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African Export Successes: Surprises, Stylized Facts, and Explanations

In: African Successes: Modernization and Development

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  • William Easterly
  • Ariell Reshef

Abstract

We establish the following stylized facts: (1) Exports are characterized by Big Hits, (2) the Big Hits change from one period to the next, and (3) these changes are not explained by global factors like global commodity prices. These conclusions are robust to excluding extractable products (oil and minerals) and other commodities. Moreover, African Big Hits exhibit similar patterns as Big Hits in non-African countries. We also discuss some concerns about data quality. These stylized facts are inconsistent with the traditional view that sees African exports as a passive commodity endowment, where changes are driven mostly by global commodity prices. In order to better understand the determinants of export success in Africa we interviewed several exporting entrepreneurs, government officials and NGOs. Some of the determinants that we document are conventional: moving up the quality ladder, utilizing strong comparative advantage, trade liberalization, investment in technological upgrades, foreign ownership, ethnic networks, and personal foreign experience of the entrepreneur. Other successes are triggered by idiosyncratic factors like entrepreneurial persistence, luck, and cost shocks, and some of the successes occur in areas that usually fail.

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This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 13365.

Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:13365

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  1. Sofronis K. Clerides & Saul Lach & James R. Tybout, 1998. "Is Learning By Exporting Important? Micro-Dynamic Evidence From Colombia, Mexico, And Morocco," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 903-947, August.
  2. Alejandro Artopoulos & Daniel Friel & Juan Carlos Hallak, 2010. "Challenges of Exporting Differentiated Products to Developed Countries: The Case of SME-Dominated Sectors in a Semi-Industrialized Country," Research Department Publications, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department 4677, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  3. Eaton, Jonathan & Eslava, Marcela & Kugler, Maurice & Tybout, James, 2007. "Export Dynamics in Colombia: Firm-Level Evidence," Working Paper Series, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government rwp07-050, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  4. Freund, Caroline & Rocha, Nadia, 2010. "What constrains Africa's exports ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5184, The World Bank.
  5. Juan Carlos Hallak & Daniel Friel & Alejandro Artopoulos, 2010. "Challenges of Exporting Differentiated Products to Developed Countries: The Case of SME-dominated Sectors in a Semi-," 2010 Meeting Papers, Society for Economic Dynamics 1063, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  6. Costas Arkolakis, 2010. "Market Penetration Costs and the New Consumers Margin in International Trade," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(6), pages 1151 - 1199.
  7. Costas Arkolakis & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2010. "The Extensive Margin of Exporting Products: A Firm-level Analysis," NBER Working Papers 16641, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Bernard, A., 1997. "Exceptional Exporter Performance: Cause, Effect, or Both?," Working papers, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics 97-21, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  9. Tibor Besedes & Thomas J. Prusa, 2007. "The Role of Extensive and Intensive Margins and Export Growth," NBER Working Papers 13628, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Cadot, Olivier & Iacovone, Leonardo & Pierola, Denisse & Rauch, Ferdinand, 2011. "Success and failure of African exporters," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5657, The World Bank.
  11. William Easterly, 2003. "Can Foreign Aid Buy Growth?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 23-48, Summer.
  12. James E. Rauch & Joel Watson, 1999. "Starting Small in an Unfamiliar Environment," NBER Working Papers 7053, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Freund, Caroline & Pierola, Martha Denisse, 2010. "Export entrepreneurs : evidence from Peru," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5407, The World Bank.
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Cited by:
  1. Artopoulos, Alejandro & Friel, Daniel & Hallak, Juan Carlos, 2013. "Export emergence of differentiated goods from developing countries: Export pioneers and business practices in Argentina," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 19-35.
  2. Ehrhart, Helene & Le Goff, Maelan & Rocher?, Emmanuel & Singh, Raju Jan, 2014. "Does migration foster exports ? evidence from Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6739, The World Bank.
  3. Hélène Ehrhart & Maëlan Le Goff & Emmanuel Rocher & Raju Jan Singh, 2012. "Does Migration Foster Exports? An African Perspective," Working Papers 2012-38, CEPII research center.
  4. Vincent BODART & Bertrand CANDELON & Jean-François CARPANTIER, 2014. "Real exchange rates, commodity prices and structural factors in developing countries," Working Papers, Department of Research, Ipag Business School 2014-046, Department of Research, Ipag Business School.
  5. Vincent BODART & Bertrand CANDELON & Jean-François CARPANTIER, 2011. "Real Exchanges Rates in Commodity Producing Countries: A Reappraisal," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2011007, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).

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