Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has been absent from recent debates about comparative long-run growth owing to the lack of data on aggregate economic performance before 1950. Here we provide estimates of GDP per capita on an annual basis for eight Anglophone African economies for the period since 1885. The new data show that many of these economies had levels of per capita income which were above subsistence by the early twentieth century, on a par with the largest economies in Asia until the 1980s. However, overall improvements in GDP per capita were limited by episodes of negative growth or “shrinking”, the scale and scope of which can be measured through annual data.
For reference and more detail on how these estimates were calculated, see Stephen Broadberry and Leigh Gardner, “Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1885-2008: Evidence from eight countries,” Explorations in Economic History 83 (2022): 101424.