Many African countries have reached quite impressive economic growth rates since the mid-1990s. However, the gains have been unequally divided and have been diluted by population growth. Scattered islands of economic improvement are set in an “ocean” of countries mired in extreme poverty and social dislocation. Persistent poverty correlates with high rates of population growth. African economic weakness means that not enough jobs are created for a burgeoning younger generation, many of whom have set their sights on North-bound emigration. And yet, Africa has abundant (agrarian) resources. Why has this not led to growth and poverty reduction? A number of explanations have been advanced to explain the failure of West African agriculture to catalyse far-reaching economic change. In this book, we focus on institutional factors. Institutional constraints, we argue, permeate and shape these other constraints. They have a logic and dynamic of their own. Institutions are important and need to be addressed in their own right. Any fuller understanding of the potential for African agrarian change requires sustained attention to the institutional dynamics of agrarian society and economy.
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