Spatial Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa

African states regularly rank as some of the least developed countries in the world. A closer look within the borders of each state, however, unveils a rather different story; there exists significant subnational variation in levels of development (Migdal 1988; Herbst 2000; Boone 2003; van de Walle 2009). For example, while many parts of Nigeria, including northeastern Nigeria where the terrorist organization, Boko Haram is active, may rank in the bottom quintile in the world in terms of access to public services, other parts of the country rank near the top. This spatial inequality is not unique to Nigeria but prevalent across sub-Saharan Africa. Such spatial inequality is a fact that has plagued these nations in more ways than one. Envy for the lifestyle of those who are better off can ignite anger and in some cases ultimately leads to conflict, terrorism, and eventual state failure (Stewart 2008; Østby 2008; Østby et al. 2009; Cederman et al. 2011; Cederman et al. 2013).

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