The Modern Impact of Precolonial Centralization in Africa
62 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2005
Date Written: November 2005
We assess, theoretically and empirically, the view that precolonial political institutions shaped the performance of colonial and postcolonial African governments. Using anthropological data, we find a strong positive association between the provision of public goods such as education, health and infrastructure in African countries and the centralization of their ethnic groups' precolonial institutions. To empirically identify the effect of precolonial centralization, we build and test a model where centralization boosts public goods by making local elites more accountable. Our results are consistent with the view that precolonial centralization shaped the success of modernization policies in Africa by reducing policy capture by local elites. The paper documents the importance of precolonial institutions and stresses the desirability of centralization when local capture undermines socioeconomic reforms.
Keywords: Precolonial Centralization, Modernization, Africa
JEL Classification: O10, O55, P16, P50
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