The Long-Run Effects of the Scramble for Africa
We examine the long-run consequences of the scramble for Africa among European powers in the late 19th century and uncover the following empirical regularities. First, utilizing information on the spatial distribution of African ethnicities before colonization, we show that borders were artificially drawn. Apart from the land mass and water area of an ethnicity’s historical homeland, no other geographic, economic, and historical trait predicts partitioning by the national borders. Second, we exploit a detailed geo-referenced database on various types of conflict across African regions and show that civil conflict is concentrated in the historical homeland of partitioned ethnicities. We further document that violence against civilians and territorial changes between rebel groups, militias, and government forces are systematically higher in the homelands of split groups. These results are robust to a rich set of local controls, the inclusion of country fixed effects, and alternative data sources. The uncovered evidence thus identifies a sizable causal impact of the scramble for Africa on contemporary political violence and conflict.
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This paper was revised on June 7, 2012