Africa's triple transition: popular perspectives

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African Security Review

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Taylor & Francis


University of Cape Town

Sub-Saharan Africa has witnessed the end of foreign colonial rule, the rise and fall of autocratic political regimes, and the disappearance of statist command economies. The challenges were to turn populations into coherent nations owing allegiance to the state; to democratise the state structures that govern these populations; and to liberalise the rules that regulate economic transactions. An important source to assess these prospects are the views and attitudes of ordinary Africans. This essay reflects on the original data derived from a crossnational research project. Nine African states were surveyed between 1999 and 2000. An attempt is made to gather some propositions from the analysis of the data. Many present serious challenges to common wisdom about African politics. It appears that the process of nationbuilding has created coherent political communities with high levels of national identity; that democratising the state in Africa builds on existing indigenous demands from ordinary Africans; and that economic liberalisation proceeds in the face of a mixed set of values about market and state.