This introductory chapter explains that the book examines state-building and consolidation in Africa over the last several hundred years by focusing on the fundamental problem confronting leaders of almost all African states: how to broadcast power over sparsely settled lands. The book’s fundamental assumption is that states are only viable if they are able to control the territory defined by their borders. It argues that the failure of many African states to consolidate their authority has resulted in civil wars in some countries, the presence of millions of refugees throughout the continent, and the adoption of highly dysfunctional policies by many leaders. Yet international society, by dint of the granting of sovereignty, still assumes that all African countries are able to control all of the territory within their boundaries. The book also evaluates different policy alternatives that might address some of the fundamental political challenges African states face today.
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