Africa has not suffered a chronic failure of growth. African growth has been recurring. This paper reviews some growth spurts to substantiate that claim. The proximate cause of low income in Africa is the sequence of boom and bust. This significantly reorients the central research question—away from a search for the root causes of African underdevelopment and towards explaining causes and effects of growth and decline. The growth spurts are approached as local responses to a global demand for African produced commodities. It is argued that these supply responses involved more than a reallocation of land and labour; they entailed investment and institutional change. It is precisely because these periods of rapid economic change and accumulation caused important social and organizational changes that they cannot be ignored, as they have tended to be in the search for a root cause of chronic failure.
Morten Jerven homepage: http://www.sfu.ca/internationalstudies/jerven.html
Final version of this paper was published in Economic History of Developing Regions 25(2), 127–154. Access via publisher website here. Jerven, Morten, African Growth Recurring: An Economic History Perspective on African Growth Episodes, 1690–2010, Simons Papers in Security and Development, No. 4/2010, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, June 2010.
Economic History of Developing Regions
African Growth Recurring: An Economic History Perspective on African Growth Episodes, 1690–2010
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