While cases of state failure have risen in the last decade, most notably in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, they are not a new phenomenon. Historical evidence from the early modern period, and even the Bronze Age, shows that the majority of formed states have failed rather than thrived. This column introduces the ‘paradox of civilisation’ to characterise the obstacles settlements face in establishing civilisations. The paradox defines the success of a civilisation as a trade-off between the ability to produce economic surplus and to protect it. It is therefore important to correctly balance military and economic support when providing aid.
Ernesto Dal Bó, Pablo Hernandez-Lagos, Sebastián Mazzuca, 26 July 2016
Giacomo De Luca, Roland Holder, Paul Raschky, Michele Valsecchi, 21 July 2016
Ethnic favouritism is widely regarded as an African phenomenon, or at most a problem of poor and weakly institutionalised countries. This column uses data on night-time light intensity to challenge these preconceptions. Ethnic favouritism is found to be as prevalent outside of Africa as it is within, and not restricted to poor or autocratic nations either. Rather, re-election concerns appear to be an important driver of the practice.
Taryn Dinkelman, Martine Mariotti, 20 July 2016
Economic research on migration tends to focus on workers, labour markets, or communities in receiving countries. However, labour migration and earnings could have important impacts on migrants’ home countries. This column explores these effects by focusing on circular migration from Malawi to South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. Malawian districts that had the greatest exposure to migration shocks have better educated workers, even three decades later. These findings point to potential ‘brain gain’ effects for sending communities.
Marco Manacorda, Andrea Tesei, 22 May 2016
Digital technologies have been widely used for political activism in recent years, including during the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and the Indignados movement in Spain. This column reports research showing that the growing use of mobile phones in Africa leads to more political protests during recessions and periods of national crisis. The mobilising potential of digital technologies is more pronounced in autocratic countries and those where the raditional media are under state control, suggesting that this technology may play a key role in fostering political freedom.
Alberto Alesina, Benedetta Brioschi, Eliana La Ferrara, 25 March 2016
Domestic violence is a significant public health problem with high economic and social costs. This column discusses the roots of domestic violence in sub-Saharan countries. The evidence shows that the economic value of women affects violence perpetrated against them by men. Where ancient socioeconomic arrangements made women economically valuable, social norms developed in ways that viewed women as productive and more equal to men. These gender roles bring about less intra-family violence today.
Lars Ivar Oppedal Berge, Kjetil Bjorvatn, Simon Galle, Edward Miguel, Daniel Posner, Bertil Tungodden, Kelly Zhang, 11 February 2016
Ethnic divisions have been shown to adversely affect economic performance and political stability, particularly in Africa. However, the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. Using experimental data from Kenya, this column studies whether one potential mechanism – co-ethnic bias – affects altruism. Strikingly, most tests yield no evidence of co-ethnic bias, suggesting that other mechanisms must be driving the negative association between ethnic diversity and economic and political outcomes in Africa.
Stelios Michalopoulos, Elias Papaioannou, 24 December 2015
The carving up of Africa by colonial powers is often a touch-stone for those concerned with African development and underdevelopment. This column looks into the effect imposed borders had on splitting ethnicities across countries. It finds that colonial border designs have spurred political violence and that ethnic partitioning is systematically linked to civil conflict, discrimination by the national government, and instability.
Tessa Bold, 05 December 2015
With the introduction of new technologies such as fertiliser and hybrid seeds, agricultural productivity has experienced an unprecedented rise in the past decades in almost all parts of the world. But not in Sub-Saharan Africa. This column studies the fertilisers available in Sub-Saharan Africa. It turns out that there is a huge variation in terms of fertiliser quality. Farmers should be meaningfully integrated into markets and supply chains to ensure quality and trust.
Toke Aidt, Zareh Asatryan, Lusine Badalyan, Friedrich Heinemann, 28 November 2015
Central bank independence was supposed to end politically driven monetary policy. This column discusses new evidence showing a sizeable spike in the growth rate of cash and overnight bank deposits centred on election days. The spike is present in countries with weak political institutions, but not in OECD countries. The cycle seems to be related to the cash demand created by systemic vote buying.
