Democracy causes agricultural development?

Simple democracy and development correlations suggest little relationship. But even if democracy doesn’t change the size of the pie, it might affect how it is sliced.

Africa is poor and its urban population and industrial centers are small, while its rural population and agrarian sectors are large.

In the absence of party competition… we should therefore expect economic interests to seek to influence public policies through lobbying by interest groups. Insofar as this is the case, we expect economic policies to be “urban biased.”

But when there is a change to party competition… electoral majorities acquire political weight and those seeking office will therefore begin to advocate measures designed to attract rural voters. They should therefore begin to support policies that favor agriculture.

The change from interest group politics to electoral politics should therefore induce a policy change; it should induce a shift in relative prices in favor of agriculture, thereby rendering agriculture more profitable and strengthening the incentives for farmers to make more productive use of factors of production.

That is Bob Bates and Stephen Block, who make a compelling case.

Since 1990, Africa has seen a huge increase in political competition. In the medium term, we see political change affecting economics. But in the long term, political change will affect, well, politics. Where there are shifts in power, there is inevitably conflict. And where institutions are weak, that conflict easily becomes violent. I am optimistic about the future, but cautiously so.