Analysing sub-Saharan African states through a limited access lens

During the past decade, an extraordinary disconnect regarding the futures of states in sub-Saharan Africa has emerged: ‘Aspiring Africa, the world’s fastest growing continent’ (in the words of The Economist on its title page), on the one hand, and, in the words of an economist, ‘informalised and subsistence Africa, with swathes of survivalist pockets of existence, remains the overriding economic reality’ in these states, on the other. These divergent economic futures are mirrored by profiles of equally divergent political futures: the emergence of an increasing number of African democracies contrasted with authoritarian, electoral authoritarian or neopatrimonial states.

A new literature has recently emerged which may be employed to inquire further into the past trajectories of sub-Saharan African states (as well as other states) and to point toward possible interventions that may influence their futures. I will name this literature the limited or open access approach or, more proactively, the use of the limited or open access lens. The two primary publications are:

North D, J J Wallis, B R Weingast 2009 Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History, Cambridge University Press.

North D, J J Wallis, S B Webb, B R Weingast (eds.) 2013 In the Shadow of Violence: Politics, Economics, and the Problems of Development Cambridge University Press.

The aim of this fellowship will be to study and review this literature so as to be able to assess its utility regarding development initiatives.

Project leader(s):
  • Simon Bekker (Stellenbosch University)

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