Could socialism work in Africa south of the Sahara

Africa - main topics

Steffen Angenendt

To person

Dr., is Senior Associate of the Global Issues Research Group of the Science and Politics Foundation (SWP) in Berlin. His research fields are migration and integration policy as well as demography. Current focus: European migration policy; Foreign and security policy aspects of demographic developments.

Contact: [email protected]

Matthias Basedau

To person

Dr., has been a research assistant at the GIGA Institute for Africa Studies in Hamburg since 2002, and has been head of the research focus "Violence and Security" since 2005. In addition to the regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa, political parties and democracy research as well as resource conflicts and violent clashes between ethnic and religious identity groups are research interests.

Contact: [email protected]

Bettina Conrad

To person

has been active in migration and diaspora research for ten years (2nd generation, "cyber diasporas", ethnicity and nationalism, exile politics, return and human rights). The regional focus of her work is the Horn of Africa, especially Eritrea, and the worldwide Eritrean diaspora.

Contact: [email protected]

Andreas Eckert

To person

Dr., holds the chair for the history of Africa at the Humboldt University in Berlin. His main research interests are the history of Africa in the 20th century, in particular the history of the state and the history of urbanization, global history and the history of work. Contact: [email protected]

Gero Erdmann

To person

Dr., is a political scientist, Senior Research Fellow at the Giga Institute for African Studies, Head of Giga Priority 1 and Head of the GIGA office in Berlin. His research focuses on forms of political rule, democratization, parties and party systems in Africa.

Contact: [email protected]

Dominic Johnson

To person

Dominic Johnson is the Africa editor in the international section of the daily newspaper taz and has published a wide range of articles on the topic and in particular on the conflicts in the Congo and the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Contact: [email protected]

Tobias von Lossow

To person

Dr., is a graduate political scientist and research assistant to the directorate of the Science and Politics Foundation in Berlin. His work focuses on sub-Saharan Africa, climate change and water scarcity.

Contact: [email protected]

Stefan Mair

To person

Dr., is a Senior Fellow of the Science and Politics Foundation in Berlin, a member of the Federal President's advisory board for the "Partnership with Africa" ​​initiative and a member of the GIGA's scientific advisory board. His work focuses on sub-Saharan Africa, German foreign and security policy, and global governance.

Contact: [email protected]

Laurence Marfaing

To person

Dr., is a research associate at the GIGA, Leibniz Institute for Global and Regional Studies in Hamburg. Her focus is on migration, translocality and migration and trade strategies in the West African region. She is working on the research project "Sub-Saharan migrants in the 'transit cities' of the Sahel: from the logic of survival to the logic of success".

Contact: [email protected]

Dalila Nadi

To person

is a research assistant at the Center for the Modern Orient in Berlin. Her main research interests are global migration from China to Africa as well as migrations in and out of North Africa. She is working on the research project "The emergence of new translocal labor markets for migrants".

Contact: [email protected]

Africa found its state identity late and is still strongly influenced by its colonial past. Weak state and civil society institutions and distribution conflicts over valuable resources encourage violent conflicts as well as refugee and emigration movements.

Can Africa develop independently - without the help of Western ideologies? (& copy FAO / 18296 / P. Cenini)

Consequences of colonial demarcation

At the end of the 19th century, the Europeans determined international borders in the competition for colonies in Africa, which are still largely valid today. Within these borders, they began to organize the territories they had conquered into colonial administrative states. Where previously a multitude of very different political systems had existed side by side, the territorial administrative state became the only valid state organizational model. In many places, the demarcations made by the colonial rulers took no account of historically evolved circumstances. Large parts of the emirate Adamaua, which belongs to the Sokoto caliphate, came under German rule in what is now Cameroon; its political center Yola, however, was defeated by the English in northern Nigeria. These arbitrarily drawn borders are not infrequently seen as one of the basic evils in Africa. They created problems by separating friends and forcibly uniting enemies. The new borders distributed large families to different European administrative and language areas, but also interrupted trade routes that had connected population centers and enabled the exchange of food, for example. However, the importance of borders should not be overstated. At least until the Second World War, the colonial states did not have the power to limit people's mobility.

