African state formation and the historical evolution of fiscal systems

Prof. Ewout Frankema, Wageningen University

In the pre-colonial era, the opportunities of African rulers to collect taxes and finance public goods were constrained by geographical and demographic conditions. In this lecture I discuss long-term processes of state formation in Sub-Saharan Africa by analysing the opportunities and constraints to the development of fiscal systems. These conditions continued to play a role when European colonial powers tried to expand colonial fiscal capacity in order to intensify their territorial control, their bureaucracies and expand physical infrastructure. The shared attempt of colonial powers to raise budgets and centralize fiscal control, translated into different fiscal policies in different contexts. In the lecture I will discuss several approaches to the conceptualization of different fiscal regimes, indicate how they have affected long-term state formation and extend these views to current challenges of African state capacity.

About the speaker
Ewout Frankema is professor and chair of Rural and Environmental History at Wageningen University. He studied History, Economics and Philosophy at the University of Groningen, where he obtained his PhD in Economics in 2008. His research agenda focuses on a deeper understanding of the long-term comparative economic development of developing regions (Africa, Latin America, Asia) and the historical origins and nature of present-day global inequality. He is currently visiting fellow at Lund University, elected member of the Young Academy of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences and director of the African Economic History Network Textbook project. In 2012 he was awarded a VIDI-grant by the Dutch Science Foundation for his project Is Poverty Destiny? Exploring Long Term Changes in African Living Standards in Global Perspective and a European Research Council Starting Grant for his project Is Poverty Destiny? A New Empirical Foundation of Long Term African Welfare Analysis.

Venue: Conference room

Date: 12 February 2015

Time: 12:30 - 13:30


UNU-MERIT