Precolonial Centralization, Foreign Aid and Modern State Capacity in Africa

Tobias Broich (Maastricht University)
Adam Szirmai (Maastricht University)
Kaj Thomsson (Maastricht University)

Abstract: In this paper, we empirically examine the determinants of bureaucratic capacity in contemporary Africa. We connect the aid-governance literature with historical and anthropological work on African state formation. Our results show a positive and statistically significant impact of precolonial centralization on levels of bureaucratic quality in Africa, from the late-1990s onwards. Before the late-1990s, however, there is no such relationship. We also find that negative effects of aid dependence on changes in bureaucratic capacity weaken or even disappear, once we control for precolonial centralization. As the colonial interlude is becoming more distant, the influence of precolonial political institutions on modern bureaucratic capacity is reasserting itself. The role of aid turns out to be less important than suggested by either its critics or its supporters.

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