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Development at the Border : Policies and National Integration in Côte D’Ivoire and Its Neighbors

Denis Cogneau, Sandrine Mesplé-Somps and Gilles Spielvogel

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Do national borders make any sense in Africa ? The artificial character of borders is often invoked to explain difficulties in consolidating states. Some even advocate the redrawing of the map of Africa in order to reduce conflicts and stimulate development. The results of arbitrary colonial divisions, the borders divide linguistic groups and the culturally similar, and are porous to intensive commercial and migrant flows. Even when there are significant differences in income between countries, we see no discontinuity in border-crossing, particularly in the peripheral regions far from economic centres. However, this supposed truism of African frontiers has never been tested empirically.
In this article, Cogneau, Mesplé-Somps and Spielvogel study the discontinuities in living standards on the borders between Côte d’Ivoire and its neighbours, and in what they reveal about the scope of state interventions. To do so, they compiled a great number of data from surveys of households between 1986 and 1998. Two dimensions of well-being were studied: total consumption and the nutritional status of children on the one hand, and access to water and electricity on the other. Their work shows that African borders are not quite as porous as we think. Depending on the year, significant discontinuities are seen at the Côte d’Ivoire borders with Ghana to the east and Mali to the north, either in terms of nutrition or water supply, or both. On the other hand, no discontinuity is seen at the border with Guinea. Detailed analysis reveals the importance of two national policies: those relating to cultures of export and to public investment. Notably, income from cocoa, coffee and cotton are behind the differences in standards of living at the borders with Ghana and Mali, which explains the lack of discontinuity at the Guinea border. National frontiers in Africa are not always abstract lines having no effect. But differences seen at the borders result more from reversible public policies than from intangible institutional features.
Original title of the academic article : “Development at the Border: Policies and National Integration in Côte D’Ivoire and Its Neighbors”
Published in: The World Bank Economic Review, January 2015, Volume 29, Issue 1, pages 41-71
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