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The redistributive state and conflicts in Africa


  • Jean-Paul Azam


This paper argues that ethnic problems are only one aspect of political violence in Africa, while violent conflicts must be thought about as a failure of the state to perform some of its fundamental tasks. State formation in Africa is a transition process starting from an institutional endowment of ethnic division. Ethnic capital in Africa ensures the provision of many services that a modern state has taken over in rich countries, including security, education, rules of behaviour, etc. Most African states are so far unable to deliver all these services adequately, and must go through an initial phase of federation of ethnic groups, before they can provide a credible substitute to ethnic capital. The system of redistribution within and among groups is the key to creating the solidarity links between them, and its breakdown is liable to trigger the eruption of political violence. Civil wars, or other forms of political violence, are thus an integral part of the political economy of Africa.

Suggested Citation

  • Jean-Paul Azam, 2001. "The redistributive state and conflicts in Africa," CSAE Working Paper Series 2001-03, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2001-03

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