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Spontaneous Market Emergence


  • Marcel Fafchamps


Drawing insights from the literature on credit and labor markets and from the author`s own survey work on contractual practices among manufacturers and traders in Africa, this paper investigates the spontaneous emergence of markets in the presence of heterogeneous agents. Using a dynamic game setting, we derive precise conditions under which relational contracting spontaneously emerges and deters opportunistic breach of contract even in the absence of formal market institutions. Exclusion of cheaters from future trade is not required for exchange to begin. Markets at early stages of development are characterized by trade based on mutual trust and on the sharing of information among acquaintances. As markets develop, newcomers may be excluded from trade when screening costs are high and agents long lived. Reputational equilibria in which cheaters are permanently excluded from trade are not decentralizable unless markets are already developed and breach of contract is interpreted as a sign of impending bankruptcy. Market emergence is a path dependent process.

Suggested Citation

  • Marcel Fafchamps, 2003. "Spontaneous Market Emergence," Economics Series Working Papers 138, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:138

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John McMillan & Christopher Woodruff, 1999. "Interfirm Relationships and Informal Credit in Vietnam," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1285-1320.
    2. Fafchamps, Marcel & Gunning, Jan Willem & Oostendorp, Remco, 2000. "Inventories and Risk in African Manufacturing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(466), pages 861-893, October.
    3. Lang, William W. & Nakamura, Leonard I., 1990. "The dynamics of credit markets in a model with learning," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 305-318, October.
    4. Himbara, David, 1994. "The failed Africanization of commerce and industry in Kenya," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 469-482, March.
    5. Parikshit Ghosh & Debraj Ray, 1996. "Cooperation in Community Interaction Without Information Flows," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(3), pages 491-519.
    6. Fafchamps, Marcel, 1996. "The enforcement of commercial contracts in Ghana," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 427-448, March.
    7. Marcel Fafchamps, 2002. "Returns to social network capital among traders," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 54(2), pages 173-206, April.
    8. Marcel Fafchamps & Bart Minten, 1999. "Relationships and traders in Madagascar," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(6), pages 1-35.
    9. Kali, Raja, 1999. "Endogenous Business Networks," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(3), pages 615-636, October.
    10. Fafchamps, Marcel, 1997. "Trade credit in Zimbabwean manufacturing," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 795-815, May.
    11. Rasmusen, Eric, 1996. "Stigma and Self-Fulfilling Expectations of Criminality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(2), pages 519-543, October.
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    16. Kranton, Rachel E, 1996. "Reciprocal Exchange: A Self-Sustaining System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 830-851, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fali Huang, 2006. "The Transition from Relational to Legal Contract Enforcement," Working Papers 23-2006, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
    2. Durlauf, Steven N. & Fafchamps, Marcel, 2005. "Social Capital," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 26, pages 1639-1699 Elsevier.
    3. Joshua Charap & Jelena Pavlovic, 2009. "Development of the Commercial Banking System in Afghanistan; Risks and Rewards," IMF Working Papers 09/150, International Monetary Fund.
    4. Henrik Egbert, 2007. "The Culture of a Market: A Case Study of Open-Air Horse Markets," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 163(3), pages 493-502, September.
    5. Marcus Noland, 2003. "Religion, Culture, and Economic Performance," Working Paper Series WP03-8, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    6. Bramoullé, Yann & Goyal, Sanjeev, 2016. "Favoritism," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 16-27.
    7. Marcel Fafchamps & Marco J. van der Leij, 2006. "Scientific Networks and Co-authorship," Economics Series Working Papers 256, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    8. Belloc Marianna, 2009. "Cross-Cultural Trade and Institutional Stability," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-25, October.
    9. Oomes, Nienke, 2003. "Local trade networks and spatially persistent unemployment," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 27(11-12), pages 2115-2149, September.
    10. Barr, Abigail & Fafchamps, Marcel & Owens, Trudy, 2005. "The governance of non-governmental organizations in Uganda," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 657-679, April.
    11. Haucap, Justus, 2017. "The rule of law and the emergence of market exchange: A new institutional economic perspective," DICE Discussion Papers 276, University of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics (DICE).
    12. Jain, Tarun & Sood, Ashima, 2017. "How does relationship-based governance accommodate new entrants? Evidence from the cycle-rickshaw rental market," Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(03), pages 673-697, September.
    13. Abigail Barr & Marcel Fafchamps & Trudy Owens, 2004. "The Resources and Governance of Non-Governmental Organizations in Uganda," Development and Comp Systems 0409047, EconWPA.
    14. Ferris, Stephen P. & Javakhadze, David & Rajkovic, Tijana, 2017. "The international effect of managerial social capital on the cost of equity," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 69-84.
    15. Kono, Hisaki, 2006. "Employment with connections: Negative network effects," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 244-258, October.
    16. Chan, Edwin H.W. & Qian, Queena K. & Lam, Patrick T.I., 2009. "The market for green building in developed Asian cities--the perspectives of building designers," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 3061-3070, August.
    17. Marcel Fafchamps, 2004. "Social Capital and Development," Economics Series Working Papers 214, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    market institutions; information sharing; networks; social capital; path dependence;

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • K0 - Law and Economics - - General
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems


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