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The Economic Origins of Twentieth Century Decolonisation in West Africa


  • J.A. Agbor


This paper argues that the pattern of decolonisation in West Africa was a function of the nature of human capital transfers from the colonisers to the indigenous elites of the former colonies. Underpinning the nature of these human capital transfers is the colonial educational ideology. Where this ideology emphasized the notion of "assimilation", the system generally tended to produce elites that depended highly on the coloniser for their livelihood, hence necessitating a continuation of the imperial relationship even after independence was granted. On the contrary, where the ideology emphasized the "strengthening of the solid elements" of the country-side, the system tended to produce a bunch of elites that were quite independent of the coloniser and consequently had little to lose from a disruption of the imperial relationship at independence. The model raises several predictions based on a single assumption on the nature of the nationalist elite. The paper's contribution, is in providing a framework for understanding the different paths of decolonisation in Africa in general, but more specifically in the British and French West African empires, an approach which unites both the Eurocentric and Afrocentric perspectives.

Suggested Citation

  • J.A. Agbor, 2010. "The Economic Origins of Twentieth Century Decolonisation in West Africa," Working Papers 177, Economic Research Southern Africa.
  • Handle: RePEc:rza:wpaper:177

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jacek Rostowski & Bogdan Stacescu, 2006. "The Wig and the Pith Helmet - the Impact of "Legal School" versus Colonial Institutions on Economic Performance (second version)," CASE Network Studies and Analyses 0300, CASE-Center for Social and Economic Research.
    2. Abhijit Banerjee & Lakshmi Iyer, 2005. "History, Institutions, and Economic Performance: The Legacy of Colonial Land Tenure Systems in India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(4), pages 1190-1213, September.
    3. Edward L. Glaeser & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Do Institutions Cause Growth?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 271-303, September.
    4. Grier, Robin M, 1999. "Colonial Legacies and Economic Growth," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 98(3-4), pages 317-335, March.
    5. repec:hrv:faseco:30728041 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Gregory N. Price, 2003. "Economic Growth in a Cross-section of Nonindustrial Countries: Does Colonial Heritage Matter for Africa?," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(3), pages 478-495, August.
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    More about this item


    Decolonisation; Human Capital Transfers; Eurocentrism; Afrocentrism; West Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education

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