Reading post: Herbst and Mills

I very much appreciated one of our last three readings for this class, Herbst and Mills’s paper “Africa in 2020: Three Scenarios for the Future.” The three scenarios the reading forwarded as possible projections for Africa’s future were useful to think about as a finish to the semester. We’ve all studied one country in-depth for this blog, and most of us have looked closer at a few other African states for the purposes of our research papers. This, in addition to the discussions we’ve had in class, makes it useful now to reflect on the patterns that have emerged on the blog and in class and decide what we each think the future holds for African states.

Herbst and Mills’ paper gives three possible scenarios for African states to follow. In the first, “Africa takes charge” scenario, states take charge of their own fates, emerge as major players, and significantly impact international policy. The paper discusses many drivers necessary for this most optimistic scenario, mainly focusing on bigger states leading the way in several factors (economic growth, establishment and growth of private sector industries, education, security). This scenario is the one I’d like to focus on because, at least as it seems to me, we already know the many ways in which African states across the continent may flounder or “fail.” We’ve seen corruption and civil war turn states upside down, and we’ve watched false starts and ultimate regression all over the continent. Examining any nation region of the world becomes most interesting, however, when we look for their potential to break out of cycles of poverty and corruption and decide how best to make it happen. The country I studied this term, Angola, is particularly fascinating to study and imagine different futures for. Angola’s GDP growth rate is one of the fastest-growing in the world, yet last year it was also one of the countries to fall the farthest on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Angola has faced so many of the struggles seen in countries all over the region: resource curse, Chinese investment, civil war, violent conflicts, big man rule, and widespread corruption. However, it is also emerging as one of the big states and power players on the continent, making it one of those states that Herbst and Mills argue will be critical in setting the example of an Africa ready to take charge. So how best to get there for these big states? Obviously, the situations of Angola, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa are very different, especially in terms of international relations. I would argue that in addition to the drivers that Herbst and Mills focus on in the article, which are very similar to the drivers we discussed in our last day of class, there is also an important element in getting the big states on the same page. South Africa has heavy ties to the west and is perhaps the most international player of them all, Angola’s relationship with China is only getting stronger, Kenya is seen trying to mediate regional conflicts, and Nigeria is struggling with internal conflicts of its own. These big players, all with the potential to become even more powerful moving forward, need to collaborate regionally and internationally for the “Africa takes charge” scenario to become plausible.

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Africa’s Population Boom

After reading this article by Fisher in the Washington Post I want to create a stock portfolio solely compromised of African companies. This unprecedented turn around in Africa’s economy is the result of a population explosion. Africa’s projected population growth in the next 90 years is on an upward exponential trend. While, Europe, Asia, and the North America is projected to either slow down, or “max out”.
“Africa is the next Asia, maybe”, said Fisher in one of her headers. It will be as populous as Asian by the year 2100. Asia’s populous boom is partly responsible for the recent success in Asia, however a large part of Asia’s success is their good governance, and careful resource management (which Africa has yet to prove). If Africa does not make progress in these particular realms (governance, resource management) then their population boom could be detrimental to their infrastructure. This is due to Africa’s “youth bulge” in their demographic, if governance does not improve Africa’s  infrastructure risks the possibility of becoming and conflict ridden and the promise of economic prosperity will cease.
Africa’s population increase will subsequently be followed by a decline in the West who’s country’s have a strict migration policy. “If you take the U.S. out of the above chart, that makes it a little easier to see the distinction between developed countries that have robust immigration and those that don’t. Germany, Japan and South Korea – which, like most of the developed world, tightly restrict immigration – all see declines.” As Africa rises the Western World will weaken, thus the importance of Africa becomes even more relevant.
The future holds promise for Africa. With their population expanding this could bring a positive impact on the economy. More human capital will provide more revenue for Africa. However, if the infrastructure does not improve, the population “boom” can foster activities that aren’t productive to the African society such as: corruption. These coming years for Africa have the potential to reverse the effects of neocolonialism. Africa can finally free themselves from economic stagnation, and be among the world elite in policy making, and human rights.

