The long-run effects of the Scramble for Africa
Stelios Michalopoulos Elias Papaioannou
6 January 2012 at VOX
The 'Scramble for Africa' – the artificial drawing of African political boundaries among European powers in the end of the 19th century – led to the partitioning of several ethnicities across newly created African states. This columns shows that partitioned ethnic groups have suffered significantly longer and more devastating civil wars. It also uncovers substantial spillovers as ethnic conflict spreads from the historical homeland of groups partitioned to nearby areas where non-split ethnicities reside.
The predominant explanations for the deep roots of contemporary African (under)development centre on the influence of Europeans during the colonial period (Acemoglu et al 2005), and on the slave trade in the centuries before colonisation when close to 20 million slaves were exported from Africa (Nunn 2008).1 Yet another milestone took place amidst these two major events. In new research (Michalopoulos and Papaioannou 2011) we study the consequences of the "Scramble for Africa", which started with the Berlin Conference of 1884–85 and was completed by the turn of the 20th century. (...) there is little – if any – work that formally examines the impact of ethnic partitioning. Our work is a first step to fill this gap.
Our procedure identifies most major partitioned ethnic groups. For example, the Maasai have been split between Kenya (62%) and Tanzania (38%), the Anyi between Ghana (58%) and the Ivory Coast (42%), and the Chewa between Mozambique (50%), Malawi (34%), and Zimbabwe (16%). We also calculate the probability that a randomly chosen pixel of the homeland of an ethnic group falls into different countries. The ethnic groups with the highest score in this index are the Malinke, which are split into six different countries; the Ndembu, which are split between Angola, Zaire, and Zambia; and the Nukwe, which are split between Angola, Namibia, Zambia, and Botswana.
(...) we show that civil conflict is concentrated in the historical homeland of partitioned ethnicities. We obtain similar results even when we restrict our analysis across ethnic homelands close to the national border.
(...) civil conflict is not only concentrated in the historical homeland of partitioned ethnic groups, but groups adjacent to split ethnicities are also more likely to experience longer and more devastating (in terms of casualties) conflicts.
Read in full at VOX.