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Colonial Legacy and Institutional Development

The Cases of Botswana and Nigeria

Valentin Seidler

Wien, Dezember 2011 | 978-3-9503182-4-1

The institutional configuration of a country has been widely accepted to be critical for sustainability of its economic development. Valentin Seidler gives a sophisticated overview of what we know about formality (laws, policy) and informality (cultural norms, traditions) of institutions, particularly from Economic History and New Institutional Economics (NIE) viewpoint and ties together existing theories and knowledge to a model of institutional legitimacy of post-colonial states. He relates the model at two country cases, Nigeria and Botswana, which both became British colonies in the 19th century and independent during the 1960ies. Observations about the institutional environment in both regions before colonialization are the fundament of his analysis and interpretations. He looks at how the initial conditions reacted to externally imposed institutions which were brought in by the British colonializers. The major argument of his thesis is that European institutions influenced the shape of indigenous institutions. He calls this "clashes" and argues that "variations" in their outcomes "account for disparities in institutional quality and economic performance in former British colonies today." Finally the model aims to explain the influence of colonial legacies on economic development in Nigeria and Botswana today. This path dependent view provides valuable insights for both cases. An understanding of institutional changes in colonial times and their persistence during post-colonial times provide an important contribution to the explanation of institutional quality and political and economic constraints of post-Colonial African countries today.

Valentin Seidler carried out two persuasive in-depth studies which contribute to the discussion of convergence/divergence in African economic performance. Hopefully his work on the colonial legacies of Nigeria and Botswana motivates for further in-depth research which would be necessary to overhaul the arguments Valentin Seidler made in his thesis.

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