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Jutta Bolt receives new grant from the Swedish Research Council 

14 November 2023
Professor Jutta Bolt

The Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) has decided to award a grant of € 575.000 to Jutta Bolt and Ellen Hillbom (Lund University). The researchers received the grant for their research into the causes and consequences of long-term inequality in Africa. Bolt is professor of Global Economic History at UG’s Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB) and is associate professor of Economic History at Lund University in Sweden.

Bolt’s research focuses on understanding long-term comparative economic development patterns, with a special focus on Africa. For this research project, Bolt will work together with her colleague Ellen Hillbom, professor at Lund University. With their project, they aim to address inequality concerns and investigate not only whether Africa is rising, also but whose Africa is rising. Of the total grant, € 80,000 goes to the UG and the remaining amount to Lund University.

Identifying common drivers of inequality

Currently, Africa stands out as having the largest inter-regional differences in inequality in the world. While Western Africa can mostly be characterized by moderate inequality levels, Southern African countries are among the most unequal globally (ACEIR 2023; WID 2023; WIID 2023). During the 21st century, many African countries experienced major economic and social change, causing scholars and policy makers to give the region increasingly positive attention. Yet, large databases addressing global inequality still lack consistent data before the 1960s (Bourguignon 2017; Milanovic 2018; WID 2023; WIID 2023). Historical data has been missing, scattered, and sometimes contradictory. It remains hard to see how global inequality theories will be applicable to Africa as long as data capturing the region’s experience are missing.

In the African Long-Term Inequality Trends research network (AFLIT) Bolt and Hillbom address these challenges, as they estimate and analyse colonial income inequality for the full population of numerous African countries. With this new project, they expand their research efforts to more African countries, including former Portuguese colonies, to get a better coverage and gain more insights. Including a larger number of AFLIT countries in their analysis allows them to conduct more comparative studies where they identify common drivers and dimensions of long-term African inequality and contribute to theory building relevant for both Africa and global inequality research. To maximize the common value of their efforts and encourage research by other scholars, Bolt and Hillbom will construct a publicly available database where they share their inequality measures for both the existing and additional AFLIT countries.

Earlier research grant

At the beginning of this year, Bolt and colleagues from Wageningen University and Lund University already received funding from the Swedish Research Council for another research project, studying the historical origins of health inequalities in Sub-Saharan Africa between 1900 and 1960.

Questions? Please contact Jutta Bolt.

Last modified:14 November 2023 2.20 p.m.

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