Subnational border reforms and economic development in Africa

Baskaran, Thushyanthan ; Blesse, Sebastian

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URN: urn:nbn:de:bsz:180-madoc-461641
Document Type: Working paper
Year of publication: 2018
The title of a journal, publication series: ZEW Discussion Papers
Volume: 18-027
Place of publication: Mannheim
Publication language: English
Institution: Sonstige Einrichtungen > ZEW - Leibniz-Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung
MADOC publication series: Veröffentlichungen des ZEW (Leibniz-Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung) > ZEW Discussion Papers
Subject: 330 Economics
Classification: JEL: D73 , H77 , R11,
Keywords (English): Administrative border reforms , economic development , night-light data , Africa
Abstract: A recent literature suggests that arbitrarily designed administrative borders are an important reason why sub-Saharan Africa remains one of the least developed regions on the globe. Accordingly, administrative border reforms may be a way to promote growth on the African continent. In this paper, we study the effect of subnational administrative border reforms on local economic development (proxied by nighttime luminosity) by tracking state–level border changes in Africa during 1992-2013 with GIS techniques. Difference-in-difference regressions suggest that mergers have strong positive effects on economic development. Splits, too, have positive effects, but they are substantially smaller on average. To understand why the economic impact of splits and mergers differs in magnitude, we investigate transmission channels. We link border changes to geocoded conflict data and survey evidence on political attitudes as well as service delivery. We find that the differences between splits and mergers are possibly due to different underlying motives for these two types of border reforms. Splits seem to affect development through higher political stability, i.e. a lower incidence of conflicts and more benign political attitudes of citizens, while mergers presumably work through an improvement in administrative efficiency.

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