Abstract: Economic Nationalism In Latin America and Africa in The Twentieth Century: A Comparison

Marcelo Bucheli and Stephanie Decker


This paper compares the policies of nationalization of foreign property in Africa and Latin America during the twentieth century. We find the following two differences between the two continents. First, while many expropriations in Latin America aimed to redistribute income among members of the lower and middle classes, those carried out in Africa were done to redistribute the expropriated properties among members of the domestic elite. Second, African countries not only nationalized foreign multinationals, but also "indigenized" properties of foreign merchants to distribute them among domestic ones. Indigenization did not occur in Latin America. We argue that these differences result from the longevity of nation-states and the need new rulers had to legitimize their power in new nations, and a longer tradition of labor unionism in Latin America in contrast to Africa. We reach our conclusions by using the selectorate theory of political survival as our main theoretical approach.