Beyond Prebendalist Systems: State, Democracy and Development in Africa

By Richard Joseph

The following introductory remarks come from the final talk in a three-part series by Prof. Richard Joseph, delivered at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University on April 25, 2012. The remarks can be read below. The accompanying PowerPoint presentation can be found here, and video of the talk is available for viewing here.

The notion of prebendalism came to me fairly suddenly, in 1978-79, while conducting research in Nigeria on the transition to civilian rule after over a decade of military government. I first advanced the concept in a 1983 article that became a book chapter; and it featured centrally in my 1987 book, Democracy and Prebendal Politics: The Rise and Fall of the Second Republic. In September 2011, a conference was convened in Lagos, Nigeria, to discuss the book and the continued significance of prebendalism in Nigerian political, social and economic life. A volume edited by Wale Adebanwi and Ebenezer Obadare, Democracy and Prebendalism in Nigeria: Critical Reinterpretations, is now in preparation.[1]

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Strategic Priorities in Contemporary Africa: Part II

By Richard Joseph

In the second of a three-part series for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Richard Joseph discusses Africa’s “disaster narrative.” The article can be read below or on the Council’s website. The first article, on the “progress narrative,” can be found in the AfricaPlus archives.

It would require the skills of a master carver to capture the radically different faces of the African continent. Reports of political instability, state erosion, gross abuses of government power, and appalling human catastrophes appear alongside stories of remarkable economic advances. This has been the case for many years. In November 1993, for example, IMF director Michel Camdessus characterized the 20-year decline in Africa’s per capita growth rates as “the sinking of a continent.” Less than three years later, he stated that an economic recovery was underway—an analysis now confirmed. Camdessus warned, however, that the recovery would not occur in “countries ravaged by war, fratricidal conflicts, and serious political upheaval.”

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