Political Centralization in Pre-Colonial Africa

38 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2013

See all articles by Philip Osafo-Kwaako

Philip Osafo-Kwaako

Brookings Institution

James A. Robinson

Harvard University - Department of Government; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 2013

Abstract

In this paper we investigate the empirical correlates of political centralization using data from the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample. We specifically investigate the explanatory power of the standard models of Eurasian state formation which emphasize the importance of high population density, inter-state warfare and trade as factors leading to political centralization. We find that while in the whole world sample these factors are indeed positively correlated with political centralization, this is not so in the African sub-sample. Indeed, none of the variables are statistically related to political centralization. We also provide evidence that political centralization, where it took place, was indeed associated with better public goods and development outcomes. We conclude that the evidence is quite consistent with the intellectual tradition initiated in social anthropology by Evans-Pritchard and Fortes in the 1940s which denied the utility of Eurasian models in explaining patterns of political centralization in Africa.

Suggested Citation

Osafo-Kwaako, Philip and Robinson, James A., Political Centralization in Pre-Colonial Africa (February 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18770, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2212011

Philip Osafo-Kwaako (Contact Author)

Brookings Institution ( email )

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James A. Robinson

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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