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Reading post: The Contemporary African State

Reading Post


The Contemporary African State: The Politics of Distorted Incentives


The author suggests that Sub-Saharan development problems have a strong correlation with its politics. The two main aspects discussed are the personal rule paradigm, and enclave production. I agree with the author in the respect that all three of them are what caused limited growth since independence in most states since the 1960s.


Firstly, the personal rule paradigm, or neopatrimonialism, is a massive problem. It is a system based on loyalty and thus it creates a system called clientism, where if you are loyal to the government, you receive the benefits. This then spills over into ethnic politics, because it is usually your kin that you trust. A nice quote from the article was: “Politics are not fought over who is left, liberal, or right, but over who can be trusted.”


Since now it has become an ethnic issue, only the ethnicity of the government will benefit from personal rule, thus the other ethnicities are left to rot. This will cause only hostility, and eventually conflict will arise. Once your country experiences civil conflict, it will wipe out generations of hard work on the economy, and generations of people who had the potential to be educated are left to fight a war. After all, it is the most productive members of society who fight the war. In the end, you are left with a devastated economy.


With enclave production, the state’s primary function could be private patronage distribution. The production from the enclave goes straight to the people in the clientism network rather for development, so in the long term, the top officials of the country only need to rely on the wealth generated by the enclave to live a comfortable life, as they have no incentive to develop the country. A great example would be Mobutu Sese Seko’s DRC. He managed to generate huge sums for himself, while the other 39 million people in his country suffered. In my opinion, this is the biggest reason why there is something called a resource curse. The more resources you have, the less the corrupt officials need to generate wealth through development as they rely on their natural resources. Thus, a reason why Congo has had one of the lowest growth rates during Mobuto Sese Seko’s rule.


In my opinion, the two main aspects of Sub-Saharan development politics reinforce each other. The enclave production fuels personal rule paradigm because it provides personal wealth, while personal rule fuels enclave production as the profits are kept between a small amounts of people.


I also believe the author should have talked even more about foreign aid and its role in the big man rule, because just like enclave production, it fuels big man rule and reduces the incentive for the government to invest in infrastructure.


I also in the long-term, the big man rule will be reduced completely by the end of the century, because as a Ghanian taxi driver in New York said, that since the corrupt elites are sending their children abroad for education, they would see a different perspective of this world, and thus, when they come into power, will treat the country in a different way that will benefit the country as a whole.

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News Post: Twin Bombs Kill Dozens in Nigeria

News Post:



Nigeria is bound to become the 4th most populous country in the world by 2050. In order to support such a massive population while achieving economic growth, it is important to resolve the rift between the Muslims and the Christians. Without resolution, it is very possible for a larger civil conflict to arise, which will in turn cause low economic growth, more corruption and poverty. Good examples of civil conflict that have had horrible impacts on their country’s are the Congo civil war and the Angolan civil war.

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Reading Post: Conflicts and Conflict Management (II)

What strikes me most about the readings about the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Africa from the “Conflicts and Conflict Management: Congo (II)” week is that African countries’ varied lack of cooperation with the ICC receives substantially more attention than the outright refusal of the United States to be a party to the Rome Statute and attempt to distort the meaning of Article 16 to protect its national interests. Out of three academic articles on the ICC, only three pages are devoted to exploring this double standard.

Although the Akande and Keppler papers do not reveal a clear bias, the reader comes away from both with the impression that African leaders have selfishly chosen to prioritize their power over justice and accountability for their people. While this may be true, it is unfair to present this as a problem between the ICC and Africa exclusively. Unlike the U.S., the majority of the countries on the African continent have at least shown their commitment to rejecting impunity with respect to international law in the formal sense by becoming parties to the Court. Kenya—one of the countries subjected to scrutiny in Keppler’s paper for allowing President Al-Bashir of Sudan to enter the country despite the warrant out for his arrest—also sacrificed millions of dollars of military and governance aid from the United States by refusing the sign one of the bilateral immunity agreements (BIAs) that the U.S. imposed on many African countries. Economically sanctioning developing countries for refusing to shield U.S. nationals from the jurisdiction of the ICC is arguably a more unethical than disregarding an arrest warrant out of fear of destabilizing the region. The African Union’s (AU) call for non-cooperation with the ICC in light of the UN Security Council’s unresponsiveness regarding its request to postpone the prosecution of Al-Bashir to preserve prospect for peace also seems reasonable relative to the behavior of the U.S., which faces no comparable security concerns and yet still refuses to hold itself to international standards of justice.

