In This Review

The Criminalization of the State in Africa
The Criminalization of the State in Africa
By Jean-Francois Bayart, Stephen Ellis and Beatrice Hibou
Indiana University Press, 1999, 192 pp

Long on sweeping assertions and short on corroborating data, this set of rather polemical essays draws attention to what the authors believe is the slide of sub-Saharan governments toward illegal economic activities. They claim that these activities, shaped by pressures of globalization and the new self-enrichment strategies encouraged by structural adjustment, go beyond ordinary corruption. Indeed, they bring African states into contact with international crime syndicates dealing in drugs, money laundering, and smuggling of every description. In a provocative but highly speculative way, Bayart explores the social roots of illicit trade and plunder in Africa's past; Ellis reviews the record of lawlessness among apartheid's law-enforcement personnel; and Hibou generalizes about the continent's supposed economic and moral meltdown. How many of Africa's four dozen governments are today run by shadowy forces linked to international crime? Probably three, the authors estimate (Comoros, Seychelles, and Equatorial Guinea), but they name another dozen that exhibit tendencies in this direction. They may be on to something, but readers who want to be persuaded will need to go beyond this book.