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African Trade Policy in the 1990s: Political Economy or Technocratic Reforms?


  • Chris Jones
  • Oliver Morrissey
  • Doug Nelson


The majority of African countries implemented import liberalisation in the 1990s. This paper explores factors that may explain the pattern of protection and of tariff reform. We consider political economy explanations, motivated specifically by the Grossman and Helpman (1994) model of protection in response to industry lobbies, and the possibility that reforms are technocratic. Using industry-level data for a sample of six African countries, we find limited evidence that political economy factors have influenced the pattern of tariffs or tariff reductions since the early 1990s. One result does appear frequently: relative sector size (measured by the number of employees or establishments) appears to be associated with the relative level of protection. We then explore various descriptive statistics for tariff changes in seven African countries. The analysis suggests that the pattern of tariff reductions was essentially technocratic in structure - across the board reduction in average tariffs and in the dispersion of rates, with larger proportional reductions for higher tariffs – consistent with policy reforms being guided by the World Bank. While political economy factors may have influenced the initial pattern of protection, the technocratic reforms since the early 1990s have diluted political economy influences on average and relative protection.

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  • Chris Jones & Oliver Morrissey & Doug Nelson, "undated". "African Trade Policy in the 1990s: Political Economy or Technocratic Reforms?," Discussion Papers 08/01, University of Nottingham, CREDIT.
  • Handle: RePEc:not:notcre:08/01

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Neary, J Peter, 1998. " Pitfalls in the Theory of International Trade Policy: Concertina Reforms of Tariffs, and Subsidies to High-Technology Industries," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 100(1), pages 187-206, March.
    2. kishore gawande & pravin krishna, 2005. "The Political Economy of Trade Policy: Empirical Approaches," International Trade 0503003, EconWPA.
    3. B. Douglas Bernheim & Michael D. Whinston, 1986. "Menu Auctions, Resource Allocation, and Economic Influence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(1), pages 1-31.
    4. Rod Falvey, 1994. "Revenue enhancing tariff reform," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 130(1), pages 175-190, March.
    5. James E. Anderson & J. Peter Neary, 2005. "Measuring the Restrictiveness of International Trade Policy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262012200, January.
    6. Giovanni Maggi & Pinelopi Koujianou Goldberg, 1999. "Protection for Sale: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1135-1155, December.
    7. Choi, E. Kwan & Harrigan, James, 2003. "Handbook of International Trade," Staff General Research Papers Archive 11375, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    8. Oliver Morrissey, 2005. "Imports and Implementation: Neglected Aspects of Trade in the Report of the Commission for Africa," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(6), pages 1133-1153.
    9. Ronald Findlay & Stanislaw Wellisz, 1982. "Endogenous Tariffs, the Political Economy of Trade Restrictions, and Welfare," NBER Chapters,in: Import Competition and Response, pages 223-244 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Pattern of Protection; Tariff Reform; Political Economy; Africa;

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