Ernesto Zedillo, 26 August 2015
In this column, Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and ex-President of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo, introduces an eBook he co-edited that illustrates some of the ambitious but necessary steps needed to unleash the tremendous potential of the African people towards the development of their nations.
Graziella Bertocchi, Arcangelo Dimico, 30 July 2015
HIV/AIDS is an endemic economic problem for significant parts of Africa. This column presents evidence suggesting that the demographic shock induced by the slave trade still shapes the contemporary family structures and sexual behaviour of many African countries. Policymakers and human rights organisations should understand that the struggle against HIV/AIDS involves the eradication of deeply rooted beliefs and practices.
Sara Lowes, Nathan Nunn, James Robinson, Jonathan Weigel, 18 February 2015
Ethnic identity can fracture nations – it is a leading explanation of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. This column presents evidence from a psychological test that reveals how members of different ethnic groups from the Democratic Republic of the Congo form their respective ethnic identities. This Implicit Association Test reveals that people have a small, statistically significant bias towards own-group. The magnitude suggests that biases are consciously held, rather than being a conditioned response.
Amir Attaran, Roger Bate, Ginger Jin, Aparna Mathur, 09 October 2014
There is a perception amongst pharmaceutical experts that some Indian manufacturers and/or their distributors segment the global medicine market into portions that are served by different quality medicines. This column finds that drug quality is poorer among Indian-labelled drugs purchased inside African countries than among those purchased inside India or middle-income countries. Substandard drugs – non-registered in Africa and containing insufficient amounts of the active ingredient – are the biggest driver of this quality difference.
Nikoloz Gigineishvili, Paolo Mauro, Ke Wang, 07 October 2014
Sustained rapid growth in many African economies has generated a debate on the sources and likely persistence of a so-called 'African growth miracle'. This column looks at the factors underlying growth in an especially vibrant part of the continent – the East African Community. It suggests that rapid growth has been for real and reasonably well diversified.
Jaime de Melo, Julie Regolo, 17 September 2014
The EU is about to extend economic partnership agreements signed in 2007 with countries of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific region. Reflecting on the implementation difficulties associated with previous agreements and the minimal engagements in the upcoming ones, this column argues that these partnerships will fall short. No further integration of African economies will come out of them. Economic Partnership Agreements will have been a sideshow in the EU’s trade policy.
Margaret McMillan, 30 August 2014
Some argue that growth across Africa is fundamentally a result of rising commodity prices and that if these prices were to collapse, so too would Africa’s growth rates. This column documents substantial shifts in the occupational structure of most African economies between 2000 and 2010 and thus provides a good reason for cautious optimism about the continent’s economic progress.
Ejaz Ghani, 17 August 2014
Just like the East Asian Tigers, the Lions of Africa are now growing much faster than the developed economies. However, this column shows that the growth escalators in Africa are different than in East Asia. The East Asian Tigers benefitted from a rapidly expanding manufacturing sector. The African Lions are benefitting from increases in productivity in the service sector, while the agricultural sector remains unproductive.
Marco Annunziata, 16 August 2014
Africa has generated a lot of enthusiasm lately. The cynical view of the continent as a hopeless basket case has been replaced by the lofty narrative of Africa Rising. This column argues that Africa’s progress is impressive, and there is more to the story than a commodity boom. But Africa is at a crossroads. The opportunities are huge, but the road ahead is long, and will require persistent and patient effort from policymakers as well as business.
Emanuele Massetti, Elena Ricci, 23 July 2014
Concentrated solar power generation in Northern African and Middle Eastern deserts could potentially supply up to 20% of European power demand. This column evaluates the technological, economic, and political feasibility of this idea. Although concentrated solar power is a proven technology that can work at scale, it is currently four or five times more expensive than fossil fuels. Concentrated solar power could play an important role in Europe’s energy mix after 2050, but only if geo-political challenges can be overcome.
Denis Cogneau, Alexander Moradi, 17 May 2014
The quasi-experiment of arbitrary border design allows for causal interpretation of institutional effects across territories. This column presents evidence on the impact of British and French colonial education policies in West Africa. British flexibility and French centralisation resulted in educational attainment differences that persist – across one border – even among some cohorts of the current workforce.