Category Archives: Country Post

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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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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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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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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Cameroon: An Eye to the Future

As Cameroon looks to the future its role on the world stage must be considered. Their place in the eyes of the major world powers is already a relatively positive image. To the United Nations, Cameroon is seen as a very diplomatic, cooperative nation that avoids conflict. Cameroon has been a complimentary member on many committees that are very relevant to Sub-Saharan African countries. Economically, they have begun to be very relevant trading partners with many major economic powers due to the emergence of their oil possession.

Despite this progress there is still much to improve upon for Cameroon in their engagement with the world. I would first advise the leaders of Cameroon to eliminate the vast amount of corruption that plagues their country. This elimination of corruption may be at its source a domestic issue but it has many international implications. The level of corruption in a government is often an indicator as to whether a country is worthwhile investment or recipient of aid. Currently, Cameroon receives very little aid from the world leader in foreign aid, the United States. Part of it could be due to the United States not trusting the government to properly allocate the aid. Additionally, corruption hinders economic and infrastructural growth in the country, which in turn diminishes foreign investments. A decrease in foreign investment would result in Cameroon being a less important actor on the world stage, especially in the eyes of the oil-hungry countries.

This leads into a second area of great importance to Cameroon’s future: the emerging oil industry. As the oil industry continues to grow and foreign interest increases it will be tempting for the government to focus greatly on this industry. This would be a bad economic policy in the long run for a couple of reasons. First the emergence of the resource curse. When the majority of a nation’s economy is based on one non-renewable resource it can lead to many detrimental issues including increased corruption, an issue Cameroon cannot afford. However, for Cameroon it may be even more imperative to avoid the creation of enclave production of oil in order to diversify and strengthen the economy. Although this may not result in the same type of attention for strong world actors in the short run, it will lead to greater economic prosperity in the future.

In terms of which countries to deal with economically, I would advise Cameroon to interact mainly with China, as well as continue their close ties with France. China has been an immense presence on the African continent in recent years and in Cameroon as well. Their infrastructural investments present Cameroon with the opportunity to develop economically in the short term and long term. Additionally, these investments are often void of corruption, which will increase Cameroon’s legitimacy to other actors around the world. Although China often looks strictly at extractionary trade agreements, their trades of resources for infrastructure is an amazing deal for a developing economy looking to find its place on the world stage.

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The Future for South Africa

As the only big African country leading the continent, South Africa’s leaders should work to make South Africa a model of success to others (Herbst). In order to help the continent avoid what Herbst calls the “Africa follows” scenario, South Africa’s primary objective should be to accelerate its economic growth rates to those of other emerging markets. Quarterly growth rates since 1994 have been stagnant at around 2.5 percent, rarely reaching the 6 percent per annum that international experience suggests is needed to reduce persistent high unemployment and inequality. The recession of 2009, which crippled South Africa’s mining and manufacturing sectors, revealed that the few more prosperous periods were reflections of the previously booming global economy rather than a domestic economic improvement. Sustained and rapid economic growth will help produce the resources needed to resolve South Africas’s biggest problems: unemployment, inequality, poor educational standards, rampant HIV/AIDS, and violence. By turning their focus inward to improve the country’s domestic situation, South African leaders will be able to better engage with the world as model leaders on the continent and respected representatives of the rising global South.

One of the main impediments to South Africa’s growth has been an economic structure dominated by large firms and unions, which has excluded the less skilled and the unemployed from returns. Today, 25.4 percent of South Africans are unemployed, 47 percent live under the national poverty line of $43 per month—a 1.4 percent increase since 1994—and a Gini coefficient of 0.69 marks the country as one of the most unequal in the world. This inequality has contributed to labor unrest and high crime rates by fostering widespread frustration. Prolonged strikes and stalled annual wage negotiations currently threaten the platinum industry. If unions demands for wage increases are granted, the mines would be forced to close and thousands of jobs could be lost. To avoid such outcomes, South African leaders must work to ease tensions and take advantage of the country’s strong rule of law, property rights institutions, and physical, financial and telecommunications infrastructure to develop less capital intensive manufacturing that will employ South Africans with low skills.

Another ongoing challenge for South Africa’s leaders that contributes to the economy’s sluggishness is the HIV/AIDS crisis. South Africa has the second-highest number of HIV/AIDS patients in the world, and around one in seven of its citizens is infected with HIV (BBC). Because the most economically productive members of the population—namely, teachers and trained workers in the private sector— are particularly affected by AIDS, the spread of the disease has significant ramifications for growth (Herbst). This is an area of policy in which Mbeki and even Zuma have seriously faltered, and therefore requires special attention. In addition to eliminating any remnants of AIDS denialism and continuing support for South Africa’s antiretroviral treatment (ART) program, South Africa’s leaders should increase sex education designed specifically to empower women and help them avoid unsafe relationships (Herbst).

South Africa can no longer rely on its dark past to idealize the present. Before it can become a genuine African leader of development, its leaders must shed their complacent attitudes and take serious action to improve living conditions for its own population and generate growth.


