Exploring the Impact of Neighborhood on State-Building in sub-Saharan Africa

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Why is state-building more advanced in some sub-Saharan African countries than in others? And, over time, what accounts for the steady gains, steady declines, or gains followed by declines (or vice-versa) observed in the state-building trajectories of Africa's states? This dissertation endeavors to shed light on these questions by assessing the impact of one suspected cause of state-building variation: the way power is distributed among states and their neighbors. Specifically, this dissertation assesses whether the relative distribution of power provides incentives or disincentives to regimes in charge of states to pursue policies that are conducive or detrimental to state-building. Employing OLS, two hypotheses are tested: one which predicts that regimes in charge of relatively weak states promote policies conducive to state-building, and another which predicts that regimes in charge of relatively weak states opt for a strategy of personal rule that runs counter to the imperatives of state-building. Findings are mixed and often contingent upon how state-building is measured; when state-building is assessed in terms of how proficiently the state regulates social and economic life, provides infrastructure services to its population, and promotes human development, support is found for the latter hypothesis. Yet when state-building is measured in terms of how well the state monopolizes the legitimate use of force or forges convergence between nations and the state, no statistically significant relationship in either direction is found. Thus, while there is at least some evidence that the regional distribution of power impacts the state-building process, it does not appear to do so quite as robustly as expected.