The Economic Origins of Conflict in Africa

114 Pages Posted: 17 Jan 2017

See all articles by Eoin McGuirk

Eoin McGuirk

Yale University

Marshall Burke

University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Date Written: January 2017

Abstract

We study the impact of plausibly exogenous global food price shocks on local violence across the African continent. In food-producing areas, higher food prices reduce conflict over the control of territory (what we call "factor conflict") and increase conflict over the appropriation of surplus ("output conflict"). We argue that this difference arises because higher prices raise the opportunity cost of soldiering for producers, while simultaneously inducing net consumers to appropriate increasingly valuable surplus as their real wages fall. In regions without crop agriculture, higher food prices increase both factor conflict and output conflict. We validate local-level findings on output conflict using geocoded survey data on interpersonal theft and violence against commercial farmers and traders. Ignoring the distinction between producer and consumer effects leads to attenuated estimates. Our findings help reconcile a growing but ambiguous literature on the economic roots of conflict.

Suggested Citation

McGuirk, Eoin and Burke, Marshall, The Economic Origins of Conflict in Africa (January 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23056, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2900062

Eoin McGuirk (Contact Author)

Yale University ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States

Marshall Burke

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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