Essays on Civil Conflict in Africa

Stijn Van Weezel

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Over the past decade there has been an explosive growth in the research on civil conflict which has lead to a general understanding of the underlying factors that contribute to conflict incidence. Much of the current research results are based on the use of aggregate data, measures, and analyses. This has the disadvantage that it ignores some of the details on conflict dynamics as not all information is retained. This thesis provides four essays that look at civil conflict in Africa, trying to disentangle the complex relation between conflict and factors such as economic performance, food prices, foreign aid, and climate. The findings challenge some of the results in the literature. Focussing on the link between rainfall and conflict, looking at the effect of rainfall shocks in different economic sectors rather than aggregate output, the results show that although rainfall has an effect on agricultural and industrial output, this doesn’t influence the outbreak of conflict. Investigating the relation between food prices and the occurrence of civil unrest, using within-year variation, shows that there is a weak link where higher food prices lead to more unrest due to dependence on primary commodity imports. However, these results do not generalise to out-of-sample data. Examining the effect of foreign aid on conflict intensity, the empirical analysis shows no strong proof for an effect in either positive or negative direction contrasting with the literature. Finally, focussing on the forecasts generated by a popular model linking temperature with conflict shows that the predictive power of temperature is low. In summary, the work presented in this thesis provides some new insights into the link between conflict and a variety of economic factors commonly associated with conflict. It also illustrates the use of various disaggregated approaches to study conflict dynamics.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Spagat, Michael, Supervisor
Award date1 Oct 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • Civil conflict
  • Africa

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