Post Independence Growth, The Lost Decades and Africa Rising

The Economic History of Sub-Saharan Africa

By Biodun Olamosu & Drew Povey

Sub-Saharan Africa is huge. Its area is larger than that of China, USA and India combined or five times that of the 28 countries of the European Union. Its population, at nearly 900 million, is also getting on for twice as much as that of the European Union. The 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa also provide a great variation with many small countries and giants such as Nigeria.

This article aims to provide an overview of the economic history of sub-Saharan Africa since independence (for most countries around 1960). At the beginning of the 20th century, having been ravaged by the slave trade and other forms of plunder for several centuries, sub-Saharan Africa was “an overwhelmingly land-abundant region characterised by shortages of labour and capital, by perhaps surprisingly extensive indigenous market activities and by varying but often low levels of political centralisation.”

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