Industrial production, health and disease in Sub-Saharan Africa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Industrial development in Africa has carried with it significant health costs. These costs are normally defined rather narrowly by those concerned about occupational or industrial health and safety and refer only to the health consequences of worker exposure to specific hazardous processes, materials or environmental conditions associated with the workplace. A more comprehensive measurement of industrial health costs, however, must also include an assessment of the impact which industrial development and the creation of an industrial workforce has on ecological relationships, environmental conditions and patterns of sickness and health in the areas surrounding industrial centers. Traditional definitions of occupational health also tend to focus attention on the immediate causal linkages which exist between the development of particular industrial processes and specific health hazards. Yet any attempt to fully understand the causes of industrial health problems in Africa must look beyond these immediate causal linkages and examine the wider political and economic forces which determine the shape of industrial development and the extent to which the health costs of this development are borne by industrial workers and their families, as well as by people who may not be directly or even indirectly connected to industrial development, but may, nonetheless, be exposed to its health risks. The paper surveys the direct and indirect health costs of mining, large scale agriculture, and manufacturing in Africa and examines the economic and political interests which have determined the distribution of these costs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-496
Number of pages22
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • Africa
  • industrialization
  • occupational health
  • political economy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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