Federal Theory and Federalism in Africa

Verfassung und Recht in Übersee, Forthcoming

24 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2020

See all articles by Berihun Adugna Gebeye

Berihun Adugna Gebeye

Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law

Date Written: August 24, 2020


This article examines the African experiment with federalism in light of classic federal theory with the objective of identifying and illuminating patterns of convergence and divergence and the consequences thereof. Classic federal theory offers explanations for the origin, formation, structures, and success and failure of federalism. This article, drawing from the experience of Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa, reveals that while federalism in Africa shares the forms, structures, and discursive practices of classic federal theory, its normative articulations and institutional frameworks are animated by syncretic configurations. As a result, federalism transforms its purpose, fundamental elements, and operations in Africa. As federalism follows new pathways in Africa, this article shows how its system of operation and standards of assessment take a similar course. Against the central ethos of classic federal theory, federalism in Africa manages to operate and, to the extent possible, deliver its purpose mainly without liberal constitutionalism. This article argues that if federalism has to ensure the practice of constitutional democracy in Africa then democratic values, human rights, and constitutional considerations should animate its normative and institutional underpinnings as in classic federal theory.

Suggested Citation

Gebeye, Berihun Adugna, Federal Theory and Federalism in Africa (August 24, 2020). Verfassung und Recht in Übersee, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3680021 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3680021

Berihun Adugna Gebeye (Contact Author)

Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law ( email )

Im Neuenheimer Feld 535
69120 Heidelberg, 69120

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