Cross-sectional studies of growth in post-colonial Africa have overwhelmingly focussed on explaining the failure of growth in Africa. This prompting stylised fact has its qualifications and when these are taken into consideration the explanations of African economic growth appear incoherent. The notion of a chronic African growth failure has diverted attention from the process of economic growth and left important questions unaddressed. The quest for the African dummy has delivered transferable conclusions with a strong impact on the writing of African economic history. This critical survey of the literature argues that African economic performance needs to be evaluated from a different perspective. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.