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The Permanent Effects of Transportation Revolutions in Poor Countries: Evidence from Africa

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  • Remi Jedwab
  • Alexander Moradi

Abstract

We exploit the construction and eventual demise of the colonial railroads in Africa to study the impact of transportation investments in poor countries. Using Ghana and Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, we assembled new data on railroads and cities spanning over one century to show that: (i) Railroads had large effects on the spatial distribution and aggregate level of economic activity during the colonial period, as they constituted a transportation revolution in a context where no modern transportation technology previously existed. (ii) These effects have persisted to date, although railroads collapsed and road networks expanded considerably in the post-independence period. The analysis contributes to our understanding of the heterogeneous impact of transportation investments. It shows that initial investments may have a large effect in poor countries with basic infrastructure. As the countries develop, increasing returns may then solidify their spatial distribution, and subsequent investments may have a smaller effect on local economic development.

Suggested Citation

  • Remi Jedwab & Alexander Moradi, 2015. "The Permanent Effects of Transportation Revolutions in Poor Countries: Evidence from Africa," CEH Discussion Papers 031, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  • Handle: RePEc:auu:hpaper:031
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    File URL: https://www.cbe.anu.edu.au/researchpapers/CEH/WP201501.pdf
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Transportation; Railroads; Development; Cities; Path Dependence; Roads;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • R4 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics
    • R1 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics
    • N97 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Africa; Oceania

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