Posner 2005, Posner 2004a), and the level of ethnic diversity can have negative consequences on public goods provision (Habyarimana, et al. 2007; Miguel and Gugerty 2005) and taxation policy (Kasara 2007), The measurement of ethnicity has improved over time (Posner 2004b). Religion is another identity dimension influencing African politics (Cruise O’Brien 2003).

  • Cruise O’Brien, Donal B. Symbolic Confrontations: Muslims Imagining the State in Africa. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

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    Provides a political science perspective on African Islam.

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  • Habyarimana, James, Macartan Humphreys, Daniel N. Posner, and Jeremy M. Weinstein. “Why Does Ethnic Diversity Undermine Public Goods Provision?” American Political Science Review 101.4 (2007): 709–725.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003055407070499Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Considers the mechanisms by which ethnic heterogeneity inhibits public goods provision. In presenting experimental evidence, the authors find evidence for a strategy selection mechanism and a technology mechanism, but no support for a preference mechanism.

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  • Kasara, Kimuli. “Tax Me if You Can: Ethnic Geography, Democracy, and the Taxation of Agriculture in Africa.” American Political Science Review 101.1 (2007): 159–172.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003055407070050Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Refuting widely accepted theories linking taxation and democracy in Africa, this article shows that coethnics are often taxed at higher rates than non-coethnics, and that democratic regimes impose lower taxes than autocratic ones.

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  • Laitin, David D. Hegemony and Culture: Politics and Religious Change Among the Yoruba. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.

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    Based on an extensive case study of the Yoruba in Nigeria, this book contributes to theories about ethnic and religious politics.

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  • Miguel, Edward, and Mary Kay Gugerty. “Ethnic Diversity, Social Sanctions, and Public Goods in Kenya.” Journal of Public Economics 89.11–12 (2005): 2325–2368.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2004.09.004Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Considering the use of social sanctions by school committees in Kenya, this article argues that ethnic heterogeneity inhibits punishment mechanisms, contributing to collective action problems and thereby decreasing the quality of public goods.

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  • Posner, Daniel N. “The Political Salience of Cultural Difference: Why Chewas and Tumbukas are Allies in Zambia and Adversaries in Malawi.” American Political Science Review 98.4 (2004a): 529–545.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003055404041334Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Demonstrates a difference in relations between the Chewas and Tumbukas across the border between Malawi and Zambia, and then argues that this difference is due to the relative size of the two groups compared to the overall size of the electorate.

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  • Posner, Daniel N. “Measuring Ethnic Fractionalization in Africa.” American Journal of Political Science 48.4 (2004b): 849–863.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.0092-5853.2004.00105.xSave Citation »Export Citation »

    Proposes a measure of ethnic fractionalization for political science analyses that considers only politically relevant ethnic groups when calculating heterogeneity.

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  • Posner, Daniel N. Institutions and Ethnic Politics in Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511808661Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This book combines social constructivist, institutionalist and rational choice theories of identity and politics to analyze why politics in Zambia might revolve around one cleavage over another.

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Identity in Voting

Identity dimensions are of particular consideration in voting, with scholars debating whether Africans vote along ethnic lines for intrinsic or instrumental reasons. Increasingly, scholars argue that identity dimensions are activated in the voting process by elites (Ferree 2011) or simply heuristics for downstream benefits (Arriola 2008, Lindberg and Morrison 2008). Ferree and Horowitz 2010 finds that this tendency can be overcome over time.

  • Arriola, Leonardo. “Ethnicity, Economic Conditions, and Opposition Support: Evidence from Ethiopia’s 2005 Elections.” Northeast African Studies 10.1 (2008): 115–144.

    DOI: 10.1353/nas.0.0015Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Attempts to explain the sub-national variation in opposition support in the 2005 elections in Ethiopia, focusing on economic variables.

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  • Ferree, Karen E. Framing the Race in South Africa: The Political Origins of Racial Census Elections. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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    Grounded in extensive empirical evidence, this book asserts that voting patterns in South Africa are the product of elite strategies rather than identity politics.

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  • Ferree, Karen, and Jeremy Horowitz. “The Ties that Bind? The Rise and Decline of Ethno-Regional Partisanship in Malawi, 1994–2009.” Democratization 17.3 (2010): 534–563.

    DOI: 10.1080/13510341003700394Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Considering the 2009 presidential elections in Malawi, this article concludes that incumbent policies broke regional voting patterns.

