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The Lion on the Move Towards the World Frontier: Catching Up or Remaining Stuck?

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  • Tarek M Harchaouia
  • Murat Ãœngörb

Abstract

The remarkable growth spurt reported by the Sub-Saharan African (SSA) economy since the mid-1990s offers the opportunity to revisit the narrative of its economic development experience. We investigate whether the SSA economy has initiated a gradual process of convergence which reverses the long-term fall so far behind the U.S. frontier. Our framework begins with a top-down approach that performs a nested development accounting exercise. This aggregate analysis complements a bottom-up approach that tracks the sectoral origins of the SSA aggregate relative labor productivity performance. The application of this framework to a representative sample of the SSA economy over the 1970-2010 period suggests the following set of results. After one-quarter of a century of falling behind the U.S. level of real income per capita, the SSA economy observed a swift turnaround towards the end of the 1990s, yet without showing any sign of catch-up. Second, parallel to favorable demographic developments, SSA reports a startling relative labor productivity gap which accounts for much of its relative income per capita gap. Third, the use of the concept of cognitive skills reveals that human capital considerations have worsened o_ over time, making total factor productivity no longer the biggest part of the story underlying relative labor productivity differences. Fourth, the sectoral evidence points to the coexistence of headwinds (negative within- and reallocation-effects) and tailwinds (between-effects) which tend to cancel out each other, thus preventing SSA aggregate economic performance to get anywhere closer to the world frontier even during the growth spurt period.
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  • Tarek M Harchaouia & Murat Ãœngörb, 2018. "The Lion on the Move Towards the World Frontier: Catching Up or Remaining Stuck?," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 27(3), pages 366-366.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jafrec:v:27:y:2018:i:3:p:366-366.
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    Cited by:

    1. Joao Amador & Antonio R. dos Santos, 2018. "Thirty years of economic growth in Africa," NOVAFRICA Working Paper Series wp1802, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Nova School of Business and Economics, NOVAFRICA.
    2. Barker, Tom & Üngör, Murat, 2019. "Vietnam: The next asian Tiger?," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 96-118.
    3. Stephen Broadberry & Leigh Gardner, 2019. "Economic Growth In Sub-Saharan Africa, 1885-2008," Oxford Economic and Social History Working Papers _169, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    4. Campbell, Susanna G. & Üngör, Murat, 2020. "Revisiting human capital and aggregate income differences," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 43-64.
    5. John Ssozi & Edward Bbaale, 2019. "The Effects of the Catch-Up Mechanism on the Structural Transformation of Sub-Saharan Africa," Economies, MDPI, vol. 7(4), pages 1-27, November.
    6. Stephen Broadberry & Leigh Gardner, 2019. "Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1885-2008," Oxford Economic and Social History Working Papers _169, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N10 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • O55 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Africa
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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