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date: 25 April 2019


A Dictionary of African Politics

Nicholas Cheeseman


A theory of Africa’s international relations which posits the active participation of African elites in the creation and sustenance of the continent’s marginal global position. Proponents of this theory—such as its originator and most influential advocate, Jean-François Bayart—reject the notion of Africa as a passive player in international affairs. Instead, they argue that African elites have contributed to the relationship of dependence between Africa and the rest of the world because it has often been in their interests to do so. By making this point, proponents of extraversion highlight the capacity of African leaders and governments to manipulate their country’s unequal relationships with other states to their own benefit. In this sense, it is related to—though very different from—the notion of the gatekeeper state. Critics, such as scholars influenced by dependency theory, have argued that the notion of extraversion underplays the extent of the constraints placed on the continent by global inequalities.