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  • Lindberg, Staffan I., and Minion K. C. Morrison. “Are African Voters Really Ethnic or Clientelistic? Survey Evidence from Ghana.” Political Science Quarterly 123.1 (2008): 95–122.

    DOI: 10.1002/j.1538-165X.2008.tb00618.xSave Citation »Export Citation »

    Using evidence from Ghana, this article refutes the premise that Africans vote along ethnic lines solely to express their identity. Instead, the authors argue that voting along ethnic lines is an efficient way to insure clientelistic benefits in a low-information environment.

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Conflict and Violence

There are many types of conflict and violence in African states. This section focuses on cases of violence involving the state, drawing on authors with deep case knowledge (e.g., the authors of Collier and Vicente 2008), as well as those able to generalize across cases (e.g., Laitin 2007). This literature primarily focuses on the downstream effects of violence and conflict, concluding that these phenomena in Africa have lead to suppression of political expression (Collier and Vicente 2008; Kalyvas 1999; Lust-Okar 2005; Paluck and Green 2009), and even state failure (Bates 2008). Paradoxically, conscription early in life can lead to political participation later (Blattman 2009). Internal conflict is not necessarily internal, as it can spill over into other countries (Lake and Rothchild 1998).

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

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    Bates systematically examines cases of state failure and internal conflict from across Africa at the end of the 20th century.

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  • Blattman, Christopher. “From Violence to Voting: War and Political Participation in Uganda.” American Political Science Review 103.2 (2009): 231–247.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003055409090212Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Combining evidence from surveys and in-depth interviews, this article concludes that involuntary conscription and subsequent exposure to violence may encourage political participation later in life.

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  • Collier, Paul, and Pedro Vicente. “Votes and Violence: Experimental Evidence from a Nigerian Election.” Centre for the Study of African Economies Paper 296 (2008).

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    Presents evidence that voter intimidation reduces voter turnout, and argues that voter intimidation may be a strategy employed by the opposition.

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  • Kalyvas, Stathis N. “Wanton and Senseless? The Logic of Massacres in Algeria.” Rationality and Society 11.3 (1999): 243–286.

    DOI: 10.1177/104346399011003001Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This article presents a generalizable theory of the use of large-scale violence by regimes against civilians.

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  • Laitin, David D. Nations, States and Violence. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199228232.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Considers the causes and consequences of nationalism.

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  • Lake, David A., and Donald S. Rothchild, eds. The International Spread of Ethnic Conflict: Fear, Diffusion and Escalation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.

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    This book considers the changing dynamics of ethnic conflict across the world, analyzing whether or not there are spillover effects of such conflict. The chapters about Africa together assert that ethnic conflict is almost always context-specific.

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  • Lust-Okar, Ellen. Structuring Conflict in the Arab World: Incumbents, Opponents and Institutions. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511491009Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Examining the histories of three countries in North Africa, this book proposes a novel theory regarding the dynamics between ruling and opposition groups.

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  • Paluck, Elizabeth Levy, and Donald P. Green. “Deference, Dissent, and Dispute Resolution: An Experimental Intervention using Mass Media to Change Norms and Behavior in Rwanda.” American Political Science Review 103.4 (2009): 622–644.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003055409990128Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This article contributes to the debate on the tradeoff between deference and dissent, and the relationship between these two traits and collective action at the community level.

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Civil War

Once again, there are many cases of civil war in Africa, and this section includes only the two most influential works in the literature. Fearon and Laitin 2003 looks at the causes of civil war, concluding that ethnic heterogeneity is a main driver. Humphreys and Weinstein 2008 looks at the causes of participation in civil war, concluding that grievance models might overlook intrinsic personal characteristics.

Political Economy of Agriculture

Scholars have long debated whether policies in Africa are enacted along urban-rural lines and what role agricultural politics play in this mechanism. This section includes two older but significant works that first identified the politicization of agriculture in Africa (Bates 1983; Lofchie 1997) and two recent but paradigm-shifting contributions that have demonstrated Africa’s shift away from politics dominated by urban bias (Bayart 2009, Boone 2007).

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

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511558740Save Citation »Export Citation »

    The essays in this volume consider the applicability of the theories of political economy to rural Africa.

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  • Bayart, Jean-Francois. The State in Africa: The Politics of the Belly. 2d ed. London: Polity, 2009.

