Slavery, Statehood and Economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

No. 6/2012

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Dirk Bezemer, Jutta Bolt and Robert Lensink


This paper addresses the long-term impact of Sub-Saharan Africa’s indigenous systems of slavery on its political and economic development, based on an analytical survey of the literature and data collected from anthropological records. We develop a theory to account for this based on the framework proposed by North et al. (2009), where indigenous slavery may have impeded the transition from a ‘limited access state’ centred around personal relations to an ‘open access state’ based on impersonal rule of law and widely shared access to public and private organisations. In a quantitative analysis we find that indigenous slavery is robustly and negatively associated with the quality of governance and with current income levels.

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