In a short article called “C.Africa president who led coup says power ‘too tiring’,” the new president of the Central African Republic complains candidly about the downsides to being the chief executive. He seems to deaf to the irony of whining about a job he took by force in a “bloody coup” last March. The article reports that:
In a public meeting with representatives from political parties, Michel Djotodia complained that the assembled group could sleep easy while he lay awake worrying about national security, sometimes even forgetting about his wife lying next to him. “Sometimes you don’t even have thoughts about your wife! Sometimes, I wake up suddenly to ask the security minister what is happening!” he said, describing how ruling a country wracked by sectarian conflict had played havoc with his nocturnal routine.
He goes on to say that he hoped things were getting better so he could cede the job and get back to some better sleep. Given that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius characterized the state of the CAR as “total chaos,” that day might not be too soon.
Here is our coup leader looking a bit sleep deprived:
I trace the impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade on the evolution of political authority in West Africa. I present econometric evidence showing that the trans-Atlantic slave trade increased absolutism in pre-colonial West Africa by approximately 17% to 35%, while reducing democracy and liberalism. I argue that this slavery-induced absolutism also influenced the structure of African political institutions in the colonial era and beyond. I present aggregate evidence showing that British colonies that exported more slaves in the era of the slave trade were ruled more-indirectly by colonial administrations. I argue that indirect colonial rule relied on sub-national absolutisms to control populations and extract surplus, and in the process transformed absolutist political customs into rule of law. The post-colonial federal authority, like the colonial authority before it, lacked the administrative apparatus and political clout to integrate these local authorities, even when they wanted to. From this perspective, state-failure in West Africa may be rooted in a political and economic history that is unique to Africa in many respects, a history that dates at least as far back as the era of the transatlantic slave trade.
My stack of reading material is increasing daily. The latest addition is called “Borders, Ethnicity and Trade” and it is forthcoming in the JDE (click here for an earlier, ungated version). The paper looks to be really interesting on the topics of geography and ethnicity. Below is the abstract:
This paper uses unique high-frequency data on prices of two agricultural goods to examine the additional costs incurred in cross-border trade between Niger and Nigeria, as well as trade between ethnically distinct markets within Niger. We find a sharp and significant conditional price change of about 20 to 25 percent between markets immediately across the national border. This price change is significantly lower when markets on either side of the border share a common ethnicity. Within Niger, trade between ethnically distinct regions exhibits an ethnic border effect that is comparable, in its magnitude, to the national border effect between Niger and Nigeria. Our results suggest that having a common ethnicity may reduce the transaction costs associated with agricultural trade, especially the costs associated with communicating and providing credit.
I just came across an interesting new working paper on the issue of social capital, slavery, and literacy. The author’s name is Nonso Obikili and the paper is called “The Impact of the Slave Trade on Literacy in Africa: Evidence from the Colonial Era.” I haven’t read the paper carefully yet but it looks promising. Here is the abstract:
Recent studies have highlighted the importance of Africa’s history of slave exporting to its current economic development. In this paper I show that differences in investment in education may be one of the channels through which that history has affected current development. I combine data on literacy rates of administrative districts from the colonial censuses of Nigeria and Ghana from the 1950’s with data on slave exports of different ethnic groups. I find a negative and signicant relationship between slave export intensity before the colonial era and literacy rates during the colonial era. I also use contemporary data on literacy rates from the 2010 Nigerian Literacy Survey and find that this negative relationship is still present and significant. Thus, I show that the slave trades affected development through channels other than inter-ethnic group confliict or formal nation-state level institutions.
The NY Times Lens Blog has a heartbreaking slide show and story called Breast Cancer as a Death Sentence in Uganda.
Apparently there is only one hospital in the country that treats cancer and, for a variety of reasons, women often wait until it’s too late to make the trip to the capital. By the time they do, the cancer has metastasized and there is little that can be done. Here are some excerpts:
“Jessy Acen would get one shot (of chemo) and then wait two weeks until she got the next shot, so instead of going back and forth to her village — which was a $10 bus ride — she would sleep outside of the hospital on a cardboard box while she was waiting for the next round of chemo. She had two sons back in her village that she hadn’t seen in several months and it was just a heartbreaking.”
“Some who have the resources are able to get radiation. Many of them have to bribe themselves to the front of the line. There’s one radiation machine that sometimes serves four different countries. People coming from South Sudan, Congo, Uganda and parts of Kenya all go to this one radiation machine so there are lines and lines of people waiting.”
It’s not easy, according to the World Bank’s Thomas Bossuroy.
Here’s the money ‘graf:
Many African economies have grown quickly, and education has expanded dramatically. But growth has been mostly driven by extractive industries rather than labor-intensive sectors like agriculture or manufacturing, and educational systems are performing poorly. As a result, social mobility seems to have remained low, and the weight of the social background still determines most of individual trajectories.
Bossuroy also points out that while education is often an important factor in upward mobility, the overall low quality of education in many Sub-Saharan African countries makes this factor very weak in the region.
I’m late to this story, but I was recently reading about President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia. While many African countries have made great strides in democratization in recent years, Mr. Jammeh is apparently not a fan.
In 2011he claimed that he “will rule for “one billion years”, if God wills.” Apparently God still wills it as he hasn’t stepped down. And what about critics who say that he wins elections through intimidation and fraud. They can “go to hell”!
Other great claims by the big man of Gambia:
1. In 2007, he noted that he could personally cure HIV/AIDS with herbs.
2. He can also cure infertility in women.
3. In 2008, he threatened that any homosexuals in the country would be beheaded. He later backed off that threat, but in 2013 stated: “Homosexuals are not welcome in the Gambia. If we catch you, you will regret why you are born. I have buffalos from South Africa and Brazil and they never date each other. We are ready to eat grass but we will not compromise on this. Allowing homosexuality means allowing satanic rights.” Note: what is up with the buffalo and grass references?
The 2011 article about the president that I referenced above ends with this awesome statement: “The tiny West African state is a popular tourist destination.” Really? As compared to what? Somalia?