Although the European Union (EU) has been more directly involved in supporting peace and security in African countries, Froitzheim’s article makes clear that the motives behind its efforts in the Congo are not entirely pure. The EU’s lack of any clear strategy has made its work largely ineffective, raising not only the question of “whether any global actor is capable of helping solve the DRC’s myriad problems” (Froitzheim, 65) but also of whether the United States’ relative lack of intervention in peacemaking efforts in Africa might actually be preferable to the EU’s uncoordinated and unproductive attempts. Given the legitimacy deficit of the European Union (EU)’s work in African that Froitzheim’s article describes, the adoption of Article 16 detailed in Akande’s paper seems unwise if any legitimacy that the ICC still has in Africa is to be maintained. The International Commission of Inquiry on the situation in Darfur’s endorsement of the of the ICC as the “only credible way of bringing alleged perpetrators to justice” (Akande, 19) signifies that the work of the ICC does still have legitimacy on the African continent, and it is therefore my opinion that any further politicization of this international body should be avoided.

Sources: Readings from Class 18

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News Post…Biya’s Progress as Leader of Cameroon

This news article addresses the recognization of Paul Biya’s progress as leader of Cameroon. In class we discussed the major needs for Africa and many centered around diminishing corruption and eliminating “Big Man Rule”. According to this article, Biya has made great improvements in Cameroon’s “development and peace strides.” This will be imperative to setting up Cameroon for a future of economic prosperity, social equality and international status. I found this article particular pertinent based on yesterday’s country post and class discussion. It seems that Cameroon’s legitimacy on the world stage, at least for their leader, is already on the rise. This bodes very well for the future.

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Reading Post…..Africa’s Future: A Need for Democracy and Stability without Stagnation

Herbst and Mills’s paper Africa in 2020: Three Scenarios for the Future addresses the potential paths for Africa’s future as well as the factors that will mostly like shape this future. They see Africa’s future as one that will continue to follow the trend of increased heterogeneity that has been observed over the last half century. They make an interesting prediction that countries will collapse within that time frame, which at this point is more than half over.

The most compelling factor of these changes that they recognize is the need for democracy in Africa. This has been a Western, and particularly an American mission in Africa and other parts of the developing world for some time now, and is critical for the progress of the continent. However, an important distinction that Herbst and Mills make is that Africa needs to democratize in their own way, not just in the Western sense. They believe this is imperative to the point that “if democracy in Africa is going to succeed, African countries must develop distinctive democratic practices and institutions that are appropriate for their own social, historical, and political milieus,” (4-5). Although initially this may be met with dismay from the Western community who believe so strongly in their own form of democracy, it is crucial for African success and progress. Unlike many ideals, democracy has no truly universal form. It is shaped by customs, histories and practical necessities. Therefore, the type of democracy prescribed for an impoverished, developing African nation is far different than that prescribed for a European industrial giant.

The role of conflict in Africa’s future is a looming danger. Since the beginning of the colonial days and particularly in the post-colonial period, conflict has characterized life in Africa. Civil wars and disputes never cease to exist and “conflict in one African country tends to be exported to the region,” (5). In these conflicts, it is imperative for the Africans to solve their own disputes. The time for intervention and neo-colonialism from Western actors is over and now Africa needs to resolve their own conflicts. Herbst and Mills refer to this as “The Security Agenda”. Not only does it entail ending conflicts when they have begun but also putting in place measures to prevent conflict from ever occurring. However, this does not solve Africa’s problems entirely. Civil unrest and conflict is often a result of tyrannical, “Big Man Rule” and the suppression of this unrest can often be in direct conflict of further democratization on the continent. Herbst and Mills address this potential contradiction to a lesser, more peaceful extent. They recognize that stability is not always the answer since it can often lead to stagnation and oppression. Stability must be coupled with growth and social progress since “stability brought about by stagnation will result in eventual disaster for the continent,” (14). The future of Africa calls for economic progress but social progress must precede it. Education and equality must improve and this can be seen as a benefit of increased democratization. Conflict must decrease but not if stability will just lead to stagnation or oppression.

