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Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa

  • Nathan Nunn
  • Diego Puga

There is controversy about whether geography matters mainly because of its contemporaneous impact on economic outcomes or because of its interaction with historical events. Looking at terrain ruggedness, we are able to estimate the importance of these two channels. Because rugged terrain hinders trade and most productive activities, it has a negative direct effect on income. However, in Africa rugged terrain afforded protection to those being raided during the slave trades. Since the slave trades retarded subsequent economic development, in Africa ruggedness has also had a historical indirect positive effect on income. Studying all countries worldwide, we find that both effects are significant statistically and that for Africa the indirect positive effect dominates the direct negative effect. Looking within Africa, we also provide evidence that the indirect effect operates through the slave trades.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14918.

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Date of creation: Apr 2009
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Publication status: published as Nathan Nunn & Diego Puga, 2012. "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 20-36, 08.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14918
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