Why Africa is still underdeveloped by By Arnold Kling

There’s a whole, very large literature on why Africa is particularly screwed up. The awful climate under which most of it labours. The bad maritime geography: apparently one of the two coasts offers extremely little scope for building ports, the rivers don’t go where you want them, and when they do happen to meander near something interesting, they are hard to navigate. The huge patchwork of ethnicities. The bad borders–in Asia, borders were drawn somewhat along ethnic power lines, whereas in Africa, they were drawn mostly to suit the convenience of whatever western country wanted to do business there after the colonial powers left, and there is an emerging literature indicating that border that cut across ethnic lines are a recipe for conflict, and thus poverty.

Roughly speaking, I would classify the factors that have been introduced into the discussion into the following categories:

  1. Physical factors, including transportation difficulties and climate.
  2. “Top-down” institutional factors, such as poorly-drawn colonial borders, or corruption reinforced by the “resource curse” and the “aid curse” (unearned wealth tending to foster corruption more readily than earned income).
  3. “Bottom-up” sociological factors, such as bitter ethnic rivalry or low IQ.

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