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The Modern State-Making Environment of Sub-Saharan Africa (1991-2009)

A compulsory political organization with continuous operations will be called a state in so far as its
administrative staff successfully upholds the claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical
force in the enforcement of its order. Max Weber

War made the state, and the state made war. Charles Tilly

The absence of accountability is not a manner of speech, but a practical reality: it is literally true that
African governments avoid accountability for their performance. Toddy Moss

Insofar as there is any big idea animating my concern with this issue, it is that we can best
understand the patterns of state formation and governance in the South by exploring the differences
between the international or global environments in which they have been formed and those that
nurtured the establishment of western European states in earlier centuries. Mick Moore

Nathan Sears
100816596
Professor Achim Hurrelmann
21 June 2011

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This paper asks how the modern international environment (1991 to the present) affects

state-making in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).1 The first section examines Charles Tillys theory

of how national states developed in Europe. It demonstrates that the international environment

of war-making in Europe compelled processes of state-making with a close extraction-protection

relationship between states and citizens: states extracted revenues from their citizens in exchange

for the protection of citizens political rights. Thus, national states are characterized by a high

degree of accountability between states and citizens because of the political bargaining over

taxation and representation.

The second section analyses the modern international environment of state-making in

SSA and observes significant changes in the nature of war-making and extraction: a decline in

the frequency and severity of interstate wars and increase in intrastate wars; and the development

of significant sources of external revenue, including international trade and foreign aid. These

changes have produced a fundamentally different international environment than the one that

produced the national states of Europe and, as a result, state-making pursue a different logic:

without the existential threats of war-making and with opportunities for external revenue

extraction, African power holders simply do not face the same pressures to bargain with their

citizens as their European counterparts. Thus, states in SSA are characterized by a high degree

of autonomy between states and citizens, particularly if the European national state is the model

of comparison.

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Charles Tilly defined state-making as attacking and checking competitors and challengers within the territory
claimed by the state, or, to borrow from Max Webers classical definition of the state, state-making is creating a
political organization that can successfully uphold the monopoly of physical force in the enforcement of its order
(the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate force is irrelevant to its fact). State-making is the primary
activity of power holders, but does not assume that there is a monolithic logic of what state-making and the state
itself will and should look like. The national state is only one model of a state, achieved through the European
state-making environment described by Tilly.

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The final section of this paper asks what can be done about this situationwhether or not

we can reasonably expect more accountable states in SSA despite the current international

environment. If offers several possible policy options that would require international

commitments to be effective, some good and some bad. This essay generalizes state-making in

SSA. This generalization is justified by the fact that states in SSA more or less face the same

international environment that affects the way in which power holders pursue state-making.

Moreover, the outcome of such generalizations is a clear picture of the problematic international

environment of state-making in SSA and an analysis of what should and should not be done

about it.

1. The international environment and state-making in Europe

Charles Tilly has written several works to justify his infamous claim that war made the

state, and the state made war.2 In his book Coercion, Capital and European States, AD 990-

1992, Tilly asks the question What accounts for the great variation over time and space in the

kinds of states that have prevailed in Europe since AD 990, and why did European states

eventually converge on different variants of the national state?3 His simplified response is that

variations in the concentration of coercion and capital led to different forms of state-making

across Europe. However, the right balances of coercion and capital in a few national states of

Western EuropeGreat Britain, France and Prussiaallowed them to muster the necessary

resources to sustain the costs of the massive gun-powder armies that grew steadily from the

fifteenth century onward. The national state thus dominated by means of war-making the other

2
Charles Tilly (ed.), The Formation of National States in Western Europe (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University
Press, 1975): 42.
3
Charles Tilly, Coercion, capital, and European states, AD 990-1990 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: B. Blackwell,
1992): see his introduction, and page 190.

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state forms that existed throughout European history, such as the rich mercantile city-states of

Italy and the Low Countries and the enormous tribute-empires of Spain, Turkey and Russia.

Tillys War Making and State Making as Organized Crime offers a more concise look

at the inner workings of the making of European national states by generalizing the dynamics of

the key variables of war making, state making, extraction and protection.4 Tilly argues

that political authority was claimed by self-seeking entrepreneurs that coerced populations to

submit to their will by organizing and monopolizing the means of violencestate-making.

