COVID-19 and the Making of a South African Democratic Developmental State

Prospects and Pitfalls Amid a Pandemic


  • Marcel Nagar University of Johannesburg



Cold War Geopolitics, COVID-19, East Asian Tigers, Ethnic Rivalries, External, Internal and Global Security Threats, Democratic Developmental State, Developmental State, South Africa


This article assesses the impact of untraditional security threats on the origin and institutional configuration of existing and prospective developmental states in Africa. It adopts a case study research methodological approach which interrogates the effect of internal and global security threats on the formation of 21st-century African developmental states through the presence of four developmental state features: Development-Oriented Political Leadership; Presence of a Pilot Agency; Private Sector and/or Broad-Based Developmental Coalitions; and Popular Mobilisation through a Developmentalist Ideology. The case studies under review include four existing (Botswana, Mauritius, Ethiopia, and Rwanda) and one prospective (South Africa) African developmental states. This article finds that intense ethnic rivalries and domestic development imperatives were sufficient factors triggering the construction of developmental states in Botswana, Mauritius, Ethiopia, and Rwanda. Furthermore, the outbreak of COVID-19 has served as a global threat which precipitated developmental state project in South Africa.

Author Biography

Marcel Nagar, University of Johannesburg

Dr Marcel Nagar is a postdoctoral research fellow at the NRF SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg where she obtained her doctoral degree in Political Science in October 2019. Her research interests include African Politics, International Political Economy, Development Administration, Economic Policy and Social Policy in Developing Countries, Regionalism, Development Theory, and the broader debates surrounding the Developmental State and as well as the Democratic Developmental State.


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How to Cite

Nagar, M. (2021). COVID-19 and the Making of a South African Democratic Developmental State: Prospects and Pitfalls Amid a Pandemic. Politikon: The IAPSS Journal of Political Science, 48, 70–95.