The Afterlife of the African Colonial State: Concluding Reflections
Image of Crisis:
Ambiguous hopes suggested by the proverbial promise that “no condition is permanent”
stirred at the beginning of the 1990s. – Could democratization bring deliverance?
1980- displacement of incumbents too long in office and obsessed with a statecraft
deploying dwindling resources to sustain their grip on a weakening center, however
indispensible is far from sufficient.
Author metaphor: “A genetic code for the new states of Africa was already imprinted on
its embryo within the womb of the African colonial state.”
Bula Matari embedded
In certain ways the colonial state during its phase of constuction in most cases created
entirely novel institutions of domination and rule. Although we commonly described the
independent polities as “new states,” in reality they were successors to the colonial
regime, inheriting its structures, its quotidian routines and practices, and its more hidden
normative theories of governance Everyday reason of state incorporated subliminal
codes of operation bearing the imprint of their colonial predecessors.
o Similarities mostly superficial: currency, chief executive officers in military
uniforms, lavish presidential palaces, language…
o The elites’ rule was justified by a schooled vision denied to the unlettered masses.
The schoolroom however was the colonial state.
Legacy of colonial state not the only determinant of political system and process in era of
Security: newly won independence faced a sensed threat of subversion by the former
colonial powered and broader forces of imperialism. Also emergence of ideological
divisions within the African community of states over concepts of pan-Africanism,
philosophies of development, etc.
Less social division than in west therefore single-party regime as the authentic
embodiment of the aspirations of nationalism- argument that achieved wide currency.
Embracement of socialism: five year plans with ambitious goals and tracing captivating
pathways to prosperity- this initially redoubled the pace of social infrastructure: schools
and medical facilities.
However some argue that this process of development is still a subtext of continuity.
Revenue requirements of the post-colonial state was sharply higher- size of bureaucracies
rose rapidly- heavy borrowing, with repayment obligations soon weigning heavily on the
The most vulnerable target for state fiscal action was the peasantry- target: export crops,
which are taxable in every way. The postcolonial state did follow in the footsteps of its
predecessors by collecting relatively little revenue from state-based dominant class and
the mercantile sector, and half or more of peasant income. The Integral State
In 1970s- new visions of state began to emerge, even more far-reaching than Bula Matari,
the concept of “integral state.” The state, with enlarged ambitions of transforming