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Colonialism and Economic Development in Africa

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  • Leander Heldring
  • James A. Robinson

Abstract

In this paper we evaluate the impact of colonialism on development in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the world context, colonialism had very heterogeneous effects, operating through many mechanisms, sometimes encouraging development sometimes retarding it. In the African case, however, this heterogeneity is muted, making an assessment of the average effect more interesting. We emphasize that to draw conclusions it is necessary not just to know what actually happened to development during the colonial period, but also to take a view on what might have happened without colonialism and also to take into account the legacy of colonialism. We argue that in the light of plausible counter-factuals, colonialism probably had a uniformly negative effect on development in Africa. To develop this claim we distinguish between three sorts of colonies: (1) those which coincided with a pre-colonial centralized state, (2) those of white settlement, (3) the rest. Each have distinct performance within the colonial period, different counter-factuals and varied legacies.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18566.

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Date of creation: Nov 2012
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18566

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  1. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2006. "Disease and Development: The Effect of Life Expectancy on Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 12269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Nunn, Nathan, 2007. "The Long-Term Effects of Africa's Slave Trades," MPRA Paper 4134, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," NBER Working Papers 8460, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Moradi, Alexander, 2009. "Towards an Objective Account of Nutrition and Health in Colonial Kenya: A Study of Stature in African Army Recruits and Civilians, 1880–1980," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(03), pages 719-754, September.
  5. Alexander Moradi, 2008. "Confronting colonial legacies-lessons from human development in Ghana and Kenya, 1880-2000," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(8), pages 1107-1121.
  6. John Manuel Luiz & Luis Brites Pereira & Guilherme Oliveira, 2011. "Constructing Institutional Measures: Indicators of Political and Property Rights in Mozambique, 1900-2005," Working Papers 219, Economic Research Southern Africa.
  7. Werner Troesken, 2004. "Water, Race, and Disease," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262201488, December.
  8. Markus Goldstein & Christopher Udry, 2005. "The Profits of Power: Land Rights and Agricultural Investment in Ghana," Working Papers 929, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  9. Werner Troesken, 2004. "Water, Race, and Disease," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number troe04-1.
  10. Rémi Jedwab & Alexandre Moradi, 2011. "Transportation Infrastructure and Development in Ghana," PSE Working Papers halshs-00607207, HAL.
  11. James A. Robinson & Q. Neil Parsons, 2006. "State Formation and Governance in Botswana," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 15(1), pages 100-140, April.
  12. Fedderke, J. W. & de Kadt, R. H. J. & Luiz, J. M., 2001. "Indicators of political liberty, property rights and political instability in South Africa: 1935-97," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 103-134, March.
  13. Sue Bowden & Paul Mosley, 2010. "Politics, public expenditure and the evolution of poverty in Africa 1920-2009," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 12510, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
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Cited by:
  1. Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 2011. "Human development in Africa : a long-run perspective," Working Papers in Economic History wp11-09, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Historia Económica e Instituciones.
  2. Léonce Ndikumana, 2013. "Overcoming Low Political Equilibrium in Africa: Institutional Changes for Inclusive Development," Working Papers wp331, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  3. Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 2012. "Output per head in pre-independence Africa : quantitative conjectures," Working Papers in Economic History wp12-11, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Historia Económica e Instituciones.

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