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African Economies and the Politics of Permanent Crisis, 1979-1999

by Nicolas Van De Walle

This 2001 book explains why African countries have remained mired in a disastrous economic crisis since the late 1970s. It shows that dynamics internal to African state structures largely explain this failure to overcome economic difficulties rather than external pressures on these same structures as is often argued. Far from being prevented from undertaking reforms by societal interest and pressure groups, clientelism within the state elite, ideological factors and low state capacity have resulted in some limited reform, but much prevarication and manipulation of the reform process, by governments which do not really believe that reform will be effective, which often oppose reforms because they would undercut the patronage and rent-seeking practices which undergird political authority, and which lack the administrative and technical capacity to implement much reform. Over time, state decay has increased.

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