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African states and development in historical perspective: Colonial public finances in British and French West

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  • Denis Cogneau

    (IRD - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, PJSE - Paris Jourdan Sciences Economiques - UP1 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, PSE - Paris School of Economics)

  • Yannick Dupraz

    (University of Warwick [Coventry])

  • Sandrine Mesplé-Somps

    (DIAL - Développement, institutions et analyses de long terme, LEDa - Laboratoire d'Economie de Dauphine - Université Paris Dauphine-PSL - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres, PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres)

Abstract

Why does it seem so difficultto build a sizeable developmenta state in Africa? Agrowing literature looks at the colonial roots of differences in economic development, often using the French/British difference as asource of variation to identify which features of the colonial pastmattered. We use historical archivestobuildanewdatasetofpublicfinancesin9Frenchand4Britishcoloniesof West Africa from 1900 to in dependence.Though we find some significant differences between French and British colonies, we conclude that over all patterns of public finances were similarin both empires. The most striking fact is the greatin crease in expenditure per capitain the last decades of colonization: it quadrupled between the end o World War II and independence. This increase inexpenditure was made possible partly by an increase incustoms revenue due to rising trade flows, but mostly by policy changes: netsubsidies from colonizers to their colonies became positive, while, within the colonies, direct and indirect taxation rates increased. We conclude that the last fifteen years of colonization area key period tounderstand colonial legacies.

Suggested Citation

  • Denis Cogneau & Yannick Dupraz & Sandrine Mesplé-Somps, 2018. "African states and development in historical perspective: Colonial public finances in British and French West," PSE Working Papers halshs-01820209, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-01820209
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01820209
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Elise Huillery, 2009. "History Matters: The Long-Term Impact of Colonial Public Investments in French West Africa," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 176-215, April.
    2. Ewout H.P. Frankema, 2012. "The origins of formal education in sub-Saharan Africa: was British rule more benign?," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(4), pages 335-355, November.
    3. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson, 2009. "The Origins of State Capacity: Property Rights, Taxation, and Politics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1218-1244, September.
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    5. Cogneau, Denis & Moradi, Alexander, 2014. "Borders That Divide: Education and Religion in Ghana and Togo Since Colonial Times," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 694-729, September.
    6. Julia Cage & Lucie Gadenne, 2014. "Tax Revenues, Development, and the Fiscal Cost of Trade Liberalization, 1792-2006," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/4icc4hr7684, Sciences Po.
    7. Ewout Frankema & Morten Jerven, 2014. "Writing history backwards or sideways: towards a consensus on African population, 1850–2010," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(4), pages 907-931, November.
    8. Jutta Bolt & Jan Luiten Zanden, 2014. "The Maddison Project: collaborative research on historical national accounts," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 67(3), pages 627-651, August.
    9. Frankema, Ewout & Waijenburg, Marlous Van, 2012. "Structural Impediments to African Growth? New Evidence from Real Wages in British Africa, 1880–1965," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 72(4), pages 895-926, December.
    10. Baunsgaard, Thomas & Keen, Michael, 2010. "Tax revenue and (or?) trade liberalization," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(9-10), pages 563-577, October.
    11. Daron Acemoglu & Tristan Reed & James A. Robinson, 2014. "Chiefs: Economic Development and Elite Control of Civil Society in Sierra Leone," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 122(2), pages 319-368.
    12. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/10262 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Gardner, Leigh A., 2012. "Taxing Colonial Africa: The Political Economy of British Imperialism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199661527.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cagé, Julia & Gadenne, Lucie, 2018. "Tax revenues and the fiscal cost of trade liberalization, 1792–2006," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 1-24.
    2. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2020. "Historical Legacies and African Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 58(1), pages 53-128, March.

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    Keywords

    state building; colonization; West Africa; Public finances;

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