The TseTse fly is unique to Africa and transmits a parasite harmful to humans and lethal to livestock. This paper tests the hypothesis that the TseTse reduced the ability of Africans to generate an agricultural surplus historically. Ethnic groups inhabiting TseTse-suitable areas were less likely to use domesticated animals and the plow, less likely to be politically centralized, and had a lower population density. These
correlations are not found in the tropics outside of Africa, where the fly does not exist. The evidence suggests current economic performance is affected by the TseTse through the channel of precolonial political centralization.