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Explaining Africa's Growth Tragedy: A Theoretical Model of Dictatorship and Kleptocracy


  • Yuan K. Chou
  • Hayat Khan


In this paper, we construct a dynamic model of a kleptocratic dictatorship to explain sub-Saharan Africa’s dismal economic performance between the early 1970s and the mid-1990s. The dictator’s objective is to maximize a discounted stream of revenue generated through theft of the economy’s output by choosing the optimal expropriation rate and the size of the security force employed to enforce his rule. The model is used to evaluate alternative intervention options open to developed countries such as unconditional, conditional and selective foreign aid, financial and military assistance to rebel groups, as well as medical relief to combat the HIV/AIDs pandemic.

Suggested Citation

  • Yuan K. Chou & Hayat Khan, 2004. "Explaining Africa's Growth Tragedy: A Theoretical Model of Dictatorship and Kleptocracy," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 922, The University of Melbourne.
  • Handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:922

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Maurice Obstfeld., 1998. "Foreign Resource Inflows, Saving, and Growth," Center for International and Development Economics Research (CIDER) Working Papers C98-099, University of California at Berkeley.
    2. Banerjee, A.V., 1997. "A Theory of Misgovernance," Working papers 97-4, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    3. Alesina, Alberto & Dollar, David, 2000. "Who Gives Foreign Aid to Whom and Why?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 33-63, March.
    4. Jan Willem Gunning & Paul Collier, 1999. "Explaining African Economic Performance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 64-111, March.
    5. Jody Overland & Kenneth Simons & Michael Spagat, 2005. "Political instability and growth in dictatorships," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 125(3), pages 445-470, December.
    6. Collier, Paul & Dollar, David, 2001. "Can the World Cut Poverty in Half? How Policy Reform and Effective Aid Can Meet International Development Goals," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(11), pages 1787-1802, November.
    7. Paul Mosley & John Hudson & Arjan Verschoor, 2004. "Aid, Poverty Reduction and the 'New Conditionality'," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(496), pages 217-243, June.
    8. C-J. Dalgaard & H. Hansen, 2001. "On Aid, Growth and Good Policies," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(6), pages 17-41.
    9. John Sender, 1999. "Africa's Economic Performance: Limitations of the Current Consensus," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 89-114, Summer.
    10. David Dollar & Craig Burnside, 2000. "Aid, Policies, and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 847-868, September.
    11. Benno J. Ndulu & Stephen A. O'Connell, 1999. "Governance and Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(3), pages 41-66, Summer.
    12. Carl-Johan Dalgaard & Henrik Hansen & Finn Tarp, 2004. "On The Empirics of Foreign Aid and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(496), pages 191-216, June.
    13. Hansen, Henrik & Tarp, Finn, 2001. "Aid and growth regressions," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 547-570, April.
    14. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1997. "A Theory of Misgovernance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1289-1332.
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    16. Boone, Peter, 1996. "Politics and the effectiveness of foreign aid," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 289-329, February.
    17. Baizhu Chen & Yi Feng, 1999. "Economic development and the transition to democracy a formal model," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 16(1), pages 1-16.
    18. William Easterly, 2003. "Can Foreign Aid Buy Growth?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 23-48, Summer.
    19. William Easterly & Ross Levine & David Roodman, 2003. "New Data, New Doubts: Revisiting "Aid, Policies, and Growth"," Working Papers 26, Center for Global Development.
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    1. repec:ora:jrojbe:v:2:y:2017:i:2:p:27-36 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Economic performance; dictatorship; foreign aid; Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • D78 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Positive Analysis of Policy Formulation and Implementation
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • O55 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Africa


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