Developmental State and New Regionalisms in the African Context

The value chains of the African mining sectors underwent structural transformation in the 1980s and increasing in the 90s as western-based mining and energy interests capitalized on the liberal ‘globalization’ era. Perhaps, the Africa Mining Vision plays a role in a realignment of current structures as states maneuver to gain a greater percentage of shared benefit. The tension in this debate over structural change is framed as the equitable capture of additional ‘shared benefit’ which is rebuffed as ‘resource nationalism’ with all of its counter-liberal connotations.

The Africa Mining Vision (AMV) is a pan-African approach to governance of the extractive sectors. It was adopted by Heads of State at the February 2009 African Union Summit as an alternative regional scale policy framework with the purpose of doing business differently by “integrating the broader extractive industry into the local, national, regional and global value chains” (Busia and Akong 2017, 146). The underlying goal of the AMV is to utilize Africa’s mining wealth to move from a historic status as an exporter of cheap raw materials to manufacturer and supplier of knowledge-based services. The AMV embodies the ambitions of a continent to move beyond social challenges of poverty and underdevelopment to build a productive working class that enjoys the modern technological advancements.

The AMV framework consists of seven tenets:

The Africa Mining Vision (AMV) is a decade old and implementation at the state level is not robust. As a result, the anticipated regional mineral development corridors are not yet integrating as seamlessly as once expected. Nonetheless, across the continent domestic and cross border initiatives are in various stages of planning and development.

Mkandawire (2001) was an early thinker about the African democratic developmental state but his formulation preceded current concerns about sustainability. A welcome extension of the developmental state is that of developmental regionalism(s) (Adejumobi and Kreiter 2016; Shaw, Grant, and Cornelissen 2011). In addition to governments, such an effort demands input from mining corporations regarding their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and fiscal strategies plus participation by civil society organizations.

  • Promote good governance;
  • Develop institutional and human capacity;
  • Optimize knowledge and use of minerals;
  • Build local and regional infrastructure;
  • Stimulate economic diversification;
  • Harness the potential of small-scale mining; and
  • Foster transparency and accountability (Oxfam 2017, 8).

The implementation of the African Mining Vision and individual states’ experience with implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is a basis for the development of individual country mining visions (CMVs), the initial stage of the AMV. The follow through and fruition of devising a medium to long-term CMV and collaborating with regional partners to expand development opportunities reflect the concepts of ‘developmental state’ and ‘developmental regionalisms.’ African Economic institutions UNECA (2013b, 2013a) and UNDP (2013, 66-74) advocate for the adoption of policies framed in the ‘developmental state’ conceptualization (Mkandawire 2001; Singh and Bourgouin 2013) and UNCTAD (2013, Ch. 4) advocates for the creation of ‘developmental regionalisms.’

The original conceptualization of the developmental state was constructed to explain the socio-economic transformations by several East Asian states in the post-World War II era (Yin-wah 2016; Johnson 1982). The concept correlates with the idea of state-intervention in economic activity through industrial policy, or state-led development. Johnson identifies four defining elements of a developmental state: the existence of (1) a small, inexpensive, elite bureaucracy consisting of the best managerial talents, whose duties would be to identify the industries to be developed and the best means of developing them, (2) a political system conductive for the bureaucracy to take initiatives without interference from vested interests, (3) “market-conforming methods of state intervention in the economy”, such as the avoidance of overly detailed laws that constrain administrative creativity and the utilization of public corporations, especially the mixed public-private type, to implement policies in high-risk sectors, and (4) a pilot agency within the bureaucracy that is characterized by internal democracy, functions like a think tank, and has a duty to coordinate industrial policy formulation and implementation (Johnson 1982, 11, 315, 317, 319; in Nwapi and Andrews 2017, 231–32).

The concept of developmental state as it exists in the literature focuses primarily on economic production with no explicit focus on the environment. Potential African developmental states do not have the luxury of ignoring environmental impacts in the way that western industrial societies have since the mid-18th century and the BRICS, Asian Tigers, and others have at the start of the 21th century, especially in the current and post-COVID-19 era. Therefore, the conceptualization of African developmental states can no longer be tethered to neoliberal policy in which government keeps its “hands off business” … and the state is “confined to acting like an umpire and passively watching developments.” This has not helped development in African states (Panford 2017, 162-63). In contrast the Asian developmental state focuses on

Industrial policy, …, [which] requires the state to set the tone and pace for success by rightly searching for, selecting and supporting, when appropriate, “winning” economic sectors, whole industries or even specific firms. Selected firms, sectors or industries receive the full and firm backing of the state’s powerful resources as well as policies and financial guarantees (Panford 2017, n3, 164). 

Whether the Asian developmental state model can be duplicated generally and in Africa specifically has been the topic of much debate[1] in which some see promise (Panford 2017; Shaw 2012; Mkandawire 2001; Nwapi and Andrews 2017). In the context of this analysis of current and prospective structures of the extractive industries in SSA within the context of the pursuit of the AMV and its impacts on accomplishing the SDGs and the challenges posed to development by the climate change crisis, it is worthwhile to consider these features as elements of a potential African developmental state.

The concept of ‘new’ regionalisms extends beyond regional organizations and institutions to include characteristics of “multidimensionality, complexity, fluidity, and non-conformity” that involves “a variety of state and non-state actors, who often come together in rather informal multi-actor coalitions” (Falk and Jessop 2003, 1–2). New regionalism includes relationships between regionalism and the extra-regional environment i.e. globalization. Other considerations include: micro-regions within a state or cross-border, macro-regions, (world regions), which are larger territorial units or sub-systems, between the state and the global system level, and meso-regions which characterize mid-range state or non-state arrangements and processes (Ibid 2003).

