DP15354 Priority Roads: the Political Economy of Africa's Interior-to-Coast Roads

Author(s): Roberto Bonfatti, Yuan Gu, Steven Poelhekke
Publication Date: October 2020
Keyword(s): democracy, Development, infrastructure, Natural resources, political economy
JEL(s): D72, H54, O18, P16, P26, Q32
Programme Areas: International Trade and Regional Economics, Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=15354

Africa's interior-to-coast roads are well placed to export natural resources, but not to support regional trade. Are they the optimal response to geography and comparative advantage, or the result of suboptimal political distortions? We investigate the political determinants of road paving in West Africa in 1965-2014. Controlling for geography and comparative advantage, we find that autocracies focused more than democracies on connecting metal and mineral deposits to ports, resulting in more interior-to-coast networks. This deposit-to-port bias was only present for deposits located on the elite's ethnic homeland, suggesting that Africa's interior-to-coast roads were the result of ethnic favoritism by autocracies.