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Africa's Growth Prospects in a European mirror: a Historical Perspective

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  • Broadberry, Stephen

    (London School of Economics and CAGE)

  • Gardner, Leigh

    (London School of Economics)

Abstract

Drawing on recent quantitative research on Europe reaching back to the medieval period, and noting a relationship between the quality of institutions and economic growth, this paper offers a reassessment of Africa’s growth prospects. Periods of positive growth driven by trade, followed by growth reversals which wiped out the gains of the previous boom, characterized pre-modern Europe as well as twentieth century Africa. Since per capita incomes in much of sub-Saharan Africa are currently at the level of medieval Europe, which did not make the breakthrough to modern economic growth until the nineteenth century, we caution against too optimistic a reading of Africa’s recent growth experience. Without the institutional changes necessary to facilitate structural change, growth reversals continue to pose a serious threat to African prosperity. Only if growth continues after a downturn in Africa’s terms of trade can we be sure that the corner has been turned.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) in its series CAGE Online Working Paper Series with number 172.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cge:wacage:172

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Keywords: Africa; Growth prospects.;

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  1. Leandro Prados de la Escosura, 2012. "Output Per Head In Pre-Independence Africa: Quantitative Conjectures," Economic History of Developing Regions, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 27(2), pages 1-36, December.
  2. Barro, Robert J., 1999. "Determinants of Democracy," Scholarly Articles 3451297, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  3. Karaman, K. Kivanç & Pamuk, Şevket, 2010. "Ottoman State Finances in European Perspective, 1500–1914," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 70(03), pages 593-629, September.
  4. Malanima, Paolo, 2011. "The long decline of a leading economy: GDP in central and northern Italy, 1300–1913," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(02), pages 169-219, August.
  5. Allen, Robert C., 2000. "Economic structure and agricultural productivity in Europe, 1300 1800," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(01), pages 1-25, April.
  6. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
  7. Gardner, Leigh A., 2012. "Taxing Colonial Africa: The Political Economy of British Imperialism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199661527, September.
  8. Bates, Robert H. & Coatsworth, John H. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 2007. "Lost Decades: Postindependence Performance in Latin America and Africa," Scholarly Articles 12211559, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  9. Power, Eileen, 1941. "The Wool Trade in English Medieval History," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number power1941.
  10. Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey, 2006. "From the Corn Laws to Free Trade: Interests, Ideas, and Institutions in Historical Perspective," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262195437, December.
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