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    Inaugural Annual Lecture by Prof Thandika Mkandawire


     March 29 2012

    Building The African State In The Age Of Globalisation -
    MISTRA Inaugural Annual Lecture 2012
    by Prof Thandika Mkandawire - London School of Economics and Political Science and the Institute for Future Studies (Stockholm).

    • Building The African State In The Age Of Globalisation
    • Introduction
    The topic assigned to me is not an easy one and I can only attribute my acceptance to talk about the topic to hubris and, of course, to the temptation of escaping the wintry climes of Europe by travelling to Africa.  The full title of the lecture proposed to me by the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) is: “Building the African state in the age of globalisation – the role of social compacts and lessons for South Africa”.  Complicating the matter was that MISTRA also requested that I address the issue of globalisation.  Quite obviously the organisation wanted to leave me with no room for escape.  The question that immediately came to mind was: why is MISTRA interested in social compacts at this particular juncture?
    Building the African development state
    For all the predictions of its demise, the state in Africa is alive in all its diverse manifestations.  The complete breakdown of the state in places such as Somalia are the exception that proves the rule, although judging from some writings one would think that they are the norm.  The real issue then is not so much “building” the African state but making it a more accountable and more efficient instrument for addressing the issues that Africans have reason to consider fundamental.  A growing understanding is that we are talking about “democratic developmental states”:- developmental (in the sense that they facilitate and promote economic growth and structural transformation), democratic (in the sense that they derive their legitimacy through popular participation and electoral process) and socially inclusive (in the sense that they pursue social policies that ensure equitable entitlements of all their citizens to ensure that their capacities and functioning are adequate for a decent inclusion in societal affairs). 

    The anti-statist analysis
    The thinking about developmental states went against the regnant neo-liberal dogma which argued that the invisible hand, left unhindered, would handle all the problems of the political economy – efficient allocation of resources, equitable distribution based on each factor of production’s contribution to production, etc.  This message was brought to Africa by the “Berg Report”, written by Elliot Berg, and published by the World Bank in 1981 with the cheerful official title “An Agenda for Accelerated Development for Africa”.  The report is especially interesting because it was prepared by the African governors at the World Bank who wanted advice on how they could lift their growth rate of 5.7 percent annually to the levels reached by Asia.  The major message of the “Berg Report” was that “getting prices right” would get things moving.   Africans were sceptical about this mantra.  But the ideational contestation that Structural Adjustment Programmes unleashed in Africa was unprecedented; but so was the imbalance between the resources disposable to local and foreign actors, with the former’s universities under severe stress while the latter could descend on any country with an armada of consultants and conditionalities to which most countries eventually caved in. 
    What followed was not “accelerated development” but maladjustment and two “Lost Decades”.   As one African Minister is reported to have observed, “We asked for bread but they gave us a stone”.  Coincidentally the African Ministers of Planning had requested the Economic Commission for Africa to prepare the Lagos Plan of Action which also came out in the same year. 

    *Abridged - see purchase details below.

      Building The African State In The Age Of Globalisation can be purchased from MISTRA for R100 (excluding postage costs).  Please contact: Angela McClelland on (+27) 11 833 2294 or



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