Resources, techniques, and strategies south of the Sahara: Revising the factor endowments perspective on African economic development, 1500-2000 1

  • Austin G
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This article seeks to revise and re-apply the factor endowments perspective on African history. The propositions that sub-Saharan Africa was characterized historically by land abundance and labour scarcity, and that the natural environment posed severe constraints on the exploitation of the land surplus, are broadly upheld. Important alterations are suggested, however, centred on the seasonality of labour supply, Ruf's concept of forest rent, and, for precolonial economies, the role of fixed capital. This revised endowments framework is then applied in order to explore the long-term dynamics of economic development in Africa, focusing on how the economic strategies of producers and political authorities created specific paths of change which shifted the production possibility frontiers of the economies concerned, and ultimately altered the very factor ratios to which the strategies had been responses.

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  • Gareth Austin

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