Berihun Adugna Gebeye, Federal Theory and Federalism in Africa in:

VRÜ Verfassung und Recht in Übersee , page 95 - 115

VRÜ Volume 53 (2020) Issue 2 Browse Volumes:  VRÜ Verfassung und Recht in Übersee


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.