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date: 04 July 2022

Abstract and Keywords

A growing body of evidence is showing that the international slave trade was a significant shock to African economies—one with negative long-term consequences for economic growth. The slave trade was a welfare loss for Africa, which begs the question “why were so many slaves exported?” The main reason is that slave production was organized theft, so by its very nature it generated negative externalities and overproduction—overproduction that was further encouraged by the importation of the gunpowder technology. People fought back, reconfiguring the ways they interacted with each other as insurance against capture. The general trend was towards political decentralization, stronger and more-absolutist local chiefs, more polygyny and a culture of mistrust—all of which reduced long-term growth. These legacies remain developmental challenges for much of sub-Saharan Africa today.

Keywords: slave trade, African underdevelopment, customary authority, path dependence

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