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Colonisation and Development in the Former French West Africa: The Long-term Impact of the Colonial Public Policy


  • Elise Huillery

    (Paris Jourdan Sciences Economiques (PSE), DIAL, Paris)


(english) To what extent did the colonial public policy influence the current regional inequalities in the Frenchspeaking West Africa? This paper uses the differences in development outcomes across the areas of the former French West Africa to show the existence of colonial long term effects on development paths. To correct from potential biases, I take carefully into account the geographical and pre-colonial characteristics of the districts and use the spatial discontinuities of the colonial public policy to control for unobservable districts’ characteristics. Results show that colonial history is a strong determinant of current development of the districts of the former French West Africa. First, the African chiefs’ association to the colonial administration played a discriminating role between districts but its effects are ambiguous, positive on educational performances and negative on the health performances. Secondly, the colonial public investments in education, health and public works explain much of the current regional development inequalities. The nature of the public investment also matters: each type of current performance has been specifically determined by the corresponding colonial investment. The colonial public policies had thus very persistent effects and played a strong spatial discriminating role. _________________________________ (français) Dans quelle mesure les inégalités spatiales en Afrique de l’Ouest francophone ont-elles été influencées par la politique publique menée par les Français pendant la période coloniale ? Ce papier utilise les différences de développement entre les cercles de l’ancienne Afrique Occidentale Française (AOF) pour mettre en évidence des effets de long terme de la colonisation sur les trajectoires de développement. Les caractéristiques géographiques ainsi que l’histoire précoloniale des cercles ont été prises en compte pour corriger l’éventuelle endogénéité de la politique coloniale. J’utilise ensuite les discontinuités spatiales de la politique coloniale pour contrôler également certaines caractéristiques inobservables des cercles. Les résultats montrent que l’histoire coloniale fut un déterminant important du développement des cercles de l’ancienne AOF. La première source de discrimination spatiale fut la politique d’association des chefs africains dans l’administration coloniale, mais son effet reste ambigu : elle a joué positivement sur les performances éducatives mais négativement sur les performances de santé. La deuxième source de discrimination entre les cercles, plus importante que la première, fut la politique d’investissement en biens publics (éducation, santé, infrastructures), qui explique une part importante des inégalités de développement actuelles entre les cercles. On observe enfin que la nature des investissements importe, même à long terme : les performances actuelles dans les domaines de l’éducation, de la santé et des infrastructures sont chacune spécifiquement expliquées par l’investissement colonial « correspondant ». La politique coloniale française a donc créé des discriminations spatiales très persistantes dont les marques sont encore nettement visibles aujourd’hui.

Suggested Citation

  • Elise Huillery, 2006. "Colonisation and Development in the Former French West Africa: The Long-term Impact of the Colonial Public Policy," Working Papers DT/2006/12, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
  • Handle: RePEc:dia:wpaper:dt200612

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:dau:papers:123456789/9522 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Denis COGNEAU, 2012. "The Political Dimension Of Inequality During Economic Development," Region et Developpement, Region et Developpement, LEAD, Universite du Sud - Toulon Var, vol. 35, pages 11-36.
    3. repec:dau:papers:123456789/4300 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Denis Cogneau & Léa Rouanet, 2009. "Living Conditions in Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Western Africa 1925-1985: What Do Survey Data on Height Stature Tell Us?," Working Papers DT/2009/12, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    5. repec:dau:papers:123456789/4302 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Colonisation; West Africa; Spatial inequalities; Development; Public goods; Public policy; Colonisation; Afrique de l’Ouest; Inégalités spatiales; Développement; Biens publics; Politique publique.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
    • N47 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Africa; Oceania
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)

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