However, power holders were constantly menaced by external power holders, and the means by

which they checked their advances or destroyed these rivals was through war-making. Survival

of power holders through success in war-making implied costs in wealth and men, which grew

constantly with the introduction and development of gunpowder weapons and standing armies

the so-called Military Revolution.5

Power holders required continuous extraction of capital to cover the rising costs of war.

Moreover, capital was only useful if it could be extracted quickly and in large sums, which

favoured the monetized capital of merchants and bankers. In the short term, such capital could

be attained through the means of coercive taxation. In the long term, the fact that monetized

capital is also mobile meant that power holders needed to develop a regularized system of

consensual taxation, which necessitated political bargaining between power holders and capital

holders. Power holders demanded revenues for war-making by means of taxation, and capital

holders demanded political representation and the protection of their interestsincluding access

4
Statemaking: attacking and checking competitors and challengers within the territory claimed by the state;
warmaking: attacking rivals outside the territory already claimed by the state; protection: attacking and checking
rivals of the rulers principal allies, whether inside or outside the states claimed territory. Extraction: drawing from
its subject population the means of statemaking, warmaking and protection. See: Charles Tilly, War Making and
State Making as Organized Crime, in Peter Evans, et al. (eds.), Bringing the State Back In (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1985) 181.
5
Tilly, 1985, 171.

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to market by war-making. As revenue extraction came to cover all peoples within a states

territory, all peoples came to demand equal citizenship and protection by the state. Thus, in

parallel to the expansion of armies came the proliferation of state apparatuses of taxation and

political representation.6

This bargaining between state and citizen is the key political development of the

particular form of state-making that Tilly calls the national state. While a crude summary of the

historic development that Tilly has devoted decades of his life and a great many pages in

explaining, it illustrates the major idea: in Europe, the variables of state-making, war-making,

extraction and protection all increased in rapid succession to produce the accountable national

states observed today. The key is to understand the effects of the international environment on

state-making in Europe: power holders perceived external rivals to be existential threats to their

monopolies of force; and this risk outweighed the costs of bargaining with citizens for the means

of war-making. Anyone skeptical of this need only look at Tillys evidence: the dramatic

changes in the sizes of armies, the levels of taxation, debt, political participation and the numbers

of states in Europe from 990AD to 1992.7

2. The modern international environment and state-making in Sub-Saharan Africa

States in SSA face a much different international environment than the one that Tilly

described as producing the national states of Europe. First, states in SSA are not compelled to

war-making by the threat of advancing external rivals. The first part of this section analyses how

the shift from interstate to intrastate wars affects state-making in SSA. Second, states in SSA are

not pressured to extract resources from their citizens. The second part of this section examines

how the development of foreign sources of revenue affects state-making in SSA.

6
Tilly, 1985; Tilly 1992. Also see: Georg, Srensen, War and State Making Why Doesnt it Work in the Third
World? Florence: Failed State Conference, 2001.
7
Tilly, 1975; Tilly, 1992.

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2a. War-making in Sub-Saharan Africa

According to Meredith Reid Sarkees et al. in their statistical study of the armed conflicts

fought from 1816 to 1997 with 1,000 or more battle deaths per year, the 1970s and the 1990s had

more wars than any other decades, with 36 and 31 wars respectively. While the decade of 1970-

9 still had a relatively high number of interstate warsseventhe years from 1990 to 1997

clearly demonstrate the modern reality of war: 1 interstate war, 0 extra-state wars and 24

intrastate wars.8

Interstate War

It would be misleading to say that interstate wars never occur in SSA, or that domestic

armed competitors are the only actors involved in intrastate wars. There have been interstate

wars in Africas pastalbeit at a staggeringly lower frequency than in the European experience.9

Furthermore, African states often intervene in the internal armed conflicts of neighboring states

by supplying either government forces or rebel groups with arms and finance.10 However, a

crucial difference between war-making in SSA and in the European experience is that, in SSA,

interstate wars do not seriously threaten the existence of states.11 The closest example of a state

being destroyed by an external power in SSA is arguably the overthrow of Mobutu in Zaire,

which succeeded under a coalition of Rwandan and Ugandan forces. However, the fact that

Zaire simply changed namesbecoming the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)and

