This paper analyses the contribution of the African state to the problems of development in Africa. I argue that the nature of the modern African state, inherited from the colonial state, is inherently oppressive and dysfunctional and that a fundamental change in the nature of the state is required in order to reposition the continent developmentally and liberate the energies of the African people. The existing nature of the African state disposes it toward a negative relationship with the people, leading to a gap in the relationship between the people and the state. This gap has to be bridged in order for the state to contribute positively to the developmental process in the interests of the people. I argue in particular that relying on structural adjustment, electoral democracy and other forms of reform to bridge this gap is misplaced because these reforms do not seek to change the nature of the African state. The people cannot liberate themselves from state oppression or make the state accountable through elections conducted and presided over by the existing negative structures of the state. Only a fundamental change in the nature of the state can accomplish this.