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We also look at the issue of institutional change. It could be that
Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, had followed a di¤erent path of
institutional development historically. But this does not imply that
after 1780, when the industrial revolution started, countries could not
have changed their institutions.
Later we’ discuss some famous examples of this, such as Japan after
the Meiji restoration of 1867, and China after the death of Mao
Zedong in 1975. James A. Robinson (Harvard) The Emergence of Modern Economic Growth: A Comparative and Historical Analysis
October 5, 2009
4 / 25 The Historical Development of Africa
Older tradition argued that Africa had poor institutions. A.G.
Hopkins gives a stylized version (p. 9):
“The dominant agricultural sector .. was virtually immobilized by
a combination of primitive technology, communal land tenure
and the extended family. The development of key entrepreneurial
groups was inhibited by the presence of an anti-capitalist value
system. This ideology was reinforced by African political systems
which were either conservative gerontocracies based on ascribed
status, or were so egalitarian that it was impossible for
prospective innovators to accumulate savings. Such exchange as
did occur did not follow the rules of supply and demand .. But
was conducted with the aim of maximizing social rather than
economic values .. There was no regular, institutionalized means
of selling land, hiring labor, or raising money.”
James A. Robinson (Harvard) The Emergence of Modern Economic Growth: A Comparative and Historical Analysis
October 5, 2009
5 / 25 Hopkins Economic History of West Africa
Book by Hopkins is an attempt to demolish these ‘
institutions of the pre-colonial economy of Africa.
But long history of agricultural experimentation and adaptation.
Maize and Cassava spread from South America (recall the Bushong in
the Congo). Bananas from Asia.
Forms of property rights in land sensible given that land was not
scarce and they were also consistent with innovati...
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- Fall '09
- West Africa, JAMES A. ROBINSON