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The Contemporary Shadow of the Scramble for Africa

Courtesy of James Cridland/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was published by VoxEU.org on 1 March 2017.

The Scramble for Africa has contributed to economic, social, and political underdevelopment by spurring ethnic-tainted civil conflict and discrimination and by shaping the ethnic composition, size, shape and landlocked status of the newly independent states. This column, taken from a recent VoxEU eBook, summarises the key findings of studies that use high-resolution geo-referenced data and econometric methods to estimate the long-lasting impact of the various aspects of the Scramble for Africa.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared as a chapter in the Vox eBook, The Long Economic and Political Shadow of History, Volume 2, available to download here.

When economists debate the long-lasting legacies of colonisation, the discussion usually revolves around the establishment of those ‘extractive’ colonial institutions that outlasted independence (e.g. Acemoglu et al. 2001), the underinvestment in infrastructure (e.g. Jedwab and Moradi 2016), the identity of colonial power (e.g. La Porta et al. 2008) and the coloniser’s influence on early human capital (Easterly and Levine 2016).1 Following the influential work of Nunn (2008), recent works have explored the deleterious long-lasting consequences of Africa’s slave trades (see Nunn 2016, for an overview). Yet, between the slave-trade period (1400-1800) and the arrival of the colonisers at the end of the 19th century, the Scramble for Africa stands out as a watershed event in the continent’s history. The partitioning of Africa by Europeans starts, roughly, in the 1860s and is completed by the early 1900s. The colonial powers signed hundreds of treaties, which involved drawing on maps the boundaries of colonies, protectorates, and ‘free-trade’ areas of a largely unexplored and mysterious continent (see Wesseling 1996 for a thorough discussion).2 In this context it is perhaps not surprising that many influential scholars of the African historiography (e.g. Asiwaju 1985, Wesseling 1996, Herbst 2000) and a plethora of case studies suggest that the most consequential aspect of European involvement in Africa was not colonisation per se, but the erratic border designation that took place in European capitals in the late 19th century.

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Migratory Labor for Extractive Industries Creating “Sons of Soil” Conflict in China

Miners entering a coal mine. Image: Unsplash/Pixabay

This article was originally published by New Security Beat on 13 October, 2015.

In May 2011, two weeks before I was scheduled to start research in the region, a Mongol herder named Mergen was hit by a mining truck while protecting his pastureland in Xilingol, Inner Mongolia. He was dragged 140 feet and killed. His death sparked a month of protests.

It was not the first or last time extractive industries have collided with ethnic minorities in northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, an area nearly twice the size of Texas and home to 25 million people, 17 percent of whom are ethnic Mongols. Several studies have shown that natural resources – whether through abundance or scarcity – are sometimes linked to the onset, duration, and intensity of armed conflict. Yet, the identity of those who exploit natural resources has been largely ignored. A closer look at tensions surrounding China’s voracious appetite for nature resources reveals this may be mistake. » More

Turkey’s Ethnic Armenians Wary About Future

Armenian flags in front of a mosque in Lebanon during an anti-Turkish protest. Image: Harout Arabian/Flickr

This article was originally published by EurasiaNet on 14 April 2015.

The 100th anniversary [on April 24th] of the Medz Yeghern, or the “Great Catastrophe,” [has] highlight[ed] the mixed feelings that Turkey’s tiny ethnic Armenian minority has for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration.

On April 24, Armenians around the world [marked] the World-War-I-era deaths of hundreds of thousands ethnic Armenians in Ottoman-era Turkey. It is a tragedy that for many historians and analysts constitutes an act of genocide.

Turkey denies the claim of genocide. On April 12, Ankara withdrew its ambassador from the Vatican after Pope Francis termed the massacre “the first genocide of the 20th century.” » More

Book Review: Referendums and Ethnic Conflict by Matt Qvortrup

Photo: Al Jazeera English/flickr

This article was originally published by the blog LSE Review of Books on 26 June 2014.

Drawing on political theory and descriptive case studies, Matt Qvortrup looks to create typologies of referendums that are held to endorse secession, redraw disputed borders, legitimize a policy of homogenization, or otherwise manage ethnic or national differences. He considers the circumstances that compel politicians to resort to direct democracy, such as regime change, and the conditions that might exacerbate a violent response. Gary Wilson believes the book will be of interest to political scientists and international relations scholars as some chapters are heavy with mathematical formulae used to predict the probability of various outcomes of referendums. » More

Guinea Poised to Complete Transition to Civilian Rule

Cellou Dalein Diallo, Former Prime Minister of Guinea and President of Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG). Image by Friends of Europe / Flickr.

Guinea’s parliamentary election, to be held later this month, will establish a legislative assembly after almost five years without one, and formally complete a transition to civilian rule. But the long-overdue poll is fraught with political and ethnic tensions that analysts say hinder reforms and progress.

The legislative election was supposed to be held six months after the 2010 presidential poll that brought President Alpha Condé to power, but after protracted disputes between the government and the opposition, Guineans will instead vote on 24 September of this year.

Guineans remain sharply divided over Condé’s win in the run-off against opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, and supporters on each side see the legislative poll as an occasion to demonstrate their party’s political weight. Many political leaders who backed Condé in 2010 are now supporting the opposition in the parliamentary election. » More

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