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Reconceptualizing State Building in Africa (III)

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Reconceptualizing State Building in Africa (III)

Below and Beyond the State: Incorporating Non-State Systems to Build Stronger States

by Mark Massey

Download the Full Article: Reconceptualizing State Building in Africa (III)

This series urges a fundamental reconsideration of traditional state building approaches. As the second article argued, these traditional approaches perpetrate two fundamental mistakes: 1) they reproduce centralized, top-heavy states when they should cultivate decentralized, local governance; and 2) they ignore the very systems that millions of Africans choose over the state. This third article expands upon this by exploring the implications of "non-state systems," i.e. non-state structures, networks and complexes that provide economic, social and/or political services in cases of state collapse/failure. The emergence of such systems is an overlooked and under-researched trend. Analysts typically dismiss them as temporary, criminal offshoots of anarchy. But this is premature and erroneous. These systems are often emerging orders that challenge fundamental assumptions about state-society relations. The article identifies a number of non-state complexes across Africa, with a focus on Somaliland in Northern Somalia. Though Somalia is assumed to be a vacuum of violent anarchy, Somaliland's extra-state "governance without government" is organically evolving from the bottom-up and is surprisingly peaceful and democratic—especially when compared to conflict-torn Southern Somalia. This article hopes to highlight both the dangers and potentials such systems hold. Thus far we have ignored these non-state complexes to our own detriment. However, they could greatly facilitate effective, bottom-up, decentralized state building.

Download the Full Article: Reconceptualizing State Building in Africa (III)

Mark Massey, Jr. works for The Louis Berger Group, Inc., an engineering and economic development firm focusing on stabilization and reconstruction programs in conflict countries. He holds an MA in International Conflict Studies from the University of London's King's College and a BA in Political Science and History from McGill University.

Editor's Note: This essay is the third of a four-part series.

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