Berhanu Abegaz
Masthead image

Ethiopian Woman

                     "Make poverty history"




Chair, Department of Economics

Professor of Economics

The College of William and Mary


B.A., Princeton University (Thesis advisor:  Sir W. Arthur Lewis)
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania (Thesis advisors:  Alan Heston and Jacques Cremer)


Faculty Affiliate:

Africana Studies (Founding Director), CWM

International Relations Program (Former Director), CWM

Public Policy Program, CWM



Senior Fulbright Scholar in Vietnam


Contact Info:

Phone: (757) 221- 2379
Fax: (757) 221-1175 

Mail: Department of Economics, College of William & Mary, P.O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187


I am primarily a development economist with a special interest in centrally planned economies.  My teaching interests are wide-ranging and encompass the economics of growth, comparative economics, development economics, regional economic integration, the economics of inequality, late industrialization, and economic globalization. 

My research interests and publications are also wide-ranging and have an interdisciplinary bent.  I have authored several books and articles on:


  •    structural convergence in manufacturing  industries of leaders and latecomers
  • the role of diversified business groups in emerging economies
  • Party- or Military-owned business empires in emerging economies
  •    African industrialization
  •    the effectiveness of development aid
  •    economic reform in post-socialist economies
  •   extractive contests and growth in tributary states
  •    poverty traps in Ethiopia's agrarian systems.
  • Books (Sole Authorship):

    Manpower Development Planning:  Theory and an African Case Study, Aldershot:  Avebury, 1994.

    This book fulfils a gap in development planning. It develops a novel framework for estimating labour balances for skilled manpower corresponding to the economic targets of five-year development plans. This is done partly by revealing the underlying theory of manpower planning and by formulating a Manpower Requirements Model.



    A Tributary Model of State Formation: Ethiopia, 1600-2015, Springer 2018.

    Addresses the perplexing question of why a pedigreed Ethiopian state failed to transform itself into a nation-state. Using a comparative-institutionalist framework, this book explores why Ethiopia, an Afroasian civilizational state, has yet to build a modern political order comprising a sturdy state, the rule of law, and accountability to the ruled. The book provides a theoretical framework that contrasts the European and the Afroasian modes of state formation and explores the three major variants of the Ethiopian state since 1600 (Gondar, Shewa, and Revolutionary). It does this by employing the conceptual entry point of tributarism and teases out the implications of this perspective for refashioning the embattled postcolonial African political institutions. The primary contribution of the book is the novel framing of state formation through the lens of a landed Afroasiatic peasantry in giving rise to a fragile state whose redistributive preoccupation preempted the emergence of a productive economy to serve as a buoyant revenue base. Unlike feudal Europe, the dependence of the Afroasian state on arm's-length overlordship rather than on tightly-managed landlordship incentivized endemic extractive contests among elites with the capacity for violence for the non-fixed tribute from independent wealth producers. Tributarism, I argue here, stymied the transition from a resilient statehood to a robust nation-statehood that befits an open-order society.

    Tributary Model


    Industrial Development in Africa: Mapping Industrialization Pathways for a Leaping Leopard. Routledge, 2018.

    Critically synthesizes and reframes the debates on African industrial development in a capability-opportunity framework. It recasts the challenge in a broader comparative context of successive waves of catchup industrialization experiences in the European periphery, Latin America, and East Asia. Berhanu Abegaz explores the case for resource-based and factor-based industrialization in North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa by drawing on insights from the history of industrialization, development economics, political economy, and institutional economics. Unpacking complex and diverse experiences, the chapters look at Africa at several levels: continent-wide, sub-regions on both sides of the Sahara, and present analytical case studies of 12 representative countries: Egypt, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Cote d'Ivoire.

    Industrial Development

    Books (edited):

    The Challenge of European Integration: Internal and External Problems of Trade and Money. Westview Press, 1994.

    A key reference in the interpretation and understanding of current developments in Europe. It is required reading not just for economists and political scientists but any student of contemporary Europe and the emerging system of global trade and finance. The effort to establish economic, political, and monetary integration in Europe is one of the great dramas of our time, and the implications of its success or failure are enormous for the rest of the world. In this volume, distinguished economists and political scientists address the wide-ranging set of issues confronting the nations of Europe and explore the implications of the European experience for regional integration elsewhere. The distinguished contributors of this edited volume address an impressively broad range of issues, including the influence of Europe's troubled history since the 1930s, the performance of preferential trade arrangements and their impact on multilateral institutions such as the GATT, the particular impact of monetary integration, and the significance of all these developments for the political future of Europe.

    Challenge of European Integration


    Essays on Ethiopian Economic Development. Routledge, 1994.

    This edited volume consists of seven original essays authored by five economists, on recent Ethiopian economic development. The papers deal with the relevance of conventional development theory to the special problems facing late developers, survey key sectors of the Ethiopian economy, and present econometric models at both the macro and microeconomic levels. The book makes important contributions in several areas through rigorous theoretical and empirical analyses that are grounded in Ethiopian institutions. It also presents new perspectives on the African economic crises which provide a welcome contrast to those advanced by governments and the Bretton Woods institutions.

    Essays on Ethiopian Economics Development