Date: Tuesday, 16 March 2021
By: Berhane Woldu
Africa, Asia and Europe in the Medieval Ages were ruled by Kings. Today Europe have become the beacon of democracy. Most of the Asian countries has become middle income. Today’s Africa Democratic of Congo was a sizable kingdom known as Kingdom of Kongo with its capital, Mbanza so was Ethiopia a Kingdom ruled by kings. Europeans transformed from kingdom to democracy; into a high income country and Asians are fast advancing to the Europeans standard. Africa on the other hand is worst of than it was during the Kingdom years. Unlike Europe and Asia who formed strong states Africans could not fathom strong State and that has forced Africa backward.
African governments have failed; Africans are destabilized, subject to civil wars, rebellions, coups and famine. Case in point: civil war in Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, Libya and Niger. Senegal civil disobedience divided along colonial languages English speakers against French speakers are a direct failure of a strong state. The Ethiopian Federal Democratic government dominated by the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) came to power in 1991 turning the state into chaos. The TPLF for twenty seven (27) years gamed and disposed the political system implemented patrimonial state for private gain, rent seeking, and clienteles. Involving large scale exchanges of favor. Fractured the country along ethnic lines Oromo, Amhara, Tigrye dismantling the Nation. built the state around ethnicities. Using its institutions looted billion if not trillions of US dollars enriching the ruling elite and put the country in so much debt. Ethiopia was governed by powerful TPLF elites who took advantages to enrich themselves at everyone else’s expense.
Why hasn’t African countries developed? Political theories and social scientist articulate that African leaders have failed to build a nation and a strong state.
The reason for African countries turmoil and poor economics is that they lack basic government institution “Strong State”. African countries don’t possess competent high capacity state. Rather they have patrimonial state. Sociologist Max Weber describe “patrimonial” as the polity is considered the personal property of the ruler and state administration is an extension of the ruler’s household. As Ethiopia was under the TPLF. Modern states require shifting political organization away from family based organization to public interest of the whole community. The most important institution that African countries lack is an administrative capable government. Which means that there must be an established centralized executive and a bureaucracy. A government that generates power to do things and be able to govern. A state that is capable, impersonal, well organized, and autonomous. An effective State that is capable doing things that is expected of them. Like providing citizens security, protecting property rights, providing education, public health, and building infrastructure ascertaining that the common good or as economists call it public good is achieved.
Strong state are engrossed in social regulation; promoting citizens to be law-abiding, upstanding, and patriotic. They aspire and encourage home ownership, support small businesses, work hard on gender equality.
Good governance have to control political elites and participate in income redistribution. African states Governments are governed by powerful elites who have inherited advantages enriching themselves at everyone else’s expense. These elites are entrenched using their wealth, power, and social status in dominating the government. They use their state power to protect themselves, their family and friends. To constraint the elites should be exercised through control of the state apparatus and state intervention. Where the state’s polices reflect a broad consensus to what constitutes a fair distribution of the resources at the state’s disposal.
In order for African countries to move forward and become stable, develop politically and economically there is a need to form a strong state. Any given function of government be it social regulation or industrial policy depends on the quality of the state bureaucracy. Government organization have to be well organized and afforded with ample human and material resources. The determinant factors for good governance is to have a strong state that has capacity and defined latitude. A state that has quality where bureaucrats are selected based on merit and technical competence “impartiality”. Possess the competence to formulate policies and implement; that penetrate the society. A Government that has capacity that is; ample size of bureaucracy, adequate resources at its disposal, bountiful of educated and expert officials.
A strong state is inclusive of good processes, has capability and bureaucratic independence. Good governance brings political stability, absence of violence, regulatory quality, and rule of law. African leaders need to build strong state institutions than advocating for democracy that has failed the people of the continent. First thing first build a strong state then advocate for rule of law and accountability system be it democracy or social accountability.