African states did not develop in the same way as European states as they were not subjected to the same political and geographic pressures that led to war, according to Herbst (1990). War is a terrible thing, and it caused suffering and death for countless Europeans from the 15th century to the present day, however it also had an impact on how the states within Europe developed. Many would argue that war in Europe is the cause of today’s well developed and consolidated political infrastructure, clear borderlines and international rules of interaction.
In medieval Europe, pressures from within territories and external pressures created a unique requirement to consolidate power. Even before the medieval period there were pressures of protection due to the Roman Empire and warring factions based on language and culture. By the medieval period, the various nations had to unify and consolidate their power in order to defend themselves and form armies on the level necessary to fight other nation states who had done the same.
Africa, on the other hand, had little need to consolidate kingdoms and borders in the same manner of medieval Europe. It was only at the cause of European colonial rule that borders and political pressures did develop, and for the most part this reflected the issues of European colonial powers rather than internal African political pressures. In fact, the greatest pressure on Africa during the history of colonial contact was the colonial exploitation of resources. There was no need for war, as the European colonial powers had already agreed upon the division of resources. Without the political and geographic tensions of war and protection of borders, consolidation and unification of power has not been necessary for African states (Herbst, 1990).
The experience of Africa is more likely to reflect the experience of most nation states in the world. The experience of Europe is one that was peculiar from a global perspective. This can be seen as well in the relatively small space with many borderlines drawn, as this is an outgrowth of the unique history of Europe and its tensions (Herbst, 1990). States in Central and South America as well as Southeast Asia are more likely to reflect the African experience, not because they were exploited by colonial powers but rather because they too have not had the influences which result in the development of political and other infrastructure that comes from centuries of external concern over political power development elsewhere combined with an internal need to consolidate power (Herbst, 1990).
The resulting lack of development in Africa and other states in the manner of the European nations also explains to a great extent the failure of the African states, to the extent they have failed to behave as European states do. Herbst (1996) argues that many of the tragic situations found in Africa today are a direct result of the historical factors which did not lead to war in the past, and therefore resulted in no need to develop the responses and other tools of diplomacy and the negotiation. In fact, Europe created Africa in its own image during the period of colonization, and it was the decolonization which left the European model intact, but without the necessary supports that would make it work.
Responding to the political problems of African states requires more than historical review, but by understanding the comparative development and the missing components of political development there is more potential for other nations to find better ways to support, rather than interfere in, the political other development of African states as well as nations elsewhere in the world.