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Is export diversification the best way to achieve export growth and stability? A look at three African countries

  • Ali, Ridwan
  • Alwang, Jeffrey
  • Siegel, Paul B.

Malawi, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe depend heavily on export earnings from a narrow base of agricultural commodities (coffee, cotton, sugar, tea, and tobacco). This dependence increased between 1961 - 1973 and 1974 - 1987, when international prices for those commodities were declining and unstable. Policymakers concerned with the instability and downward trend in export earnings for the three countries, tend to equate these trends with the countries'narrow export commodity base. They often propose export diversification as an expedient remedy. But the authors found that horizontal diversification would have produced lower export earnings and more instability. Policymakers introducing horizontal diversification must first consider price forecasts, comparative advantage, the economy's changing structure, and the costs of adjustment. Reactions to historical price movements can produce unexpected, undesirable results. A shift during this period from favorable to unfavorable price trends, and shifts in the covariances of deviations from price trends, complicate the design of export diversification policies, especially policies aimed at stabilizing export earnings. Generally, the most effective way to achieve growth and stability in export earnings is to increase and stabilize agricultural production and the volume of exports. The authors analysis shows that different export diversification policies can help fulfill different policy goals.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 729.

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Date of creation: 31 Jul 1991
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:729
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  1. Takamasa Akiyama & Larson, Donald F., 1989. "Recent trends and prospects for agricultural commodity exports in sub-Saharan Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 348, The World Bank.
  2. Knudsen, Odin & Nash, John, 1990. "Domestic Price Stabilization Schemes in Developing Countries," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(3), pages 539-58, April.
  3. Svedberg, Peter, 1991. "The Export Performance of Sub-Saharan Africa," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 39(3), pages 549-66, April.
  4. Glezakos, Constantine, 1973. "Export Instability and Economic Growth: A Statistical Verification," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(4), pages 670-78, Part I Ju.
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