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Abstract

Production and productivity developments in South Africa have regional consequences: South Africa’s agricultural economy accounted for 43.1% of the agricultural GDP of southern Africa in 2009. Here we present and discuss newly constructed long-run data on agricultural input and output aggregates for South Africa spanning most of the 20th century. Updated multi-factor productivity (MFP) measures for South Africa for the last half of the 20th century are also presented. For the period after 1961, land and labor productivity trends for South Africa are compared with partial productivity developments in the rest of Africa. The general tendency has been for labor productivity to grow at slower rates throughout sub- Saharan Africa than in South Africa (and Nigeria). We also detect a fairly widespread slowdown in the growth of both these partial productivity measures in more recent years. MFP growth for South Africa has also slowed, as has aggregate agricultural output growth, which has now slipped well below the country’s corresponding rate of population growth. A failure to revitalize the rate of productivity growth and sustain that rate over the long run will have far-reaching economic development consequences for South Africa and the continent generally.

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