Textbooks could be a cheap and efficient input to primary school education in Africa. In this paper, we
examine the effects of textbooks on student outcomes and separate between direct effects and externalities.
Using the rich data set provided by the ‘Program on the Analysis of Education Systems’ (PASEC) for five
Francophone, sub-Saharan African countries, this paper goes beyond the estimation of direct effects of
textbooks on students' learning and focuses on peer effects resulting from textbooks owned by students'
classmates. Using nonparametric estimation methods, we separate the direct effect of textbooks from their
peer effect. The latter clearly dominates but depends upon the initial level of textbook availability.