Angola vs Burundi

By Daniek Zomer

In this webpost, I apply the hypothesis that cultural fractionalization affect economic growth, as discussed by Nunn, to two African countries and analyze the outcomes. I use the method of similarity, since the two countries, Angola and Burundi are different in the aspect that Angola has exported many slaves while Burundi has not. Yet, both countries face ethnic conflict today.

Theory: how slave trade explains underdevelopment. 

Here, I focus on the former part. The theory implies that Angola would have more cultural fractionalization than Burundi, since Angola exported more slaves. Ethnic fractionalization deals with the number of distinct cultural groups in a state. The argument goes that slavery increased crime and distrust between African communities. Consequently, ethnic fractionalization weakened political structures/institutions necessary for development. Hence, my research question is: to what extent have slave trades increased crime/distrust?

First, how much do both countries differ in cultural fractionalization? Index Mundi shows that Angola has higher rates of ethnic fractionalization, and more ethnic diversity, than Burundi. Second, I analyze the responses of citizens on what they consider to be the development priorities of their country. This gives an indication about the perceived trust-culture within both countries. Surprisingly, categories that are related to crime such as anti-corruption were most prioritized by Burundians. 

Additionally, Angolan citizens believed that anti-corruption, agricultural development and eduction would contribute the most to economic growth. Moreover, 9% indicated equality of opportunity. While Burundian citizens believed that energy, anti-corruption and agricultural development would be most helpful.

Finally, the theory implies that Angola would have more distrust and corruption than Burundi. Yet, while the absolute numbers show higher cultural fractionalization. It seems that Burundi has similar perceived levels of corruption/distrust which would undermine the argument that slavery increased distrust among ethnic groups.