8
An interstate war is one fought directly between two or more recognized states. An extrastate war is fought
between one or more recognized states and one or more external populations or political organizations not
recognized as a state. An intrastate war, or civil war, is fought within a state, between two or more armed parties,
generally between a government and rebel group(s). Meredith Reid Sarkees, et al., Inter-state, Intra-State, and
Extra-State Wars: A Comprehensive Look at Their Distribution over Time, 1816-1997, International Studies
Quarterly 47 (2003): 61.
9
Sarkees et al., 2003.
10
Interventions have characterized the intrastate wars of all regions of Africa: in North Africa (Libya and Sudan) in
East Africa (Somalia), in West Africa (Sierra Leon and Cote dIvoire), in Central Africa (Democratic Republic of
Congo) and in South Africa (Angola). See: Samson S. Wasara, Conflict and State Security in the Horn of Africa:
Militarization of Civilian Groups, African Journal of Political Science 7, no. 2 (2002).
11
Jeffrey Herbst, War and the State in Africa, International Security 14, No. 4 (1990): 123.

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leadersfrom Mobutu to Kabilarather than being annexed by either or both Uganda and

Rwanda highlights the point: states in SSA are disinterested in the conquest of neighboring

states.

Jeffrey Herbst has made a very compelling thesis for why this is and how it affects state-

making. According to Herbst, state-making in SSA should be observed through the interplay of

three variables: the perceived costs of state expansion; the nature of boundaries; and the regional

and international state-systems. Herbst argues that interstate wars do not occur in SSA with the

same frequency or severity as they did in Europe because of the very different political-

geography of SSA: low population densities coupled with the high costs of extending power

across vast distances of unfavourable terrain has meant that the costs of interstate war outweigh

the benefits of territorial conquest or defense for power holders.12 Herbst argues that the

fundamental problem facing state-builders in Africahas been to project authority over

inhospitable territories that contain relatively low densities of people.13

Herbsts thesis is defended by Kenneth Bouldings economic model of spatial conflict.14

Boulding provides a neat visual model for understanding how interstate war could be a constant

risk of the international environment of Europe, while in SSA these risks could be dwarfed by

the challenges of effective control over a states territorywhich can therefore increase the risks

of intrastate war. The first model roughly depicts the European scenario. The risk of interstate

war is indicated by the intersection of the two states power radiuses (in red) above their borders

(in black), which implies both states have the capacity to exercise power outside of their

territorial borders. The second model generalizes the African scenario. The gap between the

two states radiuses of power implies a lack of real risk of interstate war, as neither state has the

12
Jeffrey Herbst, States and Power in Africa (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000): 123.
13
Herbst, 2000: 11.
14
Kenneth Boulding, Conflict and Defense: A General Theory (New York: Harper, 1962).

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capacity to exercise power into the others territory. However, the substantial territory that exists

within each states borders but outside of its radius of effective control implies a greater risk of

intrastate war.

Adaptation of Bouldings Model of Spatial Conflict. See: Charles H. Anderton and John R. Carter, Principles of
Conflict Economics: A Primer for Social Scientists (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009) Chapter 9.

In SSA, states inherited their bordersand the situation in the model abovethrough

decolonization. One only needs to observe the map of Africa with its long, straight borders to

understand that they were made arbitrarily, by comparison to the smaller, jagged lines of the

European map, drawn and redrawn after episodes of war. As a result, the expansive territories

for which states of SSA lay sovereign claim are not parallel to the areas for which they can

exercise effective control. Interestingly, this does not appear to be a problem for the regional

state system of SSA because most if not all states enjoy a surplus of territoryor at least states

have not chosen war as a means of reshaping their borders.

Herbst argues that the international system reinforces states claims to territorial

sovereignty by protecting the legal integrity of borders. The United Nations discourages wars

of aggression and territorial aggrandizement and generally fails to recognize new states that have

made de facto changes to Africas borders. The case of Somaliland is a good example of this,

which is in a better position to claim territorial sovereignty than Somalia but has not been

recognized by the UN. Georg Srensen argues that states in SSA have a certified life insurance,

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deposited with the United Nations, which guarantees the absence of external mortal danger, no

matter how bad things may look in the domestic realm.15 William Reno argues that rulers

deliberately manipulate supposed norms of sovereignty to maintain guarantees of existing

borders, in effect pretending that exceptionally weak states exercise a degree of internal

control that they in fact do not.16 What this international environment implies is a substantially

decreased risk of war-making in SSA.

