Economics serving society

Borders that Divide: Education and Religion in Ghana and Togo since Colonial Times

Denis Cogneau and Alexander Moradi

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With the return of growth in Africa since the beginning of this century – of around five per cent per annum in the first decade – the difference in economic performance between Anglophone and Francophone countries has sparked new debate. What do we know about the respective heritages of British and French colonialism, especially in the field of education? The partition of German Togoland after World War One provides a “natural experiment” in this regard. In 1920, following the Treaty of Versailles, the eastern two-thirds of the German colony was placed under French mandate by the League of Nations, while the western third was placed under British mandate. In 1957, following a referendum, the British part was united with neighbouring Ghana, and in 1960, the French part became independent Togo.
Cogneau and Moradi explored the German, British and French archives, identified the personnel and other expenses of all public and private schools, and used primary individual data on tens of thousands of indigenous soldiers in the British army for the period 1902-1955. They also used contemporary household studies and compared the populations situated at the border between present-day Ghana and Togo. They found that at the border between the two parts of German Togoland, literacy rates diverged from the 1920s onwards, in favour of the part under British mandate; the rates of conversion to Christianity were also higher on the British side. Yet this gap is only visible in the south, where evangelising drives were made, and contemporary data suggest that the gap that began in the colonial era, in access to education as well as in rates of Christianisation, persists even now. The authors attribute this divergence to the different levels of public expenditure on education, but also to policies relating to private missionary schools. However, other evidence suggests that such effects of colonial heritage are not inevitable : when we compare the Ivory Coast and Ghana, or French Cameroun and the British Cameroons, we see that the French colony caught up to its British neighbour over the course of the 1950s, even before independence.
Original title of the article : “Borders that Divide: Education and Religion in Ghana and Togo since Colonial Times”
Published in : Journal of Economic History, 74(3), September 2014, pp. 694-729
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