On the Persistent Effects of the Slave Trade on Postcolonial Politics in Africa

78 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2021 Last revised: 20 Dec 2021

See all articles by Gaku Ito

Gaku Ito

Osaka Metropolitan University

Date Written: November 1, 2020


How does the disruption of traditional communities shape subsequent political outcomes? I argue that the demographic shock to indigenous societies induced by Africa's slave trade influences postcolonial politics by tragically improving ethnic institutions and leadership, thereby affecting the coup-civil war trap and the underlying commitment problems. The empirical analysis leverages the soil suitability for cassava as an instrument to exploit plausibly exogenous variation in the ethnic group-level exposure to the slave trade. The findings are four-fold: Ethnic groups with severer slave trade exposure are (1) less likely to experience battle incidents within their traditional homelands, (2) less likely to fight civil wars against the central government, (3) more likely to be included in state power-sharing schemes, and (4) more likely to stage coups in postcolonial states. Falsification tests exploiting the timing of cassava's arrival in Africa and the regional variation in non-cassava crop suitability lend further credibility to the findings.

Keywords: armed conflict, coups, historical legacies, power sharing, slave trade

JEL Classification: D74, J15, N57

Suggested Citation

Ito, Gaku, On the Persistent Effects of the Slave Trade on Postcolonial Politics in Africa (November 1, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3714585 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3714585

Gaku Ito (Contact Author)

Osaka Metropolitan University ( email )

3-3-138 Sugimoto, Sumiyoshi Ward
Osaka, Osaka 558-8585

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