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Sectoral sources of sub-Saharan Africa’s convergence


  • Tarek M. Harchaoui
  • Murat Üngör


From 1970 to 2010, sub-Saharan African’s (SSA) labour productivity hovered at around 6% of the US level. This lacklustre performance, which remained stubbornly low despite the SSA’s growth spurt that started in the mid-1990s, masks a great deal of variations across sectors and countries. Using a structural decomposition, we examine, for a representative sample of SSA countries, the sectoral sources that hold back their convergence to the US frontier. Our results suggest the presence of strong – and possibly long-lasting – headwinds that have wiped out the favourable effects of substantial, yet circumstantial, tailwinds. Headwinds, quantified by the unfavourable within- and reallocation-effects, are indicative of significant capital-deepening and technology gaps, both of which are extremely hard to bridge. The tailwinds, represented by favourable between-effects, result from the convergence of the SSA labour force to sectors where some US sectors have seen a slowdown of their productivity relative to that of the whole economy – a development unrelated to the fundamentals underlying the SSA economy. Although few exceptions emerged out of this general pattern, these results are indicative of a bleak outlook for the SSA economic performance at least in the medium run.

Suggested Citation

  • Tarek M. Harchaoui & Murat Üngör, 2016. "Sectoral sources of sub-Saharan Africa’s convergence," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(9), pages 642-651, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:apeclt:v:23:y:2016:i:9:p:642-651
    DOI: 10.1080/13504851.2015.1095994

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