chapter  18
The Structural Adjustment of Politics in Africa
ByJeffrey Herbst
Pages 19

The structural adjustment programs currently being proposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Africa have important political consequences. Most African leaders operate in political systems where votes do not matter. Instead, rulers try to institutionalize their regimes by establishing webs of patron-client relations to garner the support necessary to remain in power. The paradigmatic example of state intervention in the economy to cement patron-client relations is the state-owned enterprises which blossomed throughout Africa as soon as countries began to receive their independence in the 1960s. The logic of political intervention in the economy had other important ramifications for the development of patronage systems in Africa. From the perspective of African leaders, structural adjustment creates a volatile political climate in which the threat of even minor disruptions must be taken very seriously. African governments will be faced with a risky political environment as they will be forced to adopt more decentralized forms of government.