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African Export Successes: Surprises, Stylized Facts, and Explanations

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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.

Suggested Citation

  • William Easterly & Ariell Reshef, 2010. "African Export Successes: Surprises, Stylized Facts, and Explanations," NBER Working Papers 16597, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16597
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    2. 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.
    3. Thibault Fally & James Sayre, 2018. "Commodity Trade Matters," 2018 Meeting Papers 172, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Gordon H. Hanson & Nelson Lind & Marc-Andreas Muendler, 2015. "The Dynamics of Comparative Advantage," CESifo Working Paper Series 5622, CESifo.
    7. Jorge Braga de Macedo & Luís Brites Pereira, 2014. "Cape Verde and Mozambique as Development Successes in West and Southern Africa," NBER Chapters, in: African Successes, Volume IV: Sustainable Growth, pages 203-293, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Céline Carrère & Christopher Grigoriou, 2014. "Can Mirror Data Help To Capture Informal International Trade?," UNCTAD Blue Series Papers 65, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.
    9. 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).
    10. Kadochnikov, Sergey M. & Fedyunina, Anna A., 2017. "The impact of financial and human resources on the export performance of Russian firms," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 41-51.
    11. 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, vol. 119(C), pages 121-137.
    12. Pritish Behuria, 2018. "The politics of upgrading in global value chains: The case of Rwanda’s coffee sector," Global Development Institute Working Paper Series esid-108-18, GDI, The University of Manchester.
    13. Samuel Yaw Akomea & Olav Jull Sørensen & Kweku Amponsah-Efah, 2014. "Export Drivers And Barriers: Evidence From Ghanaian Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Firms," Global Journal of Business Research, The Institute for Business and Finance Research, vol. 8(2), pages 81-96.
    14. Jamal Ibrahim Haidar, 2022. "Internalization of externalities in international trade," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 63(1), pages 469-497, July.
    15. 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, vol. 105(C), pages 19-35.
    16. Bryane Michael, 2019. "The Case for an IGAD Development Bank," Journal of Development Policy and Practice, , vol. 4(1), pages 35-65, January.
    17. Liuchun Deng, 2016. "Specialization Dynamics, Convergence, and Idea Flows," SERIES 09-2016, Dipartimento di Economia e Finanza - Università degli Studi di Bari "Aldo Moro", revised Nov 2016.
    18. World Bank, 2012. "Botswana Development Policy Review," World Bank Publications - Reports 26074, The World Bank Group.
    19. Deger, Cagacan, 2014. "A Note on Shifts in Turkey's International Trade Pattern," MPRA Paper 59817, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    20. Shahid Yusuf, 2014. "Middle East Transitions: A Long, Hard Road," IMF Working Papers 2014/135, International Monetary Fund.
    21. 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.
    22. 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.
    23. Emiko Fukase & Will Martin, 2016. "Agro-processing and horticultural exports from Africa," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2016-174, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    24. 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, vol. 2(3), pages 74-95, September.

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    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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