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Export Diversity and Regional Growth: Empirical Evidence from South Africa


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  • Matthee, Marianne
  • Naude, Wim


This paper provides empirical evidence on the relationship between exports, and in particular export diversity, and regional growth in a developing country context. Using export data for 19 sectors from 354 subnational (magisterial) districts of South Africa, we construct various measures of subnational export diversity. We find that it is not only how much that is exported, but also important is what is exported. Regions with less specialization and more diversified exports generally experienced higher economic growth rates and contributed much more to overall exports from South Africa. We also find that distance (and thus transport costs) may matter for export diversity. Estimating a cubic-spline density function for the various measures of export diversity we find that export diversity declines as the distance from a port (export hub) increases. Most magisterial districts with high export diversity values are located within 100 km of the nearest port. Furthermore, comparing the cubic-spline density functions for 2004 with that of 1996 shows that distance (transport costs) have become more important (under greater openness), with fewer diverse magisterial districts located further away from ports in 2004 than in 1996. One possible explanation for this changing pattern of export diversity may be due to the impact of greater foreign direct investment in South Africa since 1996.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER) in its series Working Paper Series with number UNU-WIDER Research Paper RP2007/11.

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Length: 22 pages
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:rp2007-11

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Keywords: exports; export diversification; export variety; regional growth; new economic geography;


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Cited by:
  1. Ferreira, Gustavo F.C. & Harrison, R. Wes, 2012. "From Coffee Beans to Microchips: Export Diversification and Economic Growth in Costa Rica," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Southern Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 44(04), November.
  2. Naude, Wim & Rossouw, Riaan, 2008. "Export Diversification and Specialization in South Africa: Extent and Impact," Working Paper Series RP2008/93, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  3. Ferreira, Gustavo F.C., 2009. "From Coffee Beans to Microchips: Export Diversification and Economic Growth in Costa Rica," 2009 Annual Meeting, January 31-February 3, 2009, Atlanta, Georgia 47178, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.


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