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This paper explores the state-building process in the developing world through an application of the European-inspired predatory theory of the state. Predatory theory relies heavily on war as a catalyst for state-building activities, but since it is such a rare event in the developing world, the paper turns to the literature on interstate rivalry for a theoretical and empirical substitute. The paper investigates whether this modification of predatory theory is portable to a spatial-temporal domain outside of early modern Europe by applying it in the context of the postcolonial developing states of sub-Saharan Africa. This is accomplished by examining the effects of both internal and external rivals on state extractive capacity in the region from 1975 to 2000. A series of pooled, cross-sectional time-series analyses suggest that both interstate and intrastate rivals affect state extractive capacity much as predatory theory would expect. However, predation to enhance state revenue in Africa has not set in motion the kinds of processes that ultimately led to the development of strong, cohesive, and responsive states as in the European experience.