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DeFiPP Research Seminar - Ewout Frankema (Wageningen University)

Title: From the commercial to the mineral transition. Long-term trade developments in Sub-Sahara Africa, 1800-present

Catégorie : conférence/cours/séminaire (spécialisé)
Date : 31/01/2023 16:00 - 31/01/2023 17:15
Lieu : Salle 401 8 rempart de la Vierge
Orateur(s) : Ewout Frankema
Organisateur(s) : DeFiPP


During the so-called ‘commercial transition’ of the 19th century the ocean-bound trade in African slaves gave way to exports of so-called ‘legitimate’ commerce, which consisted largely of tropical agricultural products (e.g. groundnuts, palm oil, gum, rubber, cocoa, coffee, cotton etc.). After 1950, however, roughly half of all African countries South of the Sahara experienced another transition into minerals, including oil. While this ‘mineral transition’ has given rise to significant economic debates on the resource curse, on commodity price volatility and on terms of trade, it has remained under-researched from a long-run historical perspective.

Drawing on a novel annual export and import commodity level database (the African Commodity Trade Database - ACTD) for 1850-2020, this paper traces the evolution of Africa’s mineral transition. Dividing Sub-Saharan Africa into a group of sustained cash-crop exporters versus a group of new mineral exporters we explore the implications of this transition for price volatility, country-specific terms of trade, government revenue positions (trade taxes/monopolies/debt) and potential crowding-out effects. Our preliminary conclusion is that, in comparison to the ‘cash-crop exporters’, these mineral exporters have benefitted from much more favourable international market price developments and larger revenue flows. At the same time, these income gains have not led to more diversified export packages or lower income volatility. There is also some evidence that mineral exporters have neglected their cash-crop export sectors more than those countries who continued to depend on tropical agricultural exports.

Contact : Catherine Guirkinger - 081724870 -
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