Accepted Paper:

Oiling the Developmental State? Re-thinking the State-Oil Nexus in Africa  


Cyril Obi (Nordic Africa Institute)

Paper long abstract:

Can oil fuel the rise of developmental states in Africa? This paper explores the relationship between the political economy of oil and the prospects for development in Africa. It critically examines the “oil curse” thesis that seeks to draw a determinate linkage between oil wealth, corruption, predatory and rentier forms of statism, and the “hindering” of development in Africa. The assumptions of this perspective tend to fuel pessimism and under-pin the gloomy prognosis for the prospects for development by African petro-states, except they exorcise their countries of the “oil curse” through neo-liberal political and economic reforms.

Drawing on the case of Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, this paper provides a more nuanced interpretation of the implications of the state-oil nexus for the quest for development. It also shows that an understanding of how the transnational logics of accumulation and dispossession as well as social forces and power relations find expression in the politics of the petro-state is more useful for an analysis of how oil wealth has not so far led to economic transformation in Nigeria.

The paper makes a strong case for the re-thinking the oil-state and its role in development in Africa beyond the narrow confines of a “gate-keeper”, “rentier” or “lame leviathan”, and suggests ways through which the present conjuncture can be broadened to make the people the focus of development, and transcended by a democratic transition to a developmental oil state in Africa.

Panel H1
The State