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African Export Successes: Surprises, Stylized Facts, and Explanations

In: African Successes, Volume III: 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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Suggested Citation

  • William Easterly & Ariell Reshef, 2014. "African Export Successes: Surprises, Stylized Facts, and Explanations," NBER Chapters,in: African Successes, Volume III: Modernization and Development, pages 297-342 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:13365
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Bernard, Andrew B. & Bradford Jensen, J., 1999. "Exceptional exporter performance: cause, effect, or both?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, pages 1-25.
    2. 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, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 903-947.
    3. Costas Arkolakis & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2010. "The Extensive Margin of Exporting Products: A Firm-level Analysis," CESifo Working Paper Series 3309, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Cadot, Olivier & Iacovone, Leonardo & Pierola, Martha Denisse & Rauch, Ferdinand, 2013. "Success and failure of African exporters," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 284-296.
    5. Freund, Caroline; Rocha, Nadia, 2010. "What Constrains Africas Exports?," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 16, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    6. Gianluca Benigno & Huigang Chen & Christopher Otrok & Alessandro Rebucci & Eric R. Young, 2011. "Revisiting Overborrowing and its Policy Implications," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series,in: Luis Felipe Céspedes & Roberto Chang & Diego Saravia (ed.), Monetary Policy under Financial Turbulence, edition 1, volume 16, chapter 6, pages 145-184 Central Bank of Chile.
    7. 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 4677, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    8. Costas Arkolakis, 2010. "Market Penetration Costs and the New Consumers Margin in International Trade," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(6), pages 1151-1199.
    9. Rauch, James E. & Watson, Joel, 2003. "Starting small in an unfamiliar environment," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, pages 1021-1042.
    10. Jonathan Eaton, Marcela Eslava, Maurice Kugler,James Tybout, 1970. "Export Dynamics in Colombia: Firm-Level Evidence," Working Papers eg0036, Wilfrid Laurier University, Department of Economics, revised 1970.
    11. Caballero, Ricardo J., 1999. "Aggregate investment," Handbook of Macroeconomics,in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 813-862 Elsevier.
    12. Besedes, Tibor & Prusa, Thomas J., 2011. "The role of extensive and intensive margins and export growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 371-379.
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    15. 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. Guariso, Andrea & Verpoorten, Marijke, 2015. "Aid, Trad and Post-War Recovery of the Rwandan Coffee Sector," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 211693, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    2. Fukase, Emiko & Martin, Will, 2017. "Agro-processing and horticultural exports from Africa :," IFPRI discussion papers 1690, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    3. World Bank, 2012. "Botswana Development Policy Review," World Bank Other Operational Studies 26074, The World Bank.
    4. 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.
    5. Harrison, Mark, 2015. "World War II: Won by American Planes and Ships, or by the Poor Bloody Russian Infantry?," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1077, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    6. Deger, Cagacan, 2014. "A Note on Shifts in Turkey's International Trade Pattern," MPRA Paper 59817, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Bodart, Vincent & Candelon, Bertrand & Carpantier, Jean-Francois, 2015. "Real exchanges rates, commodity prices and structural factors in developing countries," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 264-284.
    8. Bodart, V. & Candelon, B. & Carpantier, J.-F., 2012. "Real exchanges rates in commodity producing countries: A reappraisal," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, pages 1482-1502.
    9. Shahid Yusuf, 2014. "Middle East Transitions; A Long, Hard Road," IMF Working Papers 14/135, International Monetary Fund.
    10. Emiko Fukase & Will Martin, 2016. "Agro-processing and horticultural exports from Africa," WIDER Working Paper Series 174, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    11. 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.
    12. repec:eee:ecosys:v:41:y:2017:i:1:p:41-51 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Gnidchenko, A., 2014. "Decomposing Export Growth into Extensive and Intensive Margins with the Emphasis on Comparative Advantages," Journal of the New Economic Association, New Economic Association, vol. 24(4), pages 38-64.
    14. Hanson, Gordon H. & Lind, Nelson & Muendler, Marc-Andreas, 2015. "The Dynamics of Comparative Advantage," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 252, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    15. Fernandes, Ana M. & Freund, Caroline & Pierola, Martha Denisse, 2016. "Exporter behavior, country size and stage of development: Evidence from the exporter dynamics database," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 121-137.
    16. Tasew Tadesse & Jaswinder Singh Brar, 2016. "Sources of Ethiopia’s Export Growth: a Constant Market Shares Decomposition Analysis," Academic Journal of Economic Studies, Faculty of Finance, Banking and Accountancy Bucharest,"Dimitrie Cantemir" Christian University Bucharest, pages 74-95.
    17. 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, pages 19-35.
    18. Fernandes, Ana M. & Freund, Caroline & Pierola, Martha Denisse, 2016. "Exporter behavior, country size and stage of development: Evidence from the exporter dynamics database," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 121-137.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • F1 - International Economics - - Trade
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity

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