Latest Research on Africa. Interesting Results All Around.

Interesting papers about Africa coming out of the Annual Bank Conference on Africa that challenge many of the things we think we know about the continent. The summaries are not mine but hopefully I can offer my own commentary when time permits.

  • Burgess et al (2015) show how road expenditures in Kenya were dramatically higher in districts with the same ethnicity as the president, a relationship that is significant during Kenya’s autocratic periods but not its democratic periods, suggesting that democracy can mitigate ethnicity-related violence.
  • Adhvaryu et al. demonstrate how resource accumulation (measured via rainfall) has a net positive effect of conflict despite competing component effects: greater opportunity cost of conflict, but also more to fight over and more resources to fund a militia.
  • Chris Blattman (et al.) showed that cash grants to “criminally-engaged Liberian men” had positive effects on income and crime (i.e., less crime) but they faded. When combined with cognitive behavioral therapy, the package had enduring impacts (at least a year).
  • Extreme rain and drought both boost livestock theft in Kenya: raids driven by resource scarcity but also by weather that makes it easy to carry out a raid (Ralston).
  • Civic participation program in Rwanda lowers reported satisfaction with government services and knowledge of government affairs, potentially by encouraging people to speak their minds (Nichols-Barrer et al.).
  • A program gives a grant in Sierra Leone and randomly varies who manages it – traditional village elites versus randomly selected households. Elites manage the projects better and don’t capture more (Turley et al.).
  • In Ghana, higher police salaries translated into more time in traffic stops and higher bribes paid (Foltz & Opoku-Agyemang), measured using difference-in-differences before and after a salary increase, comparing bribes paid by the same trucks in and out of Ghana.
  • In case you doubted that informal is normal, as much as 97% of trade between Algeria and Mali is informal, argue Benassi et al. as they seek to measure the difficult-to-measure.
  • Surveys of both voters and politicians in Kenya suggest that voters perceive violence perpetrated by politicians negatively (even within their own ethnic group) whereas politicians don’t realize that. Evidence from vignette experiments (Rosenzweig).

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