According to Tilly, war-making acted as a filter to weed out weak states of Europe over

the centuries. So how does the lack of interstate war affect state-making in SSA? There are two

general effects. First, states are not compelled to exercise power over the full extent of territory

for which they claim sovereignty. Tilly argues that European sovereigns achieved strategic

depth by defending their hinterlands (borders), but only at great costs to their heartlands

(capitals). In SSA, effective control over the entire scope of a states territory would be very

costly, and it does not provide the benefit to power holders of checking the threats of external

rivals through strategic depth. Second, states are not pressured by external threat to bargain with

their citizens for the means of war-making. In Europe, the political calculation by power holders

that the threat to their monopoly of force posed by external rivals was greater than the risks of

bargaining with their citizens was the great impetus of producing accountable states. In SSA, the

threat to power holders by external rivals is either relatively small or literally not a consideration.

Thus without an international environment of war-making, states in SSA do not pursue the same

logic of state-making as the European experience that produced national states.

Intrastate war

15
Srensen, 2001: 8.
16
William Reno, War, Debt and the Role of Pretending in Ugandas International Relations, Center for African
Studies, University of Copenhagen, 2000: 5.

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The empirical shift from interstate to intrastate wars has been the subject of intense study

by social scientists.17 But intrastate war is not an African anomaly. Much of the warring of early

European sovereigns was waged against the private armies of the nobility to suppress resistors to

the states monopoly of force.18 In Tillys understanding, intrastate war is simply an armed

competition over who will lay claim to the monopoly of force over a given population within a

given territoryor the most violent expression of state-making. Following Tillys leadand the

perhaps nave hope that intrastate wars in SSA can replicate functionally the European track of

state-makingGeorg Srensen asks why war has not produced state-making in the Third

World.19 This is the wrong question; it assumes that intrastate wars have not influenced a

different logic of state-making in SSA, when indeed they have. The question that should be

asked is how does intrastate war affect state-making in SSA?

First, intrastate wars have weakened opportunities for economic development in many

countries. War is destructive; and in intrastate war a states territory is the battleground and its

citizens are the casualties. Indeed it is difficult to see how such a scenario could be productive

for economic development, at least in the short term. In Breaking the Conflict Trap, Paul

Collier et al. argue that there is a cyclical process that can occur between civil war and poverty,

similar to the logic that there is a poverty cycle to domestic distributions of wealth. Collier et

al. base this argument on correlations between economic growth and years of civil war, showing

how civil wars generally produce negative economic growth and that countries with low levels of

17
Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler sparked debate over the causes of intrastate war after the World Bank published
their Greed and Grievance in Civil War. See: Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler, Greed and Grievance in Civil War
(The World Bank Policy Research Paper 2355, 2000).
18
Tilly, 1975; 1985; 1992.
19
Srensen, 2001.

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economic growth appear to be at higher risk of civil warwith the worst cases seemingly caught

in cycles of poor economic performances and recurrent civil wars.20

This analysis provides useful insight into why intrastate wars in SSA have not been

conducive to producing national states: intrastate wars are significant barriers to capital

accumulation. Tilly argued that capital accumulation was an important variable to the

development of national states in Western Europe; to the extent that power holders became

active seekers of opportunities to promote capital accumulation within their realms. 21 On a more

basic level, economic losses caused by intrastate war make it more difficult for states to pursue

the expensive activities of consolidation of power over space described by Herbst. Furthermore,

if warlords and combatants truly do tend to be motivated more by greed than by grievance,

as argued by Collier, then this would only serve to aggravate the negative effects of intrastate

war on capital accumulation, as armed groups would tend to pursue short term strategies of get

rich quick rather than long term strategies of build my country.22 It seems reasonable, then,

that intrastate war can be a significant barrier to producing national states in SSA.

Second, there is no reason to assume that intrastate war should produce a monolithic

version of state-making. Tilly demonstrates that until the national state was able to assert itself

as the dominant form of political organization for war-making, there were many variations of

state-making in Europe, including city-states and empires as plausible alternative models. In

SSA, intrastate wars have similarly produced a variety of broad forms of state-making: there

have been authoritarian states, neopatrimonial states, dismonopolies of force, as well as a few

relatively democratic states, modern South Africa and Botswana being the best examples.

20
Paul Collier, et al., Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy (Washington, DC: World
Bank and Oxford University Press, 2003).
21
Tilly, 1992.
22
Srensen, 2001.