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Economic growth will undoubtedly be an important component to Africa’s future. The article talks about how economic reform will increase economic productivity and allow Africa to effectively address its social and political issues. While I agree with the authors that economic growth has the potential to help African nations to become prominent world actors, I don’t think the authors put enough emphasis on the need for a diversified economy. There is mention of the encouragement of multinational corporations’ investment in the hydrocarbon sector but that will just perpetuate the current problem of African economies’ reliance on the exportation of just one resource. Multinational corporation investment across several different African industries is the best way to create sustainable economic growth.


An enhanced private sector is an important, but often, underrated part of African affairs. The article talks about how a private sector can help take some responsibility off of the government because individuals have the ability to create their own wealth through entrepreneurial practices rather than steal it from the government. Another benefit of a private sector that consists of an educated middle class is the emergence of men and women who have vested economic interests and have an incentive to hold their government accountable. Accountability of African government and its officials is exactly what most African nations need but are lacking. However, there is evidence that the world is putting greater emphasis on the need for a private sector. For example, USAID launched a program to train 200 entrepreneurial women from Libya on fundamental business skills to help facilitate the growth of the private sector.


The article mentions that a key driver will be how well Africa manages its diaspora, a driver that I had not considered before but is definitely important. The authors touch on the fact that diaspora is a problem because African citizens who are bright and creative and can contribute the most to society and the economy are leaving the continent for opportunities abroad. Not only does diaspora result in the lost of potential entrepreneurial prospects, it has recently resulted in humanitarian issues, as seen by the Lampedusa boat accident where over 100 people died. The boat was carrying over 500 African migrants who were headed to Europe to escape political repression and economic ruin. Clearly, Africa’s management of its diaspora is imperative not only to retain its valuable human capital but also to prevent future humanitarian crises, like the Lampedusa tragedy, from occurring.



Although I thought the article’s possible projections for the continent were valid I did think there was some overgeneralization across the continent. There is some mention in the “give and take” section of the paper that talks about the possibility that some African countries prospering while others continue to experience stagnation in their economic and political spheres, but that is the only area where this mention of some differentiation between countries. I think an interesting addition would be to examine which of these key drivers is most important to a couple of specific African countries.



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Reaction to “Trends and Prospects” Reading

I found this reading to be the perfect end of the class reading. I think this chapter effectively summarizes both the contributing factors of why Africa can succeed in the future as well as falter. The point that I agree most with the authors on is the fact that foreign countries, through various means such as forcing African countries to pursue neo-liberal policies through the IMF, through the extractive nature of MNC, and through the underlying fact that foreign countries are protecting domestic industries at the cost of economic growth in countries that need it the most, are major contributors to the current state of many African nations. The fact that “the structural adjustment programs in the 1990s led to what is sometimes called Africa’s “lost decade” with poverty and economic stagnation becoming worse not better” (Gordon and Gordon 418) goes to show that the prescriptions for economic success given to African countries by the West have not been successful.

I do believe that want African nations should look to other economic development alternatives if they want to break-away from their current export-reliant economies. There is a clear conflict of interest when the countries who are setting up the loans given to a country also benefit from extracting the maximum amount of resources from that country. This chapter does a good job of showing how both the West and China have pursued these extractive policies, while also noting that China is investing more in manufacturing so the paradigm might be shifting.

My biggest disagreement with this chapter comes from the authors implying that more money is needed to be given in order to help these African countries escape the poverty trap they are supposedly in. I find this argument directly contradictory to the point that foreign countries have, unintentionally or intentionally, helped keep African economies from developing. More money being thrown at the problem without finding an effective solution could lead to more unintended consequences, which has been a significantly large factor in the economic policies imposed on many African countries.

