This article traces how African incomes have been measured through history. There has been a conflict of aims between producers and users of the national income estimates. Politicians and international organisations wish income measures to reflect current political and economic priorities and achievements. Thus, the importance given to markets, the state and peasants in the estimates varies through time and space. Meanwhile, statisticians aim to produce a measure that best reflects the economy given the available data and definitions at any time. Scholars would prefer a measure that is consistent through time and space, so as to analyze and compare ‘progress’, but they cannot agree on how ‘progress’ is best defined. The result is not an objective measure, but rather an expression of development priorities determined by changes in the political economy. The article provides a much needed study of the ability of the statistical offices to independently and regularly provide income statistics. These data are of crucial importance, as they enter the public domain in policy evaluations, political debates and assessments of progress towards lofty goals such as the Millennium Development Goals.
Morten Jerven homepage: http://www.sfu.ca/internationalstudies/jerven.html
Final version of this paper was published in African Affairs 110(439), 169–190. Access via publisher website here. Jerven, Morten, Users and Producers of African Income: Measuring the Progress of African Economies, Simons Papers in Security and Development, No. 7/2010, School for International Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, October 2010.
Users and Producers of African Income: Measuring the Progress of African Economies
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