Proposal preview

Colonial Administrators, Public Investments and Long-Term Development in Africa

The papers in this session examine colonial leaders/administrators and investments in Africa in order to better understand the historical roots of diverging political and economic development in the continent. A growing literature emphasizes the role of institutions for economic development, but we know much less about the role of individual leaders/administrators and of colonial investments, especially at the subnational level. This is all the more important since, during the colonial era, the monitoring capacity of states was very limited and individuals had the scope to implement different (investment) policies within the same colony, as well as between colonies with a similar institutional context. In particular, this session examines the impact of European colonial administrators on state formation and investments as well as the impact of those colonial investments on the formation of African political leaders. Findings suggest that individual leaders’ characteristics affect colonial public investments and that colonial educational investments had an important impact on the forming the political elite that ruled after independence. In sum, these papers contribute to explain current regional economic and political inequality by providing new evidence that the early role of leaders/administrators and investments had a long-lasting impact.

Organizer(s)

  • Cédric Chambru University of Geneva cedric.chambru@unige.ch Switzerland
  • Joan Ricart-Huguet Princeton University jricart@princeton.edu United States of America

Session members

  • Cédric Chambru, University of Geneva
  • Quoc-Anh Do, Sciences Po Paris
  • Sacha Dray, London School of Economics
  • Élise Huillery, University of Paris-Dauphine
  • Joan Ricart-Huguet, Princeton University
  • Scott Viallet-Thévenin, Université de Toulouse le Mirail
  • Jean-Louis Keene, Sciences Po Paris
  • Yannick Dupraz, University of Warwick
  • Denis Cogneau, Paris School of Economics

Discussant(s)

  • James Fenske University of Warwick j.fenske@warwick.ac.uk

Papers

Panel abstract

A growing literature emphasizes the role of institutions to move onto more successful paths of economic development, but fewer research is interested in understanding how the composition of institutions also matters. During the colonial era, the monitoring capacity of states was limited, and individuals had the scope to implement different (investment) policies within the same country, and between countries with similar institutional context. Besides, there is evidence that the socio-economic background and educational level of French colonial administrators varied a lot more than their British counterparts. Papers in this session exploit new dataset gathering information on individuals’ characteristics to analyze the link between the quality of individuals and colonial investments both at the local (district) and national (colony) levels. Additional findings suggest that public investments had significant impact on the composition of local governments during the post-colonial era.

1st half

Who Governs? Colonial Education and Regional Political Inequality

Joan Ricart-Huguet

The regional composition of a government affects conflict, clientelism and public goods provision in developing countries. But what explains how power is distributed across the regions of a country to begin with? Extant explanations of cabinet formation focus on bargaining---leaders allocate portfolios strategically, often to minimize unrest---but fail to consider long-term factors. Using novel data on the political elites of 16 former British and French African colonies, I find that some districts are represented in post-colonial governments much more than others, even after adjusting for population. By combining historical records and geospatial data, I show that this regional political inequality derives from colonial investments in public (missionary) education in French (British) colonies rather than from other investments, levels of development during colonialism or pre-colonial factors. I argue that post-colonial ministers are largely a byproduct of civil service recruitment practices among European administrators, which focused on levels of literacy. In contrast...

The regional composition of a government affects conflict, clientelism and public goods provision in developing countries. But what explains how power is distributed across the regions of a country to begin with? Extant explanations of cabinet formation focus on bargaining---leaders allocate portfolios strategically, often to minimize unrest---but fail to consider long-term factors. Using novel data on the political elites of 16 former British and French African colonies, I find that some districts are represented in post-colonial governments much more than others, even after adjusting for population. By combining historical records and geospatial data, I show that this regional political inequality derives from colonial investments in public (missionary) education in French (British) colonies rather than from other investments, levels of development during colonialism or pre-colonial factors. I argue that post-colonial ministers are largely a byproduct of civil service recruitment practices among European administrators, which focused on levels of literacy. In contrast to recent work that examines the economic legacies of colonialism, these findings improve our understanding of its political legacies.

Leaders and State Capacity: Evidence from Colonial West Africa

Élise Huillery, Quoc-Anh Do, Jean-Louis Keene, Sacha Dray

This paper examines the role of colonial leaders in determining state formation in West Africa. We explore the interaction between the quality of colonial political leaders, the contemporaneous hostility of the population towards colonial state, and state capacity (taxation and public investments) in colonial times. Using unique personal data on colonial leaders’ at the district level between 1890 and 1930, and the quasi-random assignment of colonial leaders among West African districts, we show that individual leaders' characteristics appear to affect hostility of the population, tax revenue and public investments. The results suggest that individual leaders can play crucial roles in shaping state capacity, especially in early stages of state development.

This paper examines the role of colonial leaders in determining state formation in West Africa. We explore the interaction between the quality of colonial political leaders, the contemporaneous hostility of the population towards colonial state, and state capacity (taxation and public investments) in colonial times. Using unique personal data on colonial leaders’ at the district level between 1890 and 1930, and the quasi-random assignment of colonial leaders among West African districts, we show that individual leaders' characteristics appear to affect hostility of the population, tax revenue and public investments. The results suggest that individual leaders can play crucial roles in shaping state capacity, especially in early stages of state development.

Colonial Leadership, Public Investments, and Economic Growth: Evidence from the French Colonial Empire

Cédric Chambru, Denis Cogneau, Yannick Dupraz, and Scott Viallet-Thévenin

This paper investigates the role and the impact of political leadership on economic development. We collect biographic information about socio-economic background, education and professional career of every individual appointed as head of colony across the entire French colonial empire between 1895 and 1960. We identify different ideal types of colonial governors, which we link to measures of public investments in education and infrastructure during colonial times. These variations partially explain the diverging trajectories in terms of timing and pace of economic growth. The findings resulting from this analysis have implication for our understanding of the role of individuals within the same institutional context.

This paper investigates the role and the impact of political leadership on economic development. We collect biographic information about socio-economic background, education and professional career of every individual appointed as head of colony across the entire French colonial empire between 1895 and 1960. We identify different ideal types of colonial governors, which we link to measures of public investments in education and infrastructure during colonial times. These variations partially explain the diverging trajectories in terms of timing and pace of economic growth. The findings resulting from this analysis have implication for our understanding of the role of individuals within the same institutional context.

2nd half