By early 2016, financial market participants had become increasingly critical of unsustainable current account deficits and low, unbalanced growth in many emerging economies. In response, adjustments have occurred (or are in process) in a wide range of countries – including Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Ghana – gradually guided by policy in some instances and much more abruptly forced by recession in others.
This paper investigates the causes and consequences of colonial Africa’s first financial crash, which happened in South Africa’s Dutch Cape Colony. The 1788–1793 crisis followed a common sequence of events: trade and fiscal deficits were monetized by printing money, credit extension accelerated, the exchange rate fell sharply and inflation spiked. The domestic conditions were compounded by a deterioration of international conditions and political uncertainty.