Has Mercantilism Reduced Urban Poverty in SSA? Perception of Boom, Bust, and the China-Africa Trade in Lomé and Bamako
Summary This paper addresses the immediate impacts of the China-Africa trade on Africa's informal traders and its longer term impact on urban poverty, based on a comparison of the major cities of two West African countries and drawing on semi-structured interviews with traders and on schedule-based interviews with key informants in government, business and the informal trade sector. The findings are that the increase in imports from China initially broadened access to trading for the poor, creating short-term improvements in livelihoods, but competition is driving down profit margins, and restricting the trade to a survival mechanism for many today. Thus it has provided limited long-term potential as an economic platform for national development and poverty reduction. The findings are discussed in terms of structuration theory and in terms of alternative conceptualizations of informal trade in Africa.
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