Book review: Nation Building and State Building in Africa


Nation Building and State Building in Africa

Author: Georges Nzongula Ntalaja

Reviewed By: Aasia Gul Baloch

The book” Nation Building and State Building in Africa " by Georges Nzongula Nataraja published in 1993, is author’s research based analytical paper written in 1988 for African Academy of science, at the response of invitation for fourth conference (Symposium) of Special Commission on Africa " in Harare (Capital of Zimbabwe).

These ideas all about the Nation Building; for Western origins and African actions (implications).

Issues of democracy that people of African people facing, has been analyzed scientifically for the purposes of understanding and highlight all situations that can bring or provide policy and should deal them in a good way. According to this, Western origin refer to the emergency of modern nation - state which was based on Capitalist mode of production around 1700 in Europe.

These all were facing the situation of political ideas that was based on democracy. English Historian C. Northcote Parkinson who warned the people of that not to believe that political ideas or thinking which has based/ origins in Europe and America. "And especially the word highlighted Democracy and political ideas."

In his book " The Evolution of political thought "


" The origins of democracy " 

In this history, St.Augustine showed the Sharp power for convincing the people and suggesting for being together in political ideas therefore upon a time people widespread that St.Augustine who was inventor of democracy. So, the news which spread a lot therefore, it was tolerably clear. Likewise, the people of American learned a fabulous lesson of resistivity of colonial rule from their own history, not from the history of west.

Thomas Hocking " rejected the " Rupert Emerson" easy that was new all about European history such that; The Relevance of " Western Ideas " for the" New African states.

Thomas argued the following Points to be noted here"

"No" to the colonial system

" Yes" to the Ideas of freedom and independence.



Modern social science, an academic discipline that provide progresses for Western creations which is about the history of European and history of Western philosophy constitute its strongest foundations. Many terms have been used by social Scientist therefore, they were deeply rooted in the western intellectual tradition. In social science the word " Marxism " or historical materialism”. V.I Lenin explained "Marxism" with western intellectual roots and content with the ideas of German philosophy, English political economy and French socialism. Western intellectual tradition has relevant to analysis of political economy of the state and nation building in Africa. The people must apply a political economy that directly analyze the all issues of national construction, governance and public policy which clarify all problems. In today's Science which has concerned with political theories with their comparative in nature with began of Aristotle, Plato and Machiavelli.


He believing on politics worked on patient empirical inquiry which was the only way of arriving a generalization. Aristotle have been thought about right organization which has given in any state for discovering by careful examinations of its other characteristics.


" Pre- conditions for democracy" it is a good example of Aristotle 's influence today.

Aristotle had conceived the idea of city states associations higher then family and tribes.


He believes that politics that was possible to organize and establish the principles having the precision and certainty of mathematics. Also he believed on the form which is Gone to be good and somehow tell that How a community would have organized?


Machiavelli put forward the idea of nation states.

" The secularization of political theory by he divorced from metaphysics and religion. " Exaltation of the modern nation state. The break in religion have seen in the fact of " Machiavelli 's indifference" is considered that the truth of religion which became the of a common characteristics of modern thought but unfortunately it is not considered as true from among with two centuries. According to Machiavelli, political science is a science which is based in Scientifically delighted to identify the attain political ends. Therefore, many African rulers and their external backers and their colonialist which was able to maintain and after independence can be disappear, and under the weight of centrifugal forces which was checked by a stronger rule many western colonial periods ruled by Machiavellian who was strongmen who was able to stop and nothing to attending other objectives and served as western interest.


What is a Nation?

" Reinhard Bendix " define the central fact behind the national states “A well order exercise of a nationwide and public authority".

Machiavelli considers" Creation and maintenance of strong, united and expanding states " as fundamental Human demand for security. He raised the question and determined that upon which points and ends the people communicates together and collectively become a nations and the state of governing that How it has managing and to spreading their authority nationwide. According to modernization theory and orthodox Marxism identify these point of the modern nation state in Europe. Therefore, point of view of these nationhood and nation building are basically novel ideas for African continent. The image of African has given by Clifford Geertz thesis in 1960s. The word noted " primordial" .it was a most relevant factor of social reality in newly independent countries. This thesis also applied to Africa through modernization theorists like David Apter and Aristide Zolberg .Apter saw the tribal system as being modern (i.e.) wester patterns of social and political organization . Zolberg who was the student of Apter he saw the state which has being lack of the capacity to exercise its authority over the ethnically determined space of civil society at the local level.

According to modernization theorists that nation is a social existence produced by the development of capitalism. Joseph stalin' s Marxism in 1913 he defined that " Nation" it's a historically constituted stable community of people formed by the base of a common language territory, economic life and physiological showed in a common culture. What is sufficient nation? However, Stalin's explained that a particular historical practice which provides a unity and the formation of distinct capitalist social formations that makes together ally a sufficient nation whenever, provides a narrow company for their strength and enjoyable life for being unity but unfortunately, people have raised many questions therefore Stalins followers have no satisfactory answers to these questions that raised here than appealing to European history which has their point of reference. Nico's Poulantzas and Samir Amin have checked and gave their opinions judgment about orthodox theory of the nation. Nicos Poulantzas gave his thoughts however " Nation is a creation of merchant capital" . Generalization of commercial exchanged which was disused and didn't explain the modern nation deeply and briefly. Therefore, Samir Amin ' s have viewed about national question. In Arab nation he defines the phenomenon of nation hood in a universalistic perspective; he said that much better to be close at the orthodox Marxist theory in a letter book.

