Comparing colonial and post-colonial output: Challenges in estimating African economic change in the long run


Until recently, most economists work on Africa has taken 1960 as the starting point because data on national income and similar derivates are only available back to this point. To date, the quantitative literature on Africa has made heroic leaps of faith, asserting causal relationships across time periods, without being able to account for different trajectories of economic development. This paper suggests some ways in which historical national accounts for African economies can be created and discusses whether such estimates will add to our stock of knowledge regarding African economic change, or whether they are likely to mislead. A new data-series approximating growth in Ghana from 1892-1954 is presented.