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Indirect Rule and State Weakness in Africa: Sierra Leone in Comparative Perspective

In: African Successes, Volume IV: Sustainable Growth

Author

Listed:
  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Isaías N. Chaves
  • Philip Osafo-Kwaako
  • James A. Robinson

Abstract

A fundamental problem for economic development is that most poor countries have 'weak state' which are incapable or unwilling to provide basic public goods such as law enforcement, order, education and infrastructure. In Africa this is often attributed to the persistence of 'indirect rule' from the colonial period. In this paper we discuss the ways in which a state constructed on the basis of indirect rule is weak and the mechanisms via which this has persisted since independence in Sierra Leone. We also present a hypothesis as to why the extent to which indirect rule has persisted varies greatly within Africa, linking it to the presence or the absence of large centralized pre-colonial polities within modern countries. Countries which had such a polity, such as Ghana and Uganda, tended to abolish indirect rule since it excessively empowered traditional rulers at the expense of post-colonial elites. Our argument provides a new mechanism which can explain the positive correlation between pre-colonial political centralization and modern public goods and development outcomes.
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Suggested Citation

  • Daron Acemoglu & Isaías N. Chaves & Philip Osafo-Kwaako & James A. Robinson, 2014. "Indirect Rule and State Weakness in Africa: Sierra Leone in Comparative Perspective," NBER Chapters,in: African Successes, Volume IV: Sustainable Growth, pages 343-370 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:13443
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Rauch, James E. & Evans, Peter B., 2000. "Bureaucratic structure and bureaucratic performance in less developed countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 49-71, January.
    2. Daron Acemoglu & Davide Ticchi & Andrea Vindigni, 2011. "Emergence And Persistence Of Inefficient States," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 177-208, April.
    3. Daron Acemoglu & Camilo García-Jimeno & James A. Robinson, 2015. "State Capacity and Economic Development: A Network Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(8), pages 2364-2409, August.
    4. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2013. "Pre‐Colonial Ethnic Institutions and Contemporary African Development," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(1), pages 113-152, January.
    5. Acemoglu, Daron, 2005. "Politics and economics in weak and strong states," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(7), pages 1199-1226, October.
    6. Nicola Gennaioli & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2015. "State Capacity and Military Conflict," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(4), pages 1409-1448.
    7. repec:ucp:bkecon:9780226470702 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Nicola Gennaioli & Ilia Rainer, 2007. "The modern impact of precolonial centralization in Africa," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 185-234, September.
    9. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson & Rafael J. Santos, 2013. "The Monopoly Of Violence: Evidence From Colombia," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11, pages 5-44, January.
    10. Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay & Elliott Green, 2016. "Precolonial Political Centralization and Contemporary Development in Uganda," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64(3), pages 471-508.
    11. James A. Robinson & Thierry Verdier, 2013. "The Political Economy of Clientelism," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 115(2), pages 260-291, April.
    12. repec:hal:journl:halshs-00846558 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Lakshmi Iyer, 2010. "Direct versus Indirect Colonial Rule in India: Long-Term Consequences," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 693-713, November.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Pedro Naso & Erwin Bulte & Tim Swanson, 2017. "Can there be benefits from competing legal regimes? The impact of legal pluralism in post-conflict Sierra Leone," CIES Research Paper series 56-2017, Centre for International Environmental Studies, The Graduate Institute.
    2. repec:eee:exehis:v:64:y:2017:i:c:p:1-20 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Cornelius Christian, 2017. "Elites, Weather Shocks, And Witchcraft Trials In Scotland," Working Papers 1801, Brock University, Department of Economics.
    4. repec:taf:jdevst:v:53:y:2017:i:2:p:278-294 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Mizuno, Nobuhiro, 2016. "Political structure as a legacy of indirect colonial rule: Bargaining between national governments and rural elites in Africa," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 1023-1039.
    6. repec:kap:pubcho:v:174:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s11127-018-0499-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2014. "On the Ethnic Origins of African Development Chiefs and Pre-colonial Political Centralization," NBER Working Papers 20513, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government

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