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A dismonopoly of force is characterized by constant internal competition between

armed groups for the claim to the monopoly of force. The best example today is Somalia; but

the recurrent and lengthy intrastate wars in Angola, Chad, DRC, Sierra Leone and Sudan could

classify these states as dismonopolies of force as well (Afghanistan and Haiti are good examples

outside of SSA). In countries where intrastate wars have successfully produced stable claims to

the monopoly of force, the result is generally some form of authoritarian state that secures its

order through heavy-handed violence, or a neopatrimonial state that maintains its authority by

buying the loyalty of potential rivals.23 Good examples of authoritarian states include apartheid-

South Africa and Zimbabwe, while examples of neopatrimonial states include Malawi and

Uganda.

So how does intrastate war affect state-making in SSA? First, states that have

experienced intrastate wars are generally characterized by poor economic growth and capital

accumulation, which weakens opportunities for states to reduce poverty and consolidate power

over territoryif this were the will of power holders. Second, states that have experienced

intrastate wars have often either not been able to produce stable leadership, or have secured

stability through long term dictators.24 Finally, power holders are likely to perceive internal

competitors and even citizens as great risks to their monopoly of force. When coupled with the

low risk of interstate war, what this means is that power holders may be both less compelled to,

and more suspicious of political bargaining with their citizens.

2b. Extraction in Sub-Saharan Africa

23
See: Diana Cammack, The Logic of African Neopatrimonialism: What Role for Donors? Development Policy
Review 25, No. 5 (2007): 599-614; William Reno, Understanding Criminality in West African Conflicts,
International Peacekeeping 16, No. 1 (2009): 47- 61.
24
For a list of African dictators and their terms of rule, see: http://www.myweku.com/2011/03/list-of-african-
dictators-and-longest-serving-leaders/

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The globalization of the movement of goods and capital has created real opportunities

for states in SSA to receive the bulk of their revenues from external sources, rather than through

direct taxation of their citizens. This section examines states revenues in SSA from taxation of

international trade (in the form of tariffs on imports and taxes on exports) and Official

Development Assistance (ODA) (foreign loans and aid) by comparison to revenues collected

from direct taxation of citizens. It asks how dependence on external sources of revenue affects

state-making in SSA.

State revenues from international trade

That argument that dependence on primary commodity exports is problematic for state

development is not new. The so-called resource curse or Dutch disease of being wealthy in

natural resources is a major academic focus.25 The argument goes something like this: states

unearned income from natural resource rentsor the taxation of primary commodity exports

lessens the pressure for states to generate revenues from direct taxation of citizens and weakens

the incentive for states to invest in building efficient institutions and infrastructure to encourage

economic growth.26 Mick Moore argues that states in the poorer periphery of the globe are in

a distinctly different environment than the one in which European states had formed.

Globalization has created opportunities for small groups in the periphery to make large economic

surpluses (rents) by controlling the flow of natural resources to the high-income economies of

core countries.27

25
For an overview of the debate on the resource curse, see: Michael L, Ross, What Do We Know about Natural
Resources and Civil War? Journal of Peace Research 41, No. 3 (2005): 337-356; Philippe Le Billon, Fuelling
War: Natural Resources and Armed Conflicts, Adelphi Paper no. 373 (2005): 11-49.
26
Todd Moss et al., An Aid-Institutions Paradox? A Review Essay on Aid Dependency and State Building in Sub-
Saharan Africa. Center for Global Development, Working Paper Number 74 (2006): 4. Also see: Alice Sindzingre,
Financing the Developmental State: Tax and Revenue Issues Development Policy Review 25, No. 5 (2007): 620.
27
Mick Moore, Revenues, State Formation, and the Quality of Governance in Developing Countries, International
Political Science Review 25 (2004): 305

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Table 1 shows the natural resource rents of states in SSA as a percentage of Gross

Domestic Product (GDP) from 1991 to 2009.28 Although the results vary, this table shows that

many states in SSA receive substantial revenues from resource rents. Twenty-one states have

received resource rents of over 10% of GDP in at least one year from 1991 to 2009 (these states

are indicated in bold black, red and bold red). Eleven states have received resource rents of over

25% of GDP in at least one year from 1991 to 2009 (these states are indicated in red and bold

red). Six states have received resource rents of over 50% of GDP in at least one year from 1991

to 2009 (these states are indicated in bold red). It therefore seems plausible that these states

suffer from over-dependence on resource rents; and it is likely that states such as Angola, Chad,

DRC, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Liberia and Nigeria suffer from severe

over-dependence on natural resource rents, because of their consistent high revenues from these

sources.

