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The African origins of Euro-American development: Pins on an empirical roadmap

Amavilah, Voxi Heinrich (2017): The African origins of Euro-American development: Pins on an empirical roadmap.

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Abstract

Despite their obvious ideological bends, economic studies of the interactions between Africa and “developed” Europe and America (Euro-America) have been decidedly lopsided. Existing studies conceive the effects of the interactions to be unidirectional, with Africa always on the receiving end in both good and bad ways. The conception is incorrect; it lacks the appreciation that the effects are interactive, mutual, dynamic, and simultaneous. Thus, I argue that contrary to the extant literature, the development of Euro-America has origins in Africa through the mechanism of mercantile, slave, and free trade. For example, the growth of colonial Britain depended on foreign trade with the Americas – exports of manufactured goods and imports of raw materials. In turn, American raw materials were produced by African slave labor. When slavery ended African raw materials began to flow to Euro-America in greater amounts than before, replacing slave labor. The result was a smooth transition from a slave-labor-based economy to a modern economy in Euro-America, and a stunted economy in Africa. The objective of this paper is to sketch how one might go about illustrating such effects in a simple quantitative way. In other words, it puts some pins to suggest a roadmap for empirical studies. To do so, first I review very briefly the history of African and Euro-American interactions. Second, I attempt to establish the channels of interactions. Third, I construct a simple model for measuring Africa’s effects on Euro-American development as a system of three seemingly unrelated equations, which can be estimated individually and/or simultaneously. Fourth, I indicate the challenges and methods for generating the data required to implement the model empirically. While this version of the paper is unaccompanied by its empirical counterpart, it is nonetheless clear that at least some of the origins of Euro-American development are African.

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