View the H-Africa Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in H-Africa's November 1997 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in H-Africa's November 1997 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the H-Africa home page.
<email@example.com> Date: Sat, 8 Nov 1997 I have been travelling and so come to this discussion late, for which my apologies. I have been struck by the degree to which the responses to Howard French's original query (& I think we should thank him for provoking such an interesting discussion) have focused on ethnicity as a basis for "logical" borders. Though other factors have been mentioned, I should in particular be interested to see contributions from others who are better qualified than I on possible boundaries based on economic logic, such as trading networks (with all the usual disclaimers as to the desirability of actually implementing such boundaries), or on simple financial viability in a global economy. (Is there an African economy email discussion list?) Rivers, for example, are usually natural ("logical") _centres_ of economic activity, rather than boundaries between different economic areas. While the Rhine may have become a natural border in Europe because of its military utility (?), the use of the Senegal River to divide Senegal and Mauritania, for example, when combined with the repressive policies of the Mauritanian government, has divided communities historically linked by trade across and along the river (as well as by ethnic ties), with damaging consequences for many. Or, to take a different perspective: in Nigeria, the progressive process of state creation (now 36, from 3 regions at independence) has brought into being units of government that are supposedly more logical if considered on the basis of ethnicity, but not one of them is viable economically, except perhaps Lagos state (oil belongs to the federal government). Although superficially there has been greater devolution, in practice the effect has been to achieve much greater centralisation, greater even than during the colonial period, since every state is dependent on the federal government for block grants. Furthermore, the multiplication of state and local governments has created more rather than less "ethnic" conflict, as the politics of competition for centrally distributed resources has focused on such matters as demands for new government units based on "tribe" or the location of local and state government headquarters. Another area of enquiry: to what extent are the small states of West Africa financially viable? What distinguishes Singapore from Gambia in this regard -- a clearly stupid question, but one which I hope will provoke some intelligent answers?