The obvious precondition for natural resource rents is for a country to be rich in natural

resources, which many resource poor states would consider a blessing. So what is the problem

how can this affect the state-making processes of SSA? First, economic dependency on primary

commodity exports, whether oil, diamonds or coffee, makes states vulnerable to international

price volatility.29 Economists generally assume that states are price takers in global markets,

because they lack sufficient control over global supply of a particular resource to set

international prices. If a state is dependent on the export of a single primary commodity and the

price of that commodity drops substantially one year, then this can cause a significant economic

and budgetary shock. Second, many conflict scholars have argued that resource rents are linked

to risks of intrastate war. While scholars have debated over the general significance and nature

28
Date from: Total Natural Resource Rents (% of GDP), The World Bank Group, 2011
<http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.TOTL.RT.ZS> (Accessed June 2011).
29
Sindzingre, 2007.

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of this relationship, in the cases of Angola, DRC and Sierra Leone, resource rents have been

clearly implicated in sustaining their bloody intrastate wars.30 Finally, and most important for

my purposes, when states earn substantial revenues from resource rents there is less pressure on

these states to draw revenues from direct taxation of their citizens.

States reliance on taxation of imports is similarly problematic. The tariff levels of most

Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states are around 2%. This

is because the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization

(GATT/WTO) system is based on the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) principle, which is

supposed to provide equal tariff treatment for all member states. However, the GATT/WTO

system allows flexibility on tariff levels for developing countries. The rationale is that allowing

developing states to maintain higher tariff levels than the MFN principle would generally permit

should afford protection to the domestic industries of these countries, allowing them to develop

unhindered by global competition. As a result, the average tariff rate in SSA (applied as a mean

for all products) is 11%.31 The unintended consequence of this for state-making is that states in

SSA generate substantial revenues from high tariff rates. The collection of tariffs at centralized

locations (generally shipping ports or airports) is much easier than the collection of taxes from

citizens; and reliance on the former can decrease pressure for the latter.

State revenues from Official Development Assistance

Dependency on foreign aid is very similar to the idea of the resource curse, leading some

authors to argue that there is an aid curse. The general argument is that states that receive

substantial portions of their revenues from ODA in the forms of loans and grantsessentially an

economic renthave less pressure to generate revenues from direct taxation of citizens, and less

30
Ross, 2005; Le Billon, 2005.
31
Sub-Saharan Africa: Tariff Rate, Applied, Simple Mean, All Products (%), The World Bank Group, 2011
<http://data.worldbank.org/region/SSA> (Accessed June 2011).

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incentive to invest in the institutions and infrastructure that encourage economic growth. 32 Todd

Moss et al. have written an excellent article on the problems of foreign aid. They argue that

large, sustained aid flows, one, encourage fiscal indiscipline by convincing decision makers that

budgets are flexible, and two, alter the relationship between states and citizens because states are

less pressured to rely financially on direct taxation of citizens. However, Moss et al. argue that

these problematic relationships are much stronger for grants than for loans.33 Diana Cammack

has argued that aid donors may unwittingly be supporting anti-democratic practices in SSA by

financing neopatrimonial states that use this money to buy the loyalty of their clients rather than

invest it in development projects.34 There is surprisingly little academic debate over these

propositions; the so-called aid curse seems to have passed into paradigmatic wisdom.

Table 2 reports the levels of ODA received by states in SSA as a percentage of Gross

National Income (GNI) from 1991 to 2009.35 Although there is significant variation in the

figures, this table demonstrates that most states in SSA receive very substantial revenues from

foreign aid. Thirty-one states have received over 10% of their GNI from ODA in at least one

year from 1991 to 2009 (these states are indicated in bold black, red and bold red). Eighteen

states have received over 25% of their GNI from ODA in at least one year from 1991 to 2009

(these states are indicated in red and bold red). Seven states have received over 50% of their

GNI from ODA in at least one year from 1991 to 2009 (these states are indicated in bold red). It

is likely that these states suffer from over-dependence on foreign aid, particularly states such as

Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, which have

received relatively high levels of sustained aid over this period.

32
See Cammack 2007; Herbst, 2000; Moore, 2004; Moss et al., 2006; Reno, 2000; Sindzingre, 2007.
33
Moss et al., 2006.
34
Cammack, 2007.
35
Data from: Net ODA Received (% of GNI), The World Bank Group, 2011
<http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/DT.ODA.ODAT.GN.ZS> (Accessed June 2011).