Innovations in African regions are manifest in different stages of implementation. Lorenz and Rempe (2013) highlight Africa’s contributions with an innovative range of ‘new regionalisms’ involving a variety of non-state actors such as, the Maputo Corridor, Kgalagadi trans-frontier peace-park to Nile Basin Initiative (NBI)/Dialogue; and from International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and regional cooperation in forums such as, Tripartite Free Trade Agreement (T-FTA) between the Southern Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC) (Hansohm 2013) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) (Hartzenberg 2012).

The AMV Action Plan notes that the environmental and social burdens of mining reduce the benefits of mineral exploitation when these costs are considered. In order to address these adverse impacts, it calls on governments to strengthen the frameworks that govern environmental and social impact assessment, management, and regulation as well as, bolster capacity of regulatory agencies. Corporations are called upon to improve the practice and application of corporate social responsibility, and notes that “there is a proliferation of CSR frameworks, norms and reporting formats—some legislated, but most guidelines are voluntary codes. These myriad sources and frameworks are often uncoordinated and sometimes confusing. It is important therefore to embed CSR in a framework whose responsibilities are clear and is part of a broader social development agenda that has been consultatively developed between government, mining companies and communities. This would strengthen the social license for mining projects” (African Union Commission, 2011, 28).

As states in cooperation with stakeholders implement sustainable development and local content projects, the developmental state framework assists in identifying the characteristics of African variety of developmental state. Furthermore, developmental regionalisms provide insight for analysis of African states and stakeholders as regional linkages evolve to create economies of scale and local content development. The Africa Mining Vision is an outline to pursue complex developmental processes that include structural change. The theories of developmental state and developmental regionalisms may contribute insight for the planning and analysis of this complex restructuring.


Adejumobi, Said, and Zebulun Kreiter. 2016. “The Theory & Discourse of Developmental Regionalism.” Lusaka.

African Union Commission. n.d. “Building a Sustainable Future for Africa’s Extractive Industry: From Vision to Action.” In AU Conference of Ministers Responsible for Mineral Resources Development Second Ordinary Session. Addis Ababa.

Busia, Kojo, and Charles Akong. 2017. “The African Mining Vision: Perspectives on Mineral Resource Development in Africa.” Journal of Sustainable Development Law and Policy (The) 8, No. 1 (2017): 145-192. 8 (1): 145–92.

Falk, Richard, and Bob Jessop. 2003. “Theories of New Regionalism.” Theories of New Regionalism, no. January 2014.

Hansohm, Dirk. 2013. “South Sudan, Sudan and the East African Community: Potential of Enhanced Relationships.” W-2013/4. UNU-CRIS Wk.Papers. United Nations University.

Hartzenberg, Trudi. 2012. “The Tripartite Free Trade Area: Towards a New African Integration Paradigm?” Tralac, Trade Law Centre.

Johnson, Chalmers. 1982. MITI and the Japanese Miracle, 1925-1975. Stanford: Stanford Univesity Press.

Lorenz, Ulrike, and Martin Rempe. 2013. Comparing Regionalism in Africa: Mapping Agency. Farnham: Ashgate.

Mkandawire, Thandika. 2001. “Thinking about Developmental States in Africa.” Cambridge Journal of Economics 25 (3): 289–314.

Nwapi, Chilenye, and Nathan Andrews. 2017. “Recent State Interventions Vis-à-Vis Resource Extraction in Kenya , Tanzania , and Rwanda.” Journal of Sustainable Development 13: 223–67.

Oxfam. 2017. “From Aspiration to Reality: Unpacking the Africa Mining Vision.” Oxfam Briefing Paper.

Panford, Kwamina. 2017. Africa’s Natural Resources and Underdevelopment: How Ghana’s Petroleum Can Create Sustainable Economic Prosperity. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Shaw, Timothy M., J. Andrew Grant, and Scarlett Cornelissen, eds. 2011. The Ashgate Research Companion to Regionalisms. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.,+Regionalism&ots=I7G7BdG5sR&sig=76wqKpqmYTTWK1gQ3g6OtPHJMUc#v=onepage&q&f=false.

Shaw, Timothy M. 2012. “Africa’s Quest for Developmental States: ‘Renaissance’ for Whom?” Third World Quarterly 33 (5): 837–51.

Singh, Jewellord Nem, and France Bourgouin, eds. 2013. Resource Governance and Developmental States in the Global South: Critical International Political Economy Perspectives. Springer.

UNCTAD. 2013. “Economic Development in Africa: Intra-African Trade: Unlocking Private Sector Dynamism: Report 2013.” United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, no. July.

UNDP. 2013. Human Development Report 2013: The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World. United Nations Development Programme. New York: United Nations Development Programme.

UNECA. 2013a. “Making the Most of Africa’s Commodities: Industrializing for Growth, Jobs and Economic Transformation.”

———. 2013b. “Managing Africa’s Natural Resource Base for Sustainable Growth and Development: Sustainable Development Report on Africa IV.” Addis Ababa.

Yin-wah, Chu. 2016. “The Asian Developmental State: Ideas and Debates.” In The Asian Developmental State: Re-Examinations and New Departures. New York: Palgrave macmillan.

[1] For citations referencing the debate see Nwapi and Andrews 2017, p. 236 n. 55.

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