Understanding African Poverty over the Longue Durée.

Year Awarded: 2009

This Initiative has concluded its research.

In 2009–2010, the team of Professor Emmanuel Akyeampong of the Department of History, Professors Robert Bates and James Robinson of the Department of Government, and Professor Nathan Nunn of the Department of Economics began the ninth Weatherhead Initiative entailing research on “Understanding African Poverty over the Longue Durée.” Through this project the researchers sought to achieve a better understanding of why Africa’s economic performance has been so poor in the 50 years since independence, and also to address why Africa seems to have been so poor historically—and, of course, whether this has really been the case. The team approached the question of African poverty through both collective and individual undertakings. First, they gathered a diverse group of leading scholars for two conferences: one at the International Institute for the Advanced Study of Cultures, Institutions and Economic Enterprise (IIAS) in Accra, Ghana, and another at the Weatherhead Center. With participants’ conference papers, they produced a book. Second, Professors Bates and Robinson designed and taught an undergraduate course, debuted in the fall of 2009, entitled “Why is Africa Poor?”. Finally, in order to enhance these collective endeavors, each member of the team undertook an individual research project that fit within the larger rubric.

Principal Investigators

Emmanuel Akyeampong

Faculty Associate. Professor of History, Department of History; Professor of African and African American Studies, Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University.

Robert H. Bates

Faculty Associate; Harvard Academy Senior Scholar. Eaton Professor of the Science of Government, Department of Government; Professor of African and African American Studies, Department of African and African American Studies, Harvard University.

Nathan Nunn

Faculty Associate. Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, Harvard University.

James Robinson

Faculty Associate; Harvard Academy Senior Scholar. David Florence Professor of Government, Department of Government, Harvard University.

See also: Initiatives