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Indirect Rule and State Weakness in Africa: Sierra Leone in Comparative Perspective

Listed author(s):
  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Isaías N. Chaves
  • Philip Osafo-Kwaako
  • James A. Robinson

A fundamental problem for economic development is that most poor countries have 'weak state' which are incapable or unwilling to provide basic public goods such as law enforcement, order, education and infrastructure. In Africa this is often attributed to the persistence of 'indirect rule' from the colonial period. In this paper we discuss the ways in which a state constructed on the basis of indirect rule is weak and the mechanisms via which this has persisted since independence in Sierra Leone. We also present a hypothesis as to why the extent to which indirect rule has persisted varies greatly within Africa, linking it to the presence or the absence of large centralized pre-colonial polities within modern countries. Countries which had such a polity, such as Ghana and Uganda, tended to abolish indirect rule since it excessively empowered traditional rulers at the expense of post-colonial elites. Our argument provides a new mechanism which can explain the positive correlation between pre-colonial political centralization and modern public goods and development outcomes.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w20092.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 20092.

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Date of creation: May 2014
Publication status: published as Indirect Rule and State Weakness in Africa: Sierra Leone in Comparative Perspective , Daron Acemoglu, Isaías N. Chaves, Philip Osafo-Kwaako, James A. Robinson. in African Successes, Volume IV: Sustainable Growth , Edwards, Johnson, and Weil. 2016
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20092
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  1. Rauch, James E. & Evans, Peter B., 2000. "Bureaucratic structure and bureaucratic performance in less developed countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 49-71, January.
  2. Daron Acemoglu & Davide Ticchi & Andrea Vindigni, 2011. "Emergence And Persistence Of Inefficient States," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 177-208, 04.
  3. Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay & Elliott Green, 2016. "Precolonial Political Centralization and Contemporary Development in Uganda," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64(3), pages 471-508.
  4. Daron Acemoglu & Camilo García-Jimeno & James A. Robinson, 2015. "State Capacity and Economic Development: A Network Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(8), pages 2364-2409, August.
  5. Stelios Michalopoulos & Elias Papaioannou, 2013. "Pre‐Colonial Ethnic Institutions and Contemporary African Development," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 81(1), pages 113-152, 01.
  6. James A. Robinson & Thierry Verdier, 2013. "The Political Economy of Clientelism," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 115(2), pages 260-291, 04.
  7. Acemoglu, Daron, 2005. "Politics and economics in weak and strong states," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(7), pages 1199-1226, October.
  8. repec:hal:journl:halshs-00846558 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Nicola Gennaioli & Joachim Voth, 2011. "State capacity and military conflict," Economics Working Papers 1294, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2013.
  10. Lakshmi Iyer, 2010. "Direct versus Indirect Colonial Rule in India: Long-Term Consequences," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 693-713, November.
  11. Nicola Gennaioli & Ilia Rainer, 2007. "The modern impact of precolonial centralization in Africa," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(3), pages 185-234, September.
  12. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson & Rafael J. Santos, 2013. "The Monopoly Of Violence: Evidence From Colombia," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11, pages 5-44, 01.
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