Book chapter

The Political Barriers to Development in Africa (2019)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics


Economic development is a political process. The transformation from mass poverty to mass prosperity requires an active and effective state, able to win the compliance of citizens. The empires that have ruled Africa did not bequeath such states, and few African political leaders have chosen to build them. The economic consequences of post-colonial politics can be divided into two distinct phases. From independence to the wave of democratization following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, in most countries increasingly autocratic leaders presided over increasingly ineffective states. Post-1989, under donor pressure to hold multi-party elections, they faced the dilemma of how to satisfy voters while lacking the effective public organizations necessary for them to do so. Gradually, a few countries have found routes out of this dilemma.