Jeffrey Herbst and Greg Mills, “Africa in 2020: Three Scenarios for the Future,” Brenthurst Discussion Papers

Haroon Bhorat, “Economic Inequality Is a Major Obstacle to Growth in South Africa,” The New York Times

Rachel Jewkes, “Gender and Sexual Equality Remain Out of Reach in South Africa,” The New York Times

Eusebius McKaiser, “In South African Geography, Echoes of Apartheid,” The New York Times

Gavin Keeton, “Union Demands Could Hurt South Africa’s Economy,” The New York Times

“South Africa Profile” BBC News

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The Future for South Sudan

Before anything else can be done, South Sudan must address its terrible domestic conflict. To this end, both the government and the rebels must improve their dialogue with the outside world. The US, China and a number of other international actors have grown frustrated with failed attempts to negotiate peace, and the various South Sudanese players simply have allow for more engagement. It is also not a good strategy in the long run to alienate these key foreign countries, who could prove pivotal in successful long-term development. By a similar token, the government must welcome humanitarian aid and foreign assistance. Reports say that they have restricted humanitarian access to certain areas in need, and the expulsion of all foreign aid workers proposed by the government in September is both very counterproductive and very stupid. If and when the conflict does come to an end, South Sudan will have a massive refugee crisis on its hands, with up to two million displaced. The need to international assistance will be great, and South Sudan must open its arms to such help. Ultimately, any resolution to the conflict will probably require some sort of provisional government, or a unity government as seen recently in Kenya and Zimbabwe. Unless the leaders on both sides change their approach, however, a stable, peaceful South Sudan seems very unlikely in the near future.

Once peace has been attained, South Sudan must shift its focus to economic development and nation building. In this early stage, the country does not necessarily have to be democratic. It has to be stable and peaceful, and a powerful centralized government may even be preferable in creating the conditions for development. With this in mind, continued economic engagement with China is critical. China is already a very important trading partner, responsible for purchasing 80% of South Sudan’s oil exports, which accounts for 98% of government revenue (or at least it did, before the conflict began). South Sudan obviously has a lot of oil, which as everyone knows can often be more of a curse than a blessing. It currently relies on oil pipelines that run through neighboring Sudan in order to export its oil, and as part of the independence agreements it makes large payments to Sudan for use of the pipelines. South Sudan is already looking at the possibility of developing oil pipelines through Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti in order to bypass Sudan. This would be of great benefit to South Sudan and should be pursued. It would not only secure South Sudan’s oil exports, but also go a long way towards calming Sudan-South Sudan relations, which have often become tense over issues relating to the pipelines and oil-revenue sharing. Oil is and will remain absolutely crucial to South Sudan’s economy and future development, and South Sudan must ensure maximum, sustainable benefits.

Oil for infrastructure deals with China, such as those seen in Angola, could prove to be a catalyst for economic growth. South Sudan is in dire need of infrastructure, with only one major paved road in the entire country. The economy simply cannot take off until the infrastructure is there, and China has shown a strong commitment to building infrastructure in African countries. As with Angola in the early 2000s, South Sudan recently emerged from decades of civil war, and it would do well to follow Angola’s path to development. First, however, it must focus on ending its violent civil war and creating a stable, peaceful country.

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Looking Ahead for ZImbabwe

Zimbabwe has a long way to go towards becoming a developed and democratic country, and most observers agree that it’ll be impossible under Mugabe’s rule. But if for some reason, Mugabe had a change of heart the best place he could start would be allowing for a multiparty political system. Since gaining independence, Zimbabwe in some way or another has been under the rule of ZANU-PF led by Mugabe. The opposition is splintered and powerless, and even when the leader it’s largest party MDC held the position of prime minister in the government of national unity, all the powerful ministries such as military, police, foreign affairs, and mining still went to ZANU-PF (Ndlovu). Simply allowing multiple parties to run for election and gain positions of power would not solve the problem without an end to political violence in the country. Security forces and thugs paid by the government routinely harass, detain, and beat citizens accused of speaking out against the regime. Around election time the environment is especially hostile. Between 2000 and 2010, there were over 3,000 extra-judicial executions, hundreds of disappearances, and more than 7,000 cases of torture or serious assault (Beyond Violence). The government needs to establish an oversight for police and security forces and respect human rights namely freedom of expression. Alongside this the President should repeal antidemocratic legislation such as the 2002 Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act that banned any foreign news organizations from reporting in Zimbabwe.
ZANU-PF’s monopoly is not only political, but encompasses all of the most powerful sectors of society. Because ZANU-PF started as a rebel militia and Mugabe is still seen as a military hero the most resources are distributed to the security and military sectors. Less money needs to be spent on arms deals and proxy wars in the DRC and more on education, healthcare, and infrastructure. Mugabe should allow other parties to control the security and resource extraction ministries or else the money allocated to them will continue to flow into the corrupt hands of the same ZANU-PF cronies who’ve been controlling them since 1980.
Another major problem Zimbabwe has to face is the ongoing food crisis. Zimbabwe has enough arable land to grow a surplus of food for its people, yet they are dependent on Western food aid. This is because during Mugabe’s fast-track land reform, farmlands were mostly redistributed to poor and middle-class Zimbabweans, many of whom had no prior knowledge or experience in agriculture. Mugabe should not be afraid to bring in foreign experts to help launch a nationwide agricultural education campaign. This would give these new farmers the skills and the know-how to make full use of their lands and if successful could even frame the highly contentious land-reform as a late blooming success.
If Harare can put these aforementioned policies into place it will go a long way towards easing tensions with the West. The lack of free and fair elections have been the main impetus for UK and US sanctions and fixing this would maybe even make them rethink their opinions of land reform. Getting sanctions lifted would boost Zimbabwe’s crippled economy which would help to stem the massive flow of young professionals that keep the country in a perpetual state of brain drain. Who knows, if Zimbabwean-Western relations were revamped, Harare could gain even more by playing the West against their traditional partners South Africa and China, forcing higher aid and trade offers. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely any of these changes will be made while Mugabe is still in office.

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