Plutarch, c. 100 - 110 AD "An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailments of all republics" "[ …] to neglect persons of poor and mean condition is the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments" Adam Smith, 1759 "We must work together to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth, opportunity, and power in our society" Nelson Mandela, 1996


African Long-term Inequality Trends, AFLIT, is a research network dedicated to constructing social tables for the advancement in mapping, estimating and analysing historical economic inequality trends in the sub-Sahara African region. Today Africa contains the largest between country variations in income inequality in the world, a spectrum that includes Southern Africa where we find extremely high levels. Currently, however, we lack both the empirical evidence and the theoretical understanding to explain the development and diversity of the different pathways. Researchers in AFLIT are committed to filling this empirical and theoretical gap. For more information click here.

Network Aims

The overall aim of AFLIT is to provide a platform for collaborations between researchers interested in constructing social tables for the study of long-term inequality trends in Africa. More concretely, this entails:

  1. Organize workshops and similar events where researchers can discuss and develop comparable empirical studies of long-term inequality trends.
  2. Attract funding and expand our international networks to encourage the construction of a growing number of inequality studies for African economies, particularly for the colonial era. The case studies will be made publicly available in a database.
  3. Disseminate our research to the academic community and other stakeholders such as policy makers and the public through presentations at conferences and public events, publications of academic and non-academic texts, and social media.


Why social tables remain the coolest tool for historical inequality studies

Studying economic inequality in contemporary settings remains a difficult thing to do. People are typically not too keen on letting you know how much they earn or how rich they are. We often under-report our earnings for fear of rebuke from tax authorities or because it’s a social taboo to speak about money and incomes. So modern economists are left with survey data that may either underestimate or overestimate inequality metrics. But despite these challenges the overall picture we get from many of these studies is more or less accurate. Now imagine looking at long-term inequality where the data situation…

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Collecting Archival Material: a Conversation with Historian Karin Pallaver

Maria Mwaipopo Fibæk talks to Karin Pallaver, a member of AFLIT and an Associate Professor of African History in the Department of History and Cultures at the University of Bologna. Karin’s research draws on a multitude of historical sources of which many were collected at national archives in United Kingdom and East Africa and the two discuss the collection of archival material for research. Karin has a longstanding interest in African history and she has been part of a ‘Money in Africa’ project based at the British Museum. She has published work on the long history of changing currency regimes…

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The Nexus between Growth, Inequality, and Poverty: Lessons from Long-term Trends in Tanzania, 1961-2017

What is the relationship between growth, inequality, and poverty? This is perhaps one of the most important questions of economic development that, in the context of sub-Saharan Africa, it has gained prominence against the backdrop of two decades of almost uninterrupted growth since the turn of the millennium. Despite strong growth, there have been doubts as to whether it translated into substantial poverty reduction. A missing piece in this puzzle is economic inequality, which, while often neglected in the past, is currently at the centre of attention in economic research. The aim of this paper is to re-evaluate the existing…

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