Something that I had not thoroughly considered before which further proves the point that globalisation may have had a more negative effect on African than a positive one is the fact that a large brain drain is occurring within the continent. The authors cite multiple figures from many different countries, all pointing to how some of the best talent is leaving Africa in order to pursue greater individual opportunities elsewhere. I think this situation is unavoidable in the modern globalized economy, but the brain drain is negatively affecting the talent of the labor force within many African countries while giving that talent to already developed core states.

A major critique of the chapter is that its focus is too broad in nature. While the authors give many examples from many different countries to prove their points, I believe that it is hard to make such broad sweeping generalizations about the continent as a whole. The chapter could have benefit from more in depth analysis of individual countries situations and comparing the similarities in situations, possibly ending in a prognosis of the best policy alternatives for these countries to take.

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Nigeria: Future Directions

Journal 7. Based on what you have discovered this term, how would you advise your country’s leaders in their engagement with the world?


Ethno-religious strife divides Nigeria today. I believe that stopping terrorism and finding a political solution to the problems that divide ethno-religious groups is the most important issue that Nigeria faces. Religious identity is more important than national identity for a large majority of both Muslims and Christians in Nigeria (Pew Forum). The Nigerian Constitution allows for the establishment of sharia courts for civil disputes, thus giving advocates of sharia law some autonomy – a system designed to prevent conflict. However, there is effective imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims in some regions, and Boko Haram has spearheaded violence against non-Muslims in the North. The argument for a cohesive, secure Nigeria is not only humanitarian but economic, as Nigeria’s size may allow it to capitalize on significant economies of scale, speeding development in a nation where a third of the population is extremely poor. Ending conflict will improve prospects for business development and FDI. However, religious divisions cannot be wished away. Although the country could divide itself territorially along religious lines, historical precedents of bloody partitions reduce the appeal of this solution. Military intervention to reduce Boko Haram’s influence combined with a political solution to satisfy both Christians and Muslims is the best alternative. A first step is to ensure that all possible intervention options in the North are pursued, and reaching out to Northern citizens who seek alternatives to the fighting. Reconciling secularism and religion in the country is not a simple task, but it should be the priority of Nigerian leaders going forward, above electoral politics and personal interests.

How can Nigerian leadership best address Nigeria’s religious tensions? Although foreign actors such as the United States have supported efforts to counter Boko Haram terrorist activity, Nigeria has recently criticized the US for not providing enough aid. Given this perceived insufficiency and Muslim’s opposition to US involvement (Pew Forum), Nigerian leaders should use the capacities that they do have to fight the insurgency and to address its underlying causes. Unfortunately, although Nigeria currently spends one fifth of its budget on the military, violence is still on the rise and Nigeria’s Christian-Muslim divide remains entrenched. The two groups both support the underpinnings of democracy but distrust the secular government (Pew Forum). Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan has been accused of using ethnically charged rhetoric to secure his support base. A change in leadership may be in order, as Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP has been in power since the last dictatorship was overturned in 1999. Although recent elections have been seen as progressively more fair and legitimate by international standards, fifteen years of rule by one party in a supposedly multiparty system is likely to cause strife. The All Progressives Congress (APC), a rival of Goodluck Jonathan, have accused the incumbent president of neglecting security in areas where Boko Haram is strong because those areas lean towards the APC in elections (IBTimes).

The need for increased social cohesion in Nigeria is related its need for greater economic diversification. Nigeria’s oil wealth has been a great boon to its economy, but the nation does not have a cushion of wealth built up from years of exports (in contrast to other oil producers such as Saudi Arabia). Nigeria’s economy can thus be easily destabilized by price shocks. Concern in Nigeria over recent dips in oil prices highlight the need for economic diversification. Diversification, through the development of strong Nigerian industries in various sectors, is impeded by social conflict and religous division. Foreign investment in business and infrastructure development are sensitive to perceptions of risk due to conflict. Social cohesion is thus an economic as well as a humanitarian priority for the region. And because struggling economy can spark violence, there is a need to stop the cycle of violent and economic turmoil before outside forces such as falling global oil prices cause it to intensity.

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