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Measuring and explaining poverty in six African countries: A long-period approach

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Author Info

  • Sue Bowden

    (Department of Economics and Centre for Historical Economics, The University of York, York, UK)

  • Blessing Chiripanhura

    (The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)

  • Paul Mosley

    (The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)

Abstract

In this paper, we create the beginnings of a database on indicators of poverty and deprivation in six African countries over the last 100 years, with the intention of explaining the long-term trend of policy. We argue that an important key to those trends is provided by the decision during the first decades of the twentieth century to allow, or not to allow, the occupation of agricultural land by European settlers. If allowed (as in the white settler-controlled economies of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya, where Africans were squeezed out of income-earning opportunities by competition and prohibition until the 1960s at least) the legacy, we show, was a lack of bargaining power by Africans in the labour market, a real wage static at the subsistence level until late in the century, a highly unequal income distribution, and a small asset base from which to reduce poverty during the liberalisations of the 1980s and 1990s. If forbidden, as in the peasant-export economies of Ghana and Uganda (and to some extent Ethiopia), the legacy was a floor under the labour market, from the 1920s on, which could serve as a basis for poverty-reducing reforms in later years. Thus the potential for poverty reduction during the current 'poverty reduction wave' was indeed determined by the historical inheritance of institutions and policies, in particular settlement policies; but in a quite different way from that adumbrated by the recent analysis of Acemoglu et al. (2001). In their analysis, colonies with a high density of European occupation in colonial times persistently generate higher growth potential in later years; we argue the reverse. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Journal of International Development.

Volume (Year): 20 (2008)
Issue (Month): 8 ()
Pages: 1049-1079

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Handle: RePEc:wly:jintdv:v:20:y:2008:i:8:p:1049-1079

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Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/5102/home

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References

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  1. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2000. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 7771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Nicholas Crafts, 1997. "Some dimensions of the 'quality of life' during the British industrial revolution," Economic History Working Papers 20349, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  3. Fishlow, Albert, 1972. "Brazilian Size Distribution of Income," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(2), pages 391-402, May.
  4. Timothy Besley & Louise J. Cord, 2007. "Delivering on the Promise of Pro-Poor Growth : Insights and Lessons from Country Experiences," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7180, October.
  5. Kristin J. Forbes, 2000. "A Reassessment of the Relationship between Inequality and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 869-887, September.
  6. Barro, Robert J, 2000. " Inequality and Growth in a Panel of Countries," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 5-32, March.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Sue Bowden & Paul Mosley, 2008. "Historical roots of poverty: A symposium," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(8), pages 987-995.
  2. Peter Richens, 2009. "The economic legacies of the ‘thin white line’: indirect rule and the comparative development of sub-Saharan Africa," Economic History Working Papers 27879, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  3. Gareth Austin, 2008. "The 'reversal of fortune' thesis and the compression of history: Perspectives from African and comparative economic history," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(8), pages 996-1027.
  4. Alexander Moradi, 2008. "Confronting colonial legacies-lessons from human development in Ghana and Kenya, 1880-2000," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(8), pages 1107-1121.
  5. Ewout Frankema & Marlous van Waijenburg, 2011. "African Real Wages in Asian Perspective, 1880-1940," Working Papers 0002, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  6. Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 2011. "Human development in Africa : a long-run perspective," Working Papers in Economic History wp11-09, Universidad Carlos III, Departamento de Historia Económica e Instituciones.
  7. Kodila-Tedika, Oasis, 2013. "Esclavagisme et colonisation : Quelles conséquences contemporaines en Afrique ? - Résumé critique des travaux de l'économiste Nathan Nunn
    [Slavery and colonization: What contemporary consequenc
    ," MPRA Paper 43732, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  8. Pim de Zwart, 2011. "Real wages at the Cape of Good Hope: A long-term perspective, 1652-1912," Working Papers 0013, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
  9. Paul Mosley, 2013. "Two Africas? Why Africa’s ‘Growth Miracle’ is barely reducing poverty," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 19113, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
  10. James Fenske, 2011. "Trees, Tenure and Conflict: Rubber in Colonial Benin," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Working Paper W, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  11. Jerven , Morten & Austin , Gareth & Green, Erik & Uche , Chibuike & Frankema , Ewout & Fourie , Johan & Inikori , Joseph & Moradi , Alexander & Hillbom , Ellen, 2012. "Moving Forward in African Economic History: Bridging the Gap Between Methods and Sources," African Economic History Working Paper 1/2012, African Economic History Network.
  12. Ewout Frankema & Marlous van Waijenburg, 2011. "Structural Impediments to African Growth? New Evidence from Real Wages in British Africa, 1880-1965," Working Papers 0024, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.

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