" Class and Nation “Here nation divided into two types of society.

1) complete society

2)capitalist society

At tributary formations of black Africa, it was excluded while it was incomplete and lacking in irreversible state formation. By the point of view which defined, it was earlier formulations which directly retain attention for the people of Africa who were suffering the issues and problems. However, Nation exist at the center of the world capitalist system where bourgeois revolution has been established where the national power of the local bourgeoisie. However, nation actually would not exist at least not finished form. Samir Amin 's said that " The phenomenon of nationhood is reversible process”. Whereby a nation may develop or progress and easily can grow stronger regress into a formless conglomeration of more or less related ethnic groups.

The formation of Nation in Africa

National question pointed that these all are relating to Africa in its perspective. In pre-colonial Africa, there were many different kind of nation in different levels of intensity corresponding to social formation which has made of closely related lineages to other groups to that shrew a traditional culture. These formations were held together by the ruling classes which has based on tribute collection by which has successes in promoting the growth of long distance trade, However, for protecting markets and trade routes. In central Africa the example of it, there were trade and conquest state that did not exhibit nationality characteristic as developed over two or more centuries in those began to Kongo, Kuba , Lube and Lunda Kingdoms which margh as relatively viable nations. The failure of the Pan-African Ideal of a single nation which has the under of a continental state or under different regional federations and that of reactionary nationalism, which had attempted to recreate the pre-colonial nation were not having well organized class forces capable of realizing them as political projects.

The new African nation was born due to struggling against colonialism. Most countries of the African continent were arbitrary colonial creations. It doesn't mean only the need to integrate (combine) all the common traits of all cultures in order to forge a new historical identity, but also the language whatever has so, it is a respect, originality and specificity of each groups such respect is very necessity for national unity for those countries where one or more several major groups may believe their cultured and political dominance at the expense of minorities.


Governance and public policy

Aspect of nation - building is state capacity building which is have to enhance the capability of the state it is not only to establish its authority throughout the national territory but also have to think to serve the economic social and cultural needs of citizens. Moreover, Parkinson said that if any one important ideas or thoughts to emerge from the history of political thought than the " ideas" that government who is to be judged by results. Rousseau suggested that good government as that who improves the quality of life of its people. The basic issues with to government and public policy on Africa. Today is the extent to which it's government responsible and to be able to satisfy their people 's expectations of independence such of since hope that freedom from colonial rule.


Security and defense preoccupation.

Aa Crawford said some points about political stability, explained the security imperative of contemporary states takes priority in state revenue allocation and his imposed substantial costs on the post-colonial state in Africa. During the third world their division of world into two antagonistic social systems and represented by Western and socialist camp, the key factor race of arms and political stability, however it was the help of international system to preserve the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of African states. Before Stalinist system at Eastern Europe by the former Soviet Union world community which was committed at the interests of peace and security, for the survival of the international state system established at the world war 2 at the era decolonization. World war to 1990 which led to Bangladesh for the creation in 1971 out of the eastern portion of Pakistan it was itself result for the Balkanization for the former British India. Whole world went a war by a organization that (United Nations organization) in 1960 - 63 to end the Katanga Secession which now restored the unity (i.e.) Congo (now Zaire). At the same time African continent who was obsessed with support for the internationally recognized boundaries for the political and intellectual leaders who were blinded by Ethiopian propaganda who wrongly selected the just struggle the Eritrea people whose decolonization was aborted with the complicity of the internationals community as a war of secession.

Resources Extraction and social control

To the security and defense preoccupations, Africa rulers strive to retain power as long as possible which use them to retain their own materials, interests. Government activates at the area of nation building and their state capacity pursued not to ends in themselves. Generally African military officers are not secure about their career opportunities, and they operate in a political environment fall of intrigue. Finally, the African state cannot hope to rely exclusively on coercion as a means of social control, like wise States everywhere who has attempted to resolve it's artist of legitimacy through resource to political indoctrination. The ideological spectrum has included ideas and doctrines like African socialism authenticity and Marxism - Leninism. Ideologies have been presented that a way which suggested a close affinity. Generally, these ideologies mask the contradictions of post-colonial African where most people continue to live in poverty while the ruling minority is elevated to the ranks of the world' s wealthiest people.



Nation building and state building which are the part of the of African people’s struggle for Liberation. All over the continent, the anti-colonial struggle that was a very great event in the lives of the African people. Masses and petit - bourgeois nationalist leader who expected a lot from it. The masses had much hoped that their living conditions would improve as a result of what they have seen in revolutionary experience this was a fact what their leader promised to them. The new rulers respond to people for their demands with more promises. Preoccupied with their own political survival and material interest however, Africa rulers have failed for satisfying people's expectations of independence. The struggle must go on and it must involve the involve the transformation of the state which can serve the interests of African workers and peasants. The second independence movement in countries like Zaire, chad and Uganda the heroic liberation struggle in Southern Africa struggles for nations self -determination in northeast Africa and western Sahara and the fight for democratic rights from the cape to Cairo are well related to the continuing process of liberation from imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism. Their success will depend on their ability of these movements to recruit and retain within their organizations was an essential message of Amilcar Cabral and his revolutionary legacy for Africa. It was a weapon for those whose value has been realized only when it was added to arsenal of the struggling masses or the search of betterment life for themselves and secure future for their children.

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