Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa

33 Pages Posted: 22 May 2008

See all articles by Nathan Nunn

Nathan Nunn

Harvard University - Department of Economics

Diego Puga

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Centre de Recerca en Economia Internacional (CREI)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 2007

Abstract

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 by slave traders. Since the slave trade retarded subsequent economic development, in Africa ruggedness also has 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 provide evidence that the indirect effect operates through the slave trade. We also show that the slave trade, by encouraging population concentrations in rugged areas, have also amplified the negative direct impact of rugged terrain in Africa.

Keywords: Africa, economic development, geography, slave trades, terrain ruggedness

JEL Classification: N40, N50, O11, O13

Suggested Citation

Nunn, Nathan and Puga, Diego, Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa (April 2007). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP6253, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1135491

Nathan Nunn (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Diego Puga

Universitat Pompeu Fabra - Centre de Recerca en Economia Internacional (CREI) ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, 08005
Spain

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