This study examines the current and potential role of economics in soil productivity in sub-Saharan Africa. After examining the status of soil productivity and the contribution of conventional economic analyses, it considers more innovative approaches that enable economics to play a greater role in the planning and evaluation of soil productivity, enhancing measures at farm, national and global level. In the past economics has tended to focus on one factor at a time but many factors affect soil productivity. Decisions, policies and their impact call for a more integrative, participatory analytical approaches capable of weighing various aspects simultaneously. This study highlights how economics can respond to this challenge through the a[application of fresh concepts (e.g. natural capital) and specific techniques (e.g. multi-criteria analysis, green accounting).