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  • Working Paper No. 141

    PRE-COLONIAL POLITICAL

    CENTRALIZATION AND

    CONTEMPORARY DEVELOPMENT IN

    UGANDA

    by Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay and Elliott

    Green

  • i Copyright Afrobarometer

    AFROBAROMETER WORKING PAPERS

    Working Paper No. 141

    PRE-COLONIAL POLITICAL

    CENTRALIZATION AND CONTEMPORARY

    DEVELOPMENT IN UGANDA

    by Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay and Elliott Green

    November 2012

    Sanghamitra Bandyopadhyay is Lecturer in Economics, School of Business and Management, Queen Mary,

    University of London. Email: s.bandyopadhyay@qmul.ac.uk

    Elliott Green is Lecturer in Development Studies, Department of International Development, London School

    of Economics. Email: E.D.Green@lse.ac.uk

    mailto:s.bandyopadhyay@qmul.ac.ukmailto:E.D.Green@lse.ac.uk

  • ii Copyright Afrobarometer

    AFROBAROMETER WORKING PAPERS

    Editor

    Michael Bratton

    Editorial Board

    E. Gyimah-Boadi

    Carolyn Logan

    Robert Mattes

    Leonard Wantchekon

    Afrobarometer publications report the results of national sample surveys on the attitudes of

    citizens in selected African countries towards democracy, markets, civil society, and other aspects of

    development. The Afrobarometer is a collaborative enterprise of the Centre for Democratic Development

    (CDD, Ghana), the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA), and the Institute for Empirical

    Research in Political Economy (IREEP) with support from Michigan State University (MSU) and the

    University of Cape Town, Center of Social Science Research (UCT/CSSR). Afrobarometer papers are

    simultaneously co-published by these partner institutions and the Globalbarometer.

    Working Papers and Briefings Papers can be downloaded in Adobe Acrobat format from

    www.afrobarometer.org.

    Idasa

    co-published with:

    http://www.afrobarometer.org/

  • iii

    ABSTRACT

    The effects of pre-colonial history on contemporary African development have become an important

    field of study within development economics in recent years. In particular (Gennaioli & Rainer, 2007)

    suggest that pre-colonial political centralization has had a positive impact on contemporary levels of

    development within Africa at the country level. We test the (Gennaioli & Rainer, 2007) hypothesis at

    the sub-national level for the first time with evidence from Uganda. Using a variety of datasets we

    obtain results which are striking in two ways. First, we confirm the (Gennaioli & Rainer, 2007)

    hypothesis that pre-colonial centralization is highly correlated with modern-day development

    outcomes such as GDP, asset ownership and poverty levels, and that these correlations hold at the

    district, sub-county and individual levels. We also use an instrumental variable approach to confirm

    this finding using the distance from ancient capital of Mubende as an instrument. However, our

    second finding is that public goods like immunization coverage and primary school enrollment are not

    correlated with pre-colonial centralization. These findings are thus consistent with a correlation

    between pre-colonial centralization and private rather than public goods, thereby suggesting the

    persistence of poverty and wealth from the pre-colonial period to the present.

  • 1

    INTRODUCTION1

    The long-term effects of history on contemporary economic development have become an important field of

    study within development economics in recent years (cf. Nunn (2009) for an overview). While the impact of

    colonialism on post-colonial outcomes has long been a focus for scholars, a smaller but growing field of

    study has developed, linking pre-colonial formations with post-colonial developments in former colonies

    (Englebert, 2000; Green, 2012; Hjort, 2010; Jha, 2008). In one recent example of this trend, Gennaioli and

    Rainer (2007) suggest that pre-colonial political centralization has had an impact on contemporary levels of

    development within Africa. Measuring pre-colonial centralization by using data from Murdock (1967), they

    show a robust positive correlation between the percentage of each country's population that is from a

    centralized ethnic group and outcomes such as paved roads, immunization, literacy and infant mortality rates.

