Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security

By Barry Buzan; Ole Wæver | Go to book overview

8
Sub-Saharan Africa: security
dynamics in a setting of weak
and failed states

Introduction

Sub-Saharan Africa (hereafter, Africa) has always been a challenge for IR theory, and this is also true for RSCT. The problem is certainly not a lack of security dynamics. A snapshot of Africa during almost any of the previous forty years would show a catalogue of wars, famines, plagues, mass population displacements, ruinous and barbaric political practices, and environmental despoliations. Africa is a pessimist's paradise, a place where the Hobbesian hypothesis that in the absence of a political Leviathan life for individuals will be nasty, brutish, and short seems to be widely manifest in everyday life.

At the centre of the problem lies the postcolonial state, which was the price to be paid for rapid decolonisation. Transplanting European-style states, modes of economic development, and forms of Westphalian international relations to non-European peoples was not easy anywhere. But, while in much of Asia the new states and their system of political economy eventually took root, in most of Africa the transplant has to varying degrees failed. Consequently Africa has retained some of the superficial diplomatic appearance of a Westphalian-style state system over the past forty years, mainly in the continued diplomatic recognition of its states, but it has had rather little of the political, social, or economic reality of functioning states. The African state has been for the most part weak both as a state (i.e., low levels of sociopolitical cohesion) and as a power (i.e., commanding small economic, political, and military resources, both in absolute terms and relative to non-African states). Rather than consolidating the empirical reality of a modern bureaucratic state, the trend since decolonisation has been more in the opposite direction, towards highly personalised, kleptocratic, 'neo-patrimonial' regimes with no

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