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Contract Flexibility and Dispute Resolution in African Manufacturing

  • Arne Bigsten
  • Paul Collier
  • Stefan Dercon
  • Marcel Fafchamps
  • Bernard Gauthier
  • Jan Willem Gunning
  • Abena Oduro
  • Remco Oostendorp
  • Cathy Patillo
  • Måns Söderbom
  • Francis Teal
  • Albert Zeufack

This paper examines the contractual practices of African manufacturing firms using survey data collected in Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Descriptive statistics and econometric results are presented. They show that contractual flexibility is pervasive and that relational contracting is the norm between manufacturers, their suppliers, and their clients. The existence of long-term relations between firms helps them deal with contract non-performance through negotiation. Confrontational methods such as lawyers and courts are used only by large firms and when negotiations fail. Whenever confrontation can be avoided, business is resumed. Of the six studied countries, incidence of breach and the use of lawyers and courts are highest in Zimbabwe which is also the country with legal institutions that best support business. Our favored interpretation is that good legal institutions incite firms to take more chances, thereby encouraging trade and leading to more cases of breach and more recourse to courts and lawyers. A high frequency of contract non-compliance should thus not be interpreted as a sign of imperfect legal institutions.

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Paper provided by Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford in its series CSAE Working Paper Series with number 1999-20.

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Date of creation: 1999
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:1999-20
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  1. Kali, Raja, 1999. "Endogenous Business Networks," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 615-36, October.
  2. Marcel Fafchamps & Bart Minten, 1999. "Property rights in a flea market economy," Economics Series Working Papers WPS/1999-25, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  3. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-48, June.
  4. Greif, Avner, 1994. "Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 912-50, October.
  5. Marcel Fafchamps, 1999. "Networks,communities and markets in Sub-Saharan Africa: implications for firm growth and investment," Economics Series Working Papers WPS/1999-24, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  6. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
  7. Udry, Christopher, 1994. "Risk and Insurance in a Rural Credit Market: An Empirical Investigation in Northern Nigeria," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 495-526, July.
  8. Fafchamps, Marcel, 1997. "Trade credit in Zimbabwean manufacturing," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 795-815, May.
  9. Kranton, Rachel E, 1996. "Reciprocal Exchange: A Self-Sustaining System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 830-51, September.
  10. Kranton, Rachel E, 1996. "The Formation of Cooperative Relationships," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 214-33, April.
  11. Raturi, Mayank & Swamy, Anand V, 1999. "Explaining Ethnic Differentials in Credit Market Outcomes in Zimbabwe," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(3), pages 585-604, April.
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