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    Attempting to combat the Western ethnocentrism that often prevails in political science, this book considers many dimensions of African politics with a fresh perspective.

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  • Boone, Catherine. “Africa’s New Territorial Politics: Regionalism and the Open Economy in Cote d’Ivoire.” African Studies Review 50.1 (2007): 59–81.

    DOI: 10.1353/arw.2005.0093Save Citation »Export Citation »

    This article considers the interaction between rural property rights, state organization, and economic competition.

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  • Lofchie, Michael. “The Rise and Demise of Urban-Biased Development Policies in Africa.” In Cities in the Developing World. Edited by Josef Gugler, 23–39. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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    Entering the debate surrounding the prevalence of urban bias policies in Africa, Lofchie argues that urban bias is a thing of the past.

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Political Economy of Industrialization

For many African states, difficult political changes coincided with industrialization. This section considers the endogeneity between these two variables, with Bates’s (Bates 1981 and Bates 2009) landmark works paving the way. Africa’s lasting dependence on agriculture (Ensminger 1996) and weak political institutions (Bratton, et al. 2005; Ndulu and O’Connell 1999) have influenced the type of market institutions that develop. Elite capture of economic policy is also a prevailing problem across Africa (Nyerere 1974; Reinikka and Svensson 2004; van de Walle 2001).

  • Bates, Robert H. Markets and States in Tropical Africa: The Political Basis of Agricultural Policies. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981.

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    Explores why governments in Africa have historically developed policies that favor urban populations over farmers.

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  • Bates, Robert H. Prosperity and Violence. 2d ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2009.

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    Explores the transition from agrarian to industrial states and argues that certain forms of coercion are critical for peace and prosperity.

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  • Bratton, Michael, Robert Mattes, and E. Gyimah-Boadi. Public Opinion, Democracy, and Market Reform in Africa. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

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    Based on the analysis of Afrobarometer data, this book examines public opinion surrounding democracy and market reform.

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  • Ensminger, Jean. Making a Market: The Institutional Transformation of an African Society. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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    Through an in-depth case study in Kenya, this book analyzes the effects of market institutions on production and distribution in a formerly pastoral society.

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  • Ndulu, Benno J., and Stephen A. O’Connell. “Governance and Growth in Sub Saharan Africa.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 13.3 (1999): 41–66.

    DOI: 10.1257/jep.13.3.41Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Considers the circumstances under which regimes in Africa implement growth-enhancing policies.

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  • Nyerere, Julius K. Freedom and Development/Uhuru Na Maendeleo: A Selection of Writing and Speeches, 1968–1973. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974.

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    Written by the former president of Tanzania, this collection includes Nyerere’s thoughts about governance as well as his account of Tanzania’s path since independence.

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  • Reinikka, Ritva, and Jakob Svensson. “Local Capture: Evidence from a Central Government Transfer Program in Uganda.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 119.2 (2004): 679–705.

    DOI: 10.1162/0033553041382120Save Citation »Export Citation »

    Based on a case study in Uganda, this article concludes that elite capture at the local level of government can shift expenditures from redistributive to regressive.

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

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    Explains why many African countries have remained in a state of economic crisis since the 1970s, concluding that manipulation of reform policies is primarily to blame.

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Political Economy of Aid

Although the effects of aid have been widely considered within development economics, political scientists have made valuable contributions to the literature on aid by considering the political economy behind how aid is received and allocated in Africa. Although many argue aid has undermined Africa’s development (Ndegwa 1996, van de Walle 2005), some claim that Africa’s weak political institutions are to blame for the capture of aid and corresponding lack of development (Young 1982).

  • Ndegwa, Stephen N. The Two Faces of Civil Society: NGOs and Politics in Africa. West Hartford, CT: Kumarian, 1996.

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    By examining two different NGOs operating in Kenya, this book concludes that NGOs assume various roles in African politics.

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  • van de Walle, Nicolas. Overcoming Stagnation in Aid-Dependent Countries: Politics, Policies and Incentives for Poor Countries. Washington, DC: Center for Global Development, 2005.

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    Drawing on cross-continental comparisons, this book asserts that reforms to the aid system will be necessary for aid to result in development, but that such reforms are unlikely.

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  • Young, Crawford. Ideology and Development in Africa. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1982.

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    One of the earliest works considering African politics but departing from dependency theory, this book considers the relationship between political ideology and economic development in Africa.

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