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

  • Broadberry, Stephen

    (London School of Economics and CAGE)

  • Gardner, Leigh

    (London School of Economics)

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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File URL: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/centres/cage/research/wpfeed/172-2013_broadberry.pdf
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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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  6. 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.
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  12. Bates, Robert H. & Coatsworth, John H. & Williamson, Jeffrey G., 2007. "Lost Decades: Postindependence Performance in Latin America and Africa," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(04), pages 917-943, December.
  13. Gardner, Leigh A., 2012. "Taxing Colonial Africa: The Political Economy of British Imperialism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199661527, March.
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