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.

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.


Presentation of the AFLIT Research Network

In this Q&A between the coordinator of the AFLIT research network, Professor Ellen Hillbom, and researcher Maria Fibaek, the AFLIT network is introduced. The conversation highlights why there is a need to study inequality in colonial Africa. Thoughts on ways to overcome data scarcity and the development of theories of drivers of inequality are exchanged. If you are interested in learning more about our research, kindly browse our Case Studies, download our published work, or reach out to us via the contact form.

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Inequality of education in colonial Ghana: European influences and African responses

How and why did African households under colonial rule make the decision to educate their children or not, and how did this micro-level decision making affect the diffusion of education in colonial Ghana? This paper addresses these questions and shows that many households were reluctant to enrol their children in school because the costs of colonial education were prohibitive, and the benefits were limited. Unemployment of school leavers was a major social problem throughout the colonial era and returns to education did not justify investments in education. The demand for education was relatively high in areas where the demand for…

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Long-term trends in income inequality: Winners and losers of economic change in Ghana, 1891–1960

This paper contributes to a growing literature on long-term trends and drivers of pre-industrial inequality by providing new stylized facts on the evolution of income inequality in Ghana from 1891 to 1960. Using newly constructed social tables, we estimate the Gini coefficient for seven consecutive decades at a time in which the adoption and expansion of cocoa cultivation transformed the Ghanaian economy. Income inequality was already high in 1891, prior to the spread of cocoa cultivation, and it remained stable for four decades. Following a small decline in the early 1930s, inequality increased, reaching its highest level at the end…

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