Original Research

Geography versus institutions and sub-Saharan aid

Chris W. Callaghan
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 13, No 1 | a355 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v13i1.355 | © 2017 Chris W. Callaghan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 June 2016 | Published: 28 February 2017

About the author(s)

Chris W. Callaghan, Division of Management and Human Resources Management, School of Economic and Business Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


This article sets out to review two opposing viewpoints in the literature, namely long-standing geographic versus institutionalist perspectives and their opposing predictions for development of poor countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa. A special focus is on the differing predictions of the effectiveness of aid of these two perspectives. On the basis of a consideration of different literatures and final Millenium Development Report, it is argued that ‘Big Push’ theory may still offer important theoretical and practical development contributions. Arguably, these contributions echo Keynes’s legacy in their consideration of the most vulnerable and marginalised. It is also argued that a global birth lottery allocates people to countries and regions with unequal opportunities and that a normative argument can be made to justify aid to mitigate birth lottery effects.


big push; geography; institutions; aid; Sub-Saharan Africa


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