shackled to the past


TO SOME DEVELOPMENT economists, the world can be boiled down this simply: There are rich countries that keep getting richer, and there are poor countries that seem destined to grow poorer. And then, there is Africa.

For every symptom of Africa’s relentless underdevelopment, there is a theory about its root causes. Colonialism, the Cold War, climate change, ethnic warfare, the choking off of technology – they all rank high on the list of ills and crimes perpetrated on this continent in the last century. But underneath all those, many scholars have long sensed that to answer the two most nagging questions about Africa – How do we fix it? And how did it break? – you have to go much farther back in time. All the way to African slavery.

Sensing it is one thing. Proving it is another. Could there be a direct, quantifiable link between the African countries most ravaged by slavery and those that are the most underdeveloped today? And if there were such a link, could it be measured?

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