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12.02.2015 Education

Research into African Economic History - African Scholars urged

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Cape Coast, Feb. 12, GNA - African students and historians must employ cross-country economic analysis and publish historical journals to highlight the state of the continent's economies in this post-colonial era.

This would also prepare a database for archival records on pre-colonial facts to inform the future generation about the true state of the slave trade practice and also redeem the continent from global neglect of the impact of the slave trade on the economies of Africa.

Professor Gareth Austin of the Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland, said this at a public lecture at the Centre for African and International Studies, University of Cape Coast.

He said African economic history, which was popular and part of the works of historians and economists of Africa, in the first 20 years after Ghana's independence, had since the late 1980s suffered neglect and disinterest.

He said for various reasons, including disinterest among the African academia, African Economic History had rather been left in the care of foreign historians who painted gloomy outlook of Africa.

Speaking on the theme; 'Research in Ghanaian and African Economic History: Recent Trends,' Prof. Austin intimated that it was not a hidden truth that slave trade had seriously affected the African economy, especially where the practice persisted.

'Obviously the Trans-Atlantic slave trade left Africa with nothing but devastation telling on the economies of the countries involved, for instance vast lands are unused and the labour was abused due to the slave trade,' he observed.

Prof Austin was, however, emphatic that African economies, since 1995, were growing faster than other economies of the world, a feat he urged the scholars to capitalize on and propel Africa's economies even better.

Analysing the economies of West Africa, which endured most atrocities during the colonial era, he stated that Ghana and Nigeria, for example, had seen massive improvement in their economies.

He identified fiscal policies and real wages, which he said, were higher in post-colonial days than that of the East African countries such as Tanzania and Kenya, as well as black workers in South Africa.

According to him, this had been necessitated by most of the workforce in West Africa being educated, thereby enabling industrialization.

Again, the heights of the average West African, Prof Austin hinted, determined the physical well-being of its citizens, saying research showed it had a direct correlation with strong and healthy workforce.

For example, he said, cocoa incomes had continued to improve in Cote d'Ivoire because its citizens had more than average heights.

Asked about his thoughts on reparations for the African countries involved in the slave trade, Prof Austin said the issue was a dicey one, saying, 'Who are they going to compensate, the ancestral families or the states.'

Dr. Wilson Kwame Yayoh, the Acting Director of the Centre for African and International Studies, UCC, said the lecture was the first in the series of cross fertilization of ideas from the international domain.

He said the new Centre, formerly called the Centre of African Studies, was inaugurated in October, 2014, to ease the pressure on the only African Studies centre in the country at the University of Ghana.


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