Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Nation-State and Public Policy in Africa: Reconsidering the Effects of Structural Variables and Systemic Dynamics

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

The Nation-State and Public Policy in Africa: Reconsidering the Effects of Structural Variables and Systemic Dynamics

Article excerpt

Abstract

The emergence and increasing activity of parastatal agencies, transnational corporations and nongovernmental organizations have impacted the nature and function of the modern nation-state. Some political observers claim the African nation-state is becoming functionally anachronistic in recent times. Nonetheless, this article argues that in order for the African nation-state to regain its raison d'etre and implement public policy effectively, considering the irrepressible forces of structural paralysis and systemic dynamics, it will have to redefine itself through a society-centered nation-state model by reaching a "take-off" stage in the development of its political economy.

Introduction

It is now a commonplace to depict the nature of the modern nation-state in Africa as one of increasing, galloping, and frequently cataclysmic change. Forces from within and without have remained inevitable in shaping the nation-state, its relationship with the general populace, and its preferences in the policy arena. Decolonization, quasi-colonialism, coups d'etat, the demise of communism, the end of the Cold War, technology, over-population, environmental problems, regional conflicts, transnational players, and international terrorism all bring new and demanding challenges to the assumed sovereignty and hegemony of the nation-state.

What, then, is the nation-state? Are African nation-states becoming anachronistic because of the plethora of events beyond their control? What is the role of the modern nation-state in development and public policy-making? Have structural variables within the nation-state and systemic dynamics outside its parameters become so irrepressible and uncontrollable that the general populace is left with nothing else to turn to in times of crisis? Are African nation-states sustained sufficiently to face the problems of the twenty-first century? These questions, and more will continue to redefine the nature and role of the nation-states in Africa, and so far as these nation-states are the predominant "actors" in nation-building, development, and policy-making, they will be confronted by the inevitable, often times competing, forms of structural and systemic dynamics.

In the balance of this article, I will argue that most African nation-states are still struggling to reach a "take off" stage, (a position where the basic necessities for development are not put in place yet, a point of prematurity) and as such structural variables and systemic dynamics will continue to adversely affect the authority of the nation-state, unless these entities develop a sustained and "new" society-centered-state outlook, armed with the accoutrements and weapons to fight the crises of nation-building. The article will consider recent discourse over society/state conflict in light of policy-making and development in Africa. Also, a typology of African nation-states, how they tackle problems of policy-making and implementation, and strategies for the state apparatus to realize its policy goals will be discussed. A conceptual framework for analysis is presented as a viable means for accomplishing this task. But before considering the theories and the typology of the nation-states, it is imperative that I tackle the first question I posed earlier on in this article: what, then, is the nation-state?

Defined succinctly, the nation-state is the largest, most sophisticated, self reliant, self-sufficient, political configuration in the modern world. Nation-states have four basic characteristics, videlicet; territorial area, general populace, a government, and recognition from other nation-states. Territorial area is one of the most fundamental components of economic development. Size, location, and natural resources are concomitant with territory or in simple terms, land. Land is also one major element which serves as a platform upon which nation-states extend their boundaries at the expense of others, and it represents the frontier of an increasing conflict over legitimate right between nation-states and society rights vis-a-vis state authority. …

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