    The analysis presented by (Gennaioli & Rainer, 2007) is provocative and adds to a growing literature on the

    importance of history for contemporary African development. Their analysis, however, cannot be considered

    definitive for at least three reasons. First, their unit of observation is the country level, leaving them with

    between 24 and 45 observations per regression. Despite their efforts at providing a variety of robustness

    checks there are nonetheless numerous ways in which such a small sample can produce unreliable results.

    Second, as they acknowledge (Gennaioli & Rainer, 2007, p. 192), if the effect of pre-colonial centralization

    on contemporary development is to have an effect, it should primarily exist at the sub-national level rather

    than the national level as differences within countries are reflected within localities. Finally, the analysis is

    open to the potential criticism of omitted variable bias and reverse causality, especially if pre-colonial

    economic development may have contributed both to the development of pre-colonial centralized states and

    to contemporary development outcomes.

    We therefore test the Gennaioli and Rainer (2007) hypothesis at the sub-national level in a single country for

    the first time. We use the example of Uganda, a map of which can be found in Figure 1, for several reasons.

    First, Gennaioli and Rainer (2007, pp. 188-191) themselves consider Uganda an ideal case study because it

    demonstrates large variance in historical centralization across different parts of the country, leading them to

    use it as their primary qualitative example. Second, due to decentralization policies that began after the

    current government took office in 1986, local governments have played a large role in local public goods

    provision, thereby allowing us to test Gennaioli and Rainer (2007)s proposed mechanism that centralization

    has affected development outcomes via local government legitimacy. Third, due to the availability of

    development data at the district and sub-county level, we are able to use much larger samples than were

    employed by Gennaioli and Rainer (2007), with 56 to 76 observations at the district level and 958 at the sub-

    county level. Fourth, due to the fact that Uganda is one of twenty countries in Africa to have been surveyed

    by the Afrobarometer in its most recent round of surveys in 2008, we can also employ survey data which

    contains information on assets, public goods, ethnicity and a variety of control variables. Fifth, unlike most

    African censuses which fail to record any data on ethnicity2, the most recent Ugandan census from 2002

    contains data on ethnicity disaggregated down to the level of the sub-county, thereby allowing us to construct

    a detailed picture of pre-colonial centralization. Finally, the focus on a single country allows us to identify an

    instrument for pre-colonial centralization which can thereby help to clarify the direction of causality.

    1We would like to thank Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz for sharing data with us and Cecilia Lanata Briones for research

    assistance. All errors remain our own. Elliot Green is the corresponding author. 2Morning (2008) finds that only 44% of African countries ask questions about ethnicity on their censuses, tied with

    Europe for the lowest proportion among all regions in the world. Some countries like Tanzania have not asked

    questions about ethnicity since the 1960s.

  • 2

    Figure 1: Map of Uganda

  • 3

    Our results are striking in two ways. First, using a variety of dependent variables, we confirm the Gennaioli

    and Rainer (2007) hypothesis that pre-colonial centralization is highly correlated with modern-day

    development outcomes at the district, sub-county, and individual levels. These results are robust to the use of

    various control variables and clustered standard errors; we also use distance from the ancient capital of

    Mubende as an instrument and find that most of our results are stronger. Our second finding, however, is that

    a number of dependent variables are not correlated with pre-colonial centralization, specifically those that

    measure public goods provision, like immunization and access to hospitals, police, and other public services.

    Moreover, using Afrobarometer results, we find that there is no relationship between local levels of pre-

    colonial centralization and the quality of public services. These findings are thus consistent with a correlation

    between pre-colonial centralization and private rather than public goods, suggesting the persistence of

    poverty and wealth from the pre-colonial period to the present.

    The paper is organized as follows. First, we give an overview of the theory and empirics behind Gennaioli

    and Rainer (2007) before describing our data, including how we ascribed different levels of pre-colonial

    complexity to each of Uganda's 55 ethnic groups. Second, we present our empirical analysis, using