It was not until the period of decolonization that the importance of the borders increased considerably. The disputes over valuable resources and the formation of political clientele systems in the struggle for independence took place within the political state borders - and these were now defended and cemented by the new national elites. The leaders of the young African states, who were mostly trained in Europe, were aware of the dangers involved in revising the colonial borders. They expected that in such a case - as in 19th century Europe - there would be numerous wars. The new African states therefore promised to respect each other's borders; It was accepted that these borders had been drawn arbitrarily by strangers, often before the actual conquest and without knowledge of the societies that lived on both sides. This decision was carried out in a remarkable way during the first decades of independence. The East-West conflict, in which the great powers and superpowers USA and the Soviet Union competed for zones of influence, made a major contribution to preserving the territorial status quo and thus the borders in Africa. As a rule, border issues are still the trigger or pretext for disputes between states, never the actual reasons for war. After the end of the Cold War, violent border conflicts increased noticeably in Africa, Nigeria and Cameroon, for example, fought for several years, sometimes with weapons, over the Bakassi Peninsula, which is rich in oil and fish, and the border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia at the end of the 1990s also worried for headlines. However, many African states are ready to appeal to the International Court of Justice in The Hague in border disputes and to submit to its case law. The usually arbitrary colonial borders have certainly created political and economic problems and produced new regional identities. But it is less these borders than the weakness of the post-colonial states that are the main cause of many of the current conflicts south of the Sahara.

Source text

Nation building

On the "export hit national state" (according to the historian Wolfgang Reinhard), which once rose in the wake of imperialism and colonialism, forces act from within ("tribalism" = "tribal consciousness" - see p. 35 f.) As from the outside (globalization) ensure an erosion of state structures. A number of African countries such as Somalia or the Democratic Republic of the Congo are now operating as classic examples of "state collapse". The English journalist and historian Basil Davidson, who once accompanied the Africans' struggle for freedom with commitment and sympathy, even ironically modified a central metaphor of the imperialist discourse as the "burden of the black man".

The fragility of African states is often attributed to the fact that they were "artificially created"; for national independence in Africa was usually not the result or the consequence of an awareness of national identity and unity, but rather preceded it. In the absence of similarities such as language or religion, the young nations initially commissioned historians to define a national identity and create national awareness.
At the time of independence, the unitarian nation state strengthening central power was the reference model not only for modernization theorists, but also for socialists. Frantz Fanon, the radical theorist of an anti-colonial revolution, even spoke of the need to "liquidate" all regionalisms and tribalisms, otherwise the unity of the people would have to remain a chimera, an illusion. Skepticism, criticism or even resistance to the government's policies were seen by the rulers as a threat to the already fragile national unity and social progress. Trade unions and opposition parties were soon curbed or even banned. From this perspective, the existence of ethnicity threatened the entire development process. "For the nation to live, the tribe must die," said Samora Machel, the long-time leader of the anti-colonial liberation movement Frelimo and later President of Mozambique (1975 to 1986), succinctly summarizing this attitude. But while the African politicians on the one hand rejected tribal thinking and ritually called for the overcoming of tribalism, on the other hand they did not hesitate to appeal to "tribal sentiments" or to demand ethnic solidarity if it served their own goals. During the decolonization period, the colonial rulers had already tolerated or even encouraged ethnic differences to be activated (and reinterpreted) in the struggle for office and political power.
As a rule, the African elites of post-colonial Africa did not succeed in legitimizing the nation-state through achievement, development and political participation. But even if a lack of legitimacy and the lack of state welfare services repeatedly reinforce particular identities and loyalties, the state has been able to assert itself as a political frame of reference. It is not insufficient national sentiment that makes African states vulnerable. Rather, their deficient control and regulation capacities make the development of national identities more difficult. However, they did not completely prevent it. In numerous African countries, national (everyday) cultures have clearly emerged in the last few decades, which are not only revealed at sporting events and in the culinary sector.

Andreas Eckert

Unfold

Close