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African Comparative History of Occupational Structure

African Comparative History of Occupational Structure

This international project seeks to replicate what the INCHOS pproject has achieved for Eurasia and North America by creating consistently coded and harmonised datasets on historical occupational structure for as many countries as possible in sub-Saharan Africa and engaging in systematic comparative analysis. A first major goal is producing a monograph, tentatively titled: The Comparative History of Occupational Structure and Urbanisation Across Sub-Saharan Africa since 1850, to be edited by Gareth Austin and Leigh Shaw-Taylor (both Cambridge). Currently thirteen country or area chapters are in preparation. Currently nineteen scholars are actively involved, from nine universities or institutes in Europe, Southern Africa and the USA. We held organised successful conference sessions at the European Social Science History Conference in Valencia (2016) and at the African Studies UK conference in Cambridge (2016). There will be a dedicated conference in King's College Cambridge on 11-12 April 2018, and a session at the World Economic History Congress in Boston in July-August 2018.

The quantitative analysis of occupational structures is especially pertinent to our understanding and measuring of economic growth and development in Africa, where the quality of national income accounts has been severely criticised. Studying the changing sectoral composition of African economies can illuminate the mechanisms of economic expansion, and the constraints upon it, particularly during periods of structural shifts such as the growth of agricultural exporting during the colonial period, the state-led development strategies in the first decades after independence, the adoption of 'Structural Adjustment' in the 1980s, and the recent period of general economic expansion – but without industrialization – since c.1995. Regarding structural change, quantifying changes in occupational structure will also encourage new readings of the fortunes of manufacturing from the craft sectors of the precolonial economies to the contemporary manufacturers' struggles with Chinese competition. The project will contribute to comparative and global economic and labour history, and to the debates about development policy in Africa.

AFCHOS uses the PSTI system for classifying occupations already used in INCHOS. Unlike the established Primary-Secondary-Tertiary system, PSTI includes mining in the secondary rather than the primary sector. In African history, however, mining and other forms of mineral extraction usually have different properties from both agriculture and manufacturing. Therefore, the AFCHOS country studies show the data in 4 sectors, with mining/extraction as a separate entity besides primary production, manufacturing, and services, before eventually summarising in PSTI terms. We hope thereby to do justice to the particularities of Africa, while achieving commensurability with the Eurasian/North American study.

Financial support so far has come from the participants' institutional research funds, while the research on Northern Nigeria is made possible by a grant from the British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grants scheme. The April 2018 conference is supported by King's College Cambridge, the G. M. Trevelyan Fund, and the Ellen McArthur Fund.

In the present phase the following country or area chapters are in preparation:

  • Botswana: Jutta Bolt and Ellen Hilbom (both Lund University)
  • Congo (Belgian C, Zaire, DRC): Ewout Frankema, Michiel de Haas and Dácil Juif (all Wageningen University)
  • Ghana: Gareth Austin (University of Cambridge)
  • Kenya: Karin Pallaver (University of Bologna)
  • Malawi: Erik Green (Lund University), Wapulumuka Mulwafu (Chancellor College, University of Malawi) and Rory Pilosoff (Free State University)
  • Mozambique: Filipa Ribeiro da Silva (International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam)
  • Northern Nigeria: Emiliano Travieso and Gareth Austin (both University of Cambridge)
  • Senegal: Marlous van Waijenburg (University of Michigan)
  • Sierra Leone Colony in 1831: Stefania Galli (Gothenburg University)
  • South Africa: Johan Fourie and Omphile Rampela (both Stellenbosch University)
  • Tanzania: Karin Pallaver (University of Bologna)
  • Zambia: Duncan Money and Rory Pilosoff (both Free State University)
  • Zimbabwe: Erik Green (Lund University), Wapulumuka Mulwafu (Chancellor College, University of Malawi) and Rory Pilosoff (Free State University)

Countries included in AFCHOSNorthern Nigeria: Proportion of adult males employed in the secondary sector

Northern Nigeria: Population densities, 1952