Since the dawn of the post-colonial era in the various regions of the “Global South,” including Africa, the appropriate role of the state in the development process has been a frontier issue. The resulting debate has revolved around two major trajectories: the minimalist state and the maximalist state. The former, shaped by the liberal cum neo-liberal Weltanschauung, posits that the state should have a limited role in socio-economic development—basically the creation of propitious conditions for the private accumulation of capital. Essentially, the suzerainty over the development process should rest with the “market” and its associated forces, particularly businesses. On the other hand, the maximalist state perspective asserts that the state should have a prominent role in the development process, including serving as the engine. Importantly, the debate has gone through various cycles, each dominated by the minimalist state paradigm.
In spite of the hegemony of the minimalist state perspective, several states in the “Global South” have experimented with various models of state dirigisme — the “developmental state:” authoritarian (e.g. Singapore and South Korea) and democratic (e.g. Botswana and Mauritius). Against this backdrop, using the lessons learned from the experiences of some of the states in the “Global South” that have experimented with variants of the developmental state model, this article concluded that the social democratic developmental state is the best trajectory for promoting human-centered democracy and development in Africa.