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Some states in SSA have become skilled at catering to foreign governments, donors or

international financial institutions in order to receive higher levels of aid.36 How can aid

dependence affect state-making in SSA? First, states dependent on foreign aid are vulnerable to

economic shocks because of the volatility of foreign aid levels. This problem can be even more

serious than international price fluctuations for states dependent on resource rents. Table 2

clearly demonstrates foreign aid volatility: some examples include Democratic Republic of

Congo from 2002 to 2004; Equatorial Guinea from 1991 to 1997; Liberia from 1997 to 2009;

and Rwanda from 1993 to 1996. This creates obvious difficulties for budgetary planning of long

term economic development projects. Second, the rent factor can make access to foreign aid an

attractive prize for success in intrastate war.37 Finally, such a substantial source of external

revenue lessens the pressure on states to generate revenues from direct taxation of citizens.

State revenues from direct taxation of citizens

Charles Tilly and many other scholarsparticularly the so-called fiscal sociologists

have made a compelling case for the thesis that greater dependence on revenues from direct

taxation of citizens makes for a more accountable state.38

Reliance on citizens for raising public revenues, as opposed to unearned income via offshore
extraction or external assistance, is considered an essential ingredient to establishing
accountability between the state and society. 39

Wilson Prichard and David Leonard asked whether improvement in tax collection by African

states influences the strength of administrative capacity. Their empirical study offers the

conclusion that there is a positive and statistically significant relationship between taxation and

36
Reno, 2000.
37
Le Billon, 2005.
38
Herbst, 2000; Moore, 2004; Moss et al., 2006; Reno, 2000; Sindzingre, 2007.
39
Moss et al., 2006: 10.

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state capacity in SSA.40 The rationale is intuitive: if a state depends on the extraction of tax

revenues from its citizens, then citizens are more capable of compelling state protection through

political bargaining. The political alternative of a coercive tax states is never as effective or

efficient as the regular and consensual taxation of a representative tax state.41

Tables 3 shows private income, profits and capital gains taxes (or direct taxes) in SSA

as a percentage of government revenues from 1991 to 2009.42 Analysis is problematic because

of incomplete data; but this may be indicative of states neglecting this form of tax collection.

Nevertheless, the available data is sufficient to support a general conclusion. Twenty four states

have reported direct taxes as composing over 10% of government revenues in at least one year

from 1991 to 2009 (these states are indicated in bold black, red and bold red). Twelve states

have reported direct taxes as composing over 25% of government revenues in at least one year

from 1991 to 2009 (these states are indicated in red and bold red). One state (South Africa) has

reported direct taxes as comprising over 50% of government revenues in at least one year from

1991 to 2009. Two states (Guinea and Nigeria) have reported direct taxes as a portion of

government revenues in at least one year from 1991 to 2009, but as less than 10% of government

revenue. This picture, incomplete though it is, demonstrates the key point: states in SSA do not

depend on direct taxation of citizens for the bulk of their revenues.

3. The international environment of state-making in Sub-Saharan Africa:

What should and should not be done

The core argument of this paper is that states in Sub-Saharan Africa face a fundamentally

different international environment than the one that produced the national states of Europe and,

40
Wilson Prichard and David K. Leonard, Does Reliance on Tax Revenue Build State Capacity in Sub-Saharan
Africa? International Review of Administrative Sciences 76, No. 4 (2010): 653.
41
Moore, 2004: 300
42
Data from: Taxes on Income, Profits and Capital Gains (% of Revenue), The World Bank Group, 2011
<http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/GC.TAX.YPKG.RV.ZS> (Accessed June 2011).

17
as a result, power holders have pursued a different logic of state-making. In Europe, Tilly

describes, the constant existential threat of war and the growing costs of effective war-making

pressured power holders to build centralized administrative states to extract needed revenues

through taxation. Power holders were forced to bargain with their citizens to secure the optimal

efficiency of regular and consensual taxation of all the peoples in their territory. Thus, an

international environment of war-making led to an extraction-protection logic of state-making,

which ultimately produced the representative and accountable national states observed of Europe

today.43 In SSA power holders do not face significant risks from interstate war; they are both

rare and do not seriously threaten the existence of states. Conversely, intrastate wars have

become increasingly endemic in SSA, reaching a peak in the 1990s after the Cold War.44

Furthermore, global flows of goods and capital have opened opportunities for states to draw

substantial revenues from international trade and foreign aid. How does this international

environment affect state-making in SSA?

