Sub-Saharan Africa has received tens of billions of dollars in foreign aid over the last fifty years yet economic development has remained elusive. In many countries absolute poverty has increased and life expectancy has declined. In this short video Karol Boudreaux discusses Paths to Property, a book written by her and Paul Aligica arguing that the results of traditional approaches to development policy have been disappointing. Instead, the focus needs to be on the adoption of sound political and legal institutions. In particular, clearly defined and enforced private property rights are needed to encourage entrepreneurship and economic growth. However, institutional environments in Africa are both complex and challenging, and the creation of secure property rights is far from a straightforward process.
They examine several case studies of property rights reform in the developing world and suggest that universal policies applied regardless of local culture and tradition tend to fail. Reforms are more likely to succeed when they evolve gradually and are tailored to local norms and values rather than imposed from above by governments, aid agencies and supranational institutions.