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The politics of export restrictions: a panel data analysis of African commodity processing industries

Schulz, Nicolai (2020) The politics of export restrictions: a panel data analysis of African commodity processing industries. World Development, 130. ISSN 0305-750X

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2020.104904