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The effect of colonial and pre-colonial institutions on contemporary education in Africa

This paper argues that contrary to previous findings, present-day education outcomes in Africa cannot be independently attributed to colonial or pre-colonial ethnic institutions. We propose that it is instead the complementarity or contention between colonial and precolonial institutions that result in education outcomes we observe today. Using geolocated DHS literacy outcomes for Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria, our findings suggest that the positive effect of British rule on contemporary literacy is diminished in centralised ethnic regions. This paper contributes to debates on colonial and pre-colonial ethnic influences on African development, moving beyond country-level analysis.

Working paper 850
1 January 2021
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