n Journal of Public Administration - Developmental state as a model for Africa's development : is its emergence imminent?

Volume 46, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



No continent is in greater need of sustained development than Africa. On the golden independence jubilee of most countries, and almost 54 years after Ghana - the first country on the African continent to achieve independence - sustained development remains elusive. Although not all state-led developmental efforts succeed, hardly any state has ever been successfully transformed through market mechanisms only. With economic development stagnating in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, coupled with the phenomenal success of strongly state-driven accelerated development and industrialisation in Japan and the newly industrialising or 'tiger' economies of East Asia, the role of the state in development is at the fore and has sparked debate on developmental states in Africa. In South Africa, the developmental state concept is attracting attention mainly because of possibilities it offers for tackling challenges associated with transformation and service delivery. The possibility of developmental states emerging in Africa is not far-fetched. Botswana is a developmental state based on its developmental success. The circumstances in which Botswana's developmental success was attained are not identical with those of the Asian 'tigers'. In fact, it is impossible for exactly the same conditions experienced by the Asian 'tigers' to exist in Africa for the Asian miracle to be replicated. This article examines why and how Japan and two of the original four Asian 'tigers', South Korea and Taiwan, became models of accelerated development and explains why most post-independent African countries are not as successful as their Asian counterparts. The article has a four-part structure. In the first, a critical examination of the concept of a developmental state is given. It is defined in political economy terms and distinguished from the regulatory state. It is argued that 'developmental state', as used by Johnson in 1982, merely the Japanese development and industrialisation process; it was not a of what Japan had to do in order to develop. The implication is that, for developmental states to emerge in Africa, conditions neither need to mirror those of Japan nor the Asian 'tigers' at their time. A discussion of some characteristics of a developmental state is undertaken. The second part offers a historical perspective on developmental states, touching on forerunners of modern developmental states in The Netherlands, England (later Britain) and Germany before focusing on factors which facilitated the emergence of developmental states in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The third part examines prospects for developmental states in Africa. With Botswana exemplifying developmental success, in spite of having little in common with Japan and the Asian 'tigers', the article argues that developmental states are not only possible in Africa, but imperative. The fourth and concluding part debunks the 'impossibility theorem' and argues that South Africa has the potential to become a developmental state if it tackles certain challenges and suggests democratic developmental states could emerge in Africa based on sound agrarian rural development policies.

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