The easiest way to live well in a poor country?

By Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
March 1, 2012

Where do you think this fancy school is located?

Not in the United States. Not on a Greek island, financed by tourism revenues and EU funds. It is in Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries in the world with about 1/50 of the income per capita of the US, where only 41% of the adult population can read and write. But it is not in Freetown, the capital city, nor is in Bo, the next biggest city and capital of the south. Indeed, it is not in any of the major urban centers. It is a small village, Yoni in Bombali district. It was recently built there by China Aid. Why would anyone want to build a wonderful school in the middle of what Africans call “the bush”?

Here is a hint: Yoni is the home village of Sierra Leone’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma. The next photo shows a bit more of Yoni. Everyone has a new house.

Those readers living in affluent western countries may not be impressed by these houses but by the standards of rural Africa they are palaces. Could the fact that such fancy schools and houses are being built in the president’s village, while most villages have no school and most villagers live in a decrepit houses be related to why Sierra Leone is so poor?

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