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The colonial era and decolonization impacted on African states, especially on politics, economy, and individuals. In discussing the political effects, this chapter focusses on the nature of the state, borders, solidarity among former liberation fighters, and the continued links to the former colonial power. Turning to the “economic revolution” that colonial powers have left behind, it is shown that post-colonial leaders did not want to undo it in most places even though the economy was designed to benefit the colonial powers and not the colonies. The effects on individuals are various and the discussion can only sheds light on a very limited number of factors such as the effects of the humiliation of individuals.
The decolonization, a process that leads to the nominal independence and international recognition of states, gained momentum in the late-1950s, having its peak in 1960, the African year, when 18 colonies, protectorates, and trust territories became independent. This chapter explores the decolonization of Africa from three perspectives: of the colonial powers, of the colonial states, i.e. the colonies themselves, and of the international system. It argues that there is not one explanation to capture the decolonization. Only if we scrutinize decolonisation from all three perspectives, we are able to comprehend that process in its complexity.
Africa has agency and can influence international politics. This chapter iterate some parts of the history laid out in previous chapters, emphasizing that Africa does not look back to a history of marginalization but one of participation. It turns to African actors and describes them before going through some policy arenas – the negotiations to reform the UN Security Council, the Libyan crisis, the International Criminal Court, climate change negotiations, and the Chagos Islands – to identify means of African actors to influence international politics and the obstacles they face.
There is a complex set of political systems in Africa. While some countries democratized, particularly in the 1990s, others are run by authoritarian leaders. Some of the former have made efforts to strengthen their democracies whereas others have started to dismantle them. To understand these dynamics, this chapter scrutinizes the nature of the state, political orders, and democratization (attempts). It discusses the introduction of term limits (and their later abolishment) and strategies of leaders to stay in power: neopatrimonialism, violence and intimidation, electoral manipulation, as well as culture. There is a variety of actors operating in these systems besides the president, including the government, the public administration, parliamentarians, the military, judges, traditional leaders, and non-governmental organizations, all being discussed in this chapter.
The term conflict management stands for a wide array of activities undertaken to prevent violent conflicts, to manage and end them once broken out, as well as to build peace and to avoid a recurrence of violence. Such activities include mediation between warring factions, military and civilian peacekeeping operations to oversee truces or peace agreements, peace enforcement, and post-conflict reconstruction, which comprises initiatives for state-building and socio-economic development amongst others. This chapter scrutinizes these activities and identifies factors that lead to peace. It concentrates on mediation and power-sharing as means to make peace, on military and civilian operations of international organizations as means to keep peace, as well as on the accommodation of spoilers, the design of peace operations, and transitional justice as means to build peace.
Intra-African cooperation is multifaceted. This chapter will show that with reference to bilateral contacts between states – or often between leaders – that are sometimes close and at others less so and with reference to intergovernmental organizations that are sometimes close and at others less so. At the continental level, those organizations include the Organization of African Unity and its successor organization, the African Union, as well as regional economic communities like the Economic Community of West African States or the Southern African Development Community. The chapter also investigates the drivers and obstacles for political and economic cooperation and integration and shows how leaders benefit from the status quo.
Despite this book’s focus on the period after decolonization, one must not think that Africa’s history started with the appearance of the colonial powers or their formal withdrawal. Hence, this chapter pays attention to the pre-colonial era, highlighting the rich culture and organization of African societies at that time. When exploring the colonization and the colonial rule, the chapter pays attention to collaboration with, resistance against, and avoidance of the colonial powers by African actors.
The prologue highlights Africa’s diversity, sets out the author’s perspective on the subject, gives some reasons why it is worth studying African history and politics, and offers of short preview of the book.
Africa has seen progress and setbacks with regard to the economic and socio-economic development after decolonization until ca. 2000. These are linked to historical and structural challenges, including the economic infrastructure the colonial powers left behind and the unfavourable geography of vast parts of the continent. In the post-colonial phase there has been much economic and trade dependence on the former colonial powers – giving rise to the dependency theory and the notion of neo-colonialism. There was often an unwillingness of the post-colonial leadership to set the course for the economies of their countries. And rentier states developed. Several initiatives – from Africa and beyond – have been proposed to deal with the economic misery, with those of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund being the dominant ones, pushing African initiatives aside.
Building on Chapter 5 and embedded in a discussion of two competing paradigms – Africa as “hopeless” and “hopeful” continent – this chapter deals with the economic and socioeconomic situation after 2000. It discusses various geopolitical and economic changes that took place since then, including the rise of China and efforts to give the continent a “big push”, which culminated in the “Year for Africa” 2005. It shows that there have been more trading partners, more consumption, more foreign direct investment, more private economic activities, more efforts against corruption, and leapfrogging. The chapter also discusses the shape and importance of the informal sector and turns to the socioeconomic development, providing facts and figures. The Millennium Development Goals and their successors, the Sustainable Development Goals as well as to what extent African states have achieved them are analysed as is the effectiveness of development aid.
There are several large-scale violent conflicts in Africa, which affect some but by no means all African countries. The vast majority of these conflicts are intra-state conflicts; inter-state conflicts rarely occur. This chapter explains why this is the case after having explored the only two large-scale inter-state wars in Africa since decolonization: the war between Uganda and Tanzania as well as the one between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Turning to intra-state conflicts, several reasons for the outbreak of wars – often described as “new wars” – are explained as are the reasons that motivate some to become rebels. The greed vs. grievance argument plays an important role here. Thereafter, the two post-colonial genocides – in Rwanda and Darfur – are scrutinized alongside a discussion of why genocide occur. Being of unprecedented magnitude, “Africa’s Great War”, a war complex in the Great Lakes Region (1996-2006), is also analyzed as is the situation of and in refugee camps that are often a place of insecurity themselves.
African states have been and are subject to external interference. During the Cold War, the USA and the Soviet Union competed for influence, as did China and France. After the Cold War ended, a decade commenced in which there was fewer external influence but the promotion of a liberal-cosmopolitan order. The rise of China in Africa (and beyond), beginning roughly in 2000 as well as the 9/11 and other terrorist attacks ended that decade of relative calm. A phase of heightened interest in Africa began, particularly in the areas of security, migration, and economic policy, often labelled the “New Scramble for Africa” that continues to the present day.
There are numerous political crises in Africa, albeit one needs to stress that they do not touch all African states. This chapter discusses four types of crises: secessions, coups, electoral violence, and terrorism. Despite their different shape, they all can potentially challenge or even undermine state institutions, dwarf the economy, and pose a threat to the population. Despite them being the children of the weakness of states, there is, however, also evidence showing that secessions, coups, and electoral violence might lead to more legitimate governments and advance democratization in the long run. Such news is missing with regard to terrorism.