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The Relevance of the State in African Development: Preparing for the New Century

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In more than forty years, the modern African state has either been unwilling or unable to perform its productive and protective functions. Today, most Africans continue to suffer from high rates of poverty and deprivation. Part of the problem can be traced to the fact that the laws and institutions that the African countries adopted at independence endowed post-independence leaders with almost unlimited power to intervene in private exchange and enhanced their ability to engage in opportunism. Thus, in the post-independence society, rent seeking, bureaucratic corruption, and other opportunistic behaviors became endemic. It is argued that the main reason why the African state has been unwilling to perform its expected duties has been due to the existence of poor incentive systems. A reconstruction of the state in order to establish constitutionally limited governments and economic systems in which individuals are guaranteed the right to engage in exchange and contract is recommended.

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