First, states are less likely to consolidate power across the full extent of their sovereign

territory. Without the risks of war-making, power holders perceive the financial costs of

consolidating power to outweigh the added benefits to their security. As a result, there are

significant areas in SSA where there is no real interaction between states and citizens, because

there is no real presence of the state.45 Second, states are less likely to build strong

administrative institutions and bureaucracies. Power holders perceive internal competitors and

even citizens as the biggest threats to their security, and thus see little to gain from strong

administrative states that are less pliable to personal authority. As a result, states in SSA have a

tendency towards authoritarianism and/or neopatrimonialism, where power holders maintain

43
Tilly, 1975; Tilly 1985; Tilly 1992.
44
Sarkees et al., 2003.
45
Herbst, 2000.

18
authority through repression and/or clientalist hierarchies based on bought loyalty and kinship.46

Finally, states are less likely to bargain with citizens. Since power holders do not depend on

direct taxation of citizens for their revenues, powers holders perceive little to be gained from

bargaining, and citizens have few means to compel them to the negotiating table. As a result,

states in SSA are observed as having low levels of democratic accountability to their citizens.47

In conclusion, state-making in modern Sub-Saharan Africa can be characterized as having a

significant degree of autonomy between states and citizensespecially if the national states of

Europe are the model of comparisonbecause the war-making and extraction variables that

Tilly observed of the European experience are largely absent in this international environment.

The final question to ask is what should and should not be done to encourage the

development of accountable states in SSA? There is still much that can be learned from the

European experience. Good policies should encourage the positive functions that war-making

and extraction played in Europe, because there is no reason to believe that the states of SSA

cannot follow the state-making model of Europes national states if the right conditions are

present. There are a number of good and bad policies for encouraging this goal.

Good Policy Options

1) Small and stable foreign aid. The states of SSA receive too much of their revenues in foreign

aid. Aid levels should be small and stable to avoid dependency and economic shock outcomes.

There is also evidence that loans are better than grants for encouraging state expenditures on

economic growth projects. This should encourage states to look towards their citizens to make

46
Cammack 2007.
47
See Transparency Internationals Corruption Perceptions Index. States in SSA tend to be rated among the most
corrupt in the world: Corruption Perceptions Index 2010 Results, Transparency International, 2011
<http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2010/results>.

19
up the difference in revenues, and ideally facilitate the development of a positive extraction-

protection relationship between states and citizens.

2) Change loan repayments policy. International financial institutions and OECD states should

make loans conditional on repayment plans that emphasize revenues earned through direct

taxation of citizens. This should also encourage the development of an extraction-protection

relationship. It is feasible enough to put such conditions on loan repayments, considering the

IMFs past structural adjustment demands.

3) Remove MFN exceptions for developing states. The GATT/WTO system should remove its

exceptions to the MFN clause for developing states, which allow states in SSA to maintain high

tariff levels. This too should promote a better extraction-protection relationship if states seek

lost revenues through direct taxation of citizens.

4) Incentivize successful economic growth projects. Taiwan, South Korea and Singaporethe

so-called Asian Tigers or developmental statesare well known for providing financial

incentives to firms that succeeded in encouraging economic growth and withdrawing incentives

from those that do not. International financial institutions and OECD states could take the same

approach to governments and firms in SSA that encourage economic growth. This is feasible

because rewards would be based on merit; they would not be rents.

Bad Policy Options

1) Embargo states with high natural resource rents. States could place embargoes on the primary

commodities of states with high natural resource rents. However, such a policy could produce

economic shocks. Moreover, it is not a feasible policy because of the difficulty of enforcing

demand-side policies at an international level.

20
2) Sovereignty based on accountability. The UN Security Council could pass a resolution

linking sovereignty to states-citizen accountability. This would obviously be an enormous move

for encouraging the protection variable. However, such a radical change of one of the core

guiding principles of the UN and international law is an unrealistic expectation, even if more

conceivable since the UN Security Council has declared the Responsibility to Protect.

3) Tolerate inter and intrastate wars as a necessary development process. While war-making was

certainly the key variable that encouraged the development of national states in Europe, there are

serious problems with thinking that this should be the case for SSA. Interstate war is not part of

the international environment of SSA; and it cannot realistically be made to be. Furthermore,

intrastate wars have been endemic in SSA since states gained their independence, and there have

been fewif anysuccessful development stories to show for it. Treating inter and intrastate

wars in SSA as some sort of necessary evil is neither a feasible, nor a desirable development

plan.

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