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.


  • Cédric Chambru, University of Geneva,, Switzerland
  • Joan Ricart-Huguet, Princeton University,, 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, Sciences Po Paris,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • James Fenske , University of Warwick,
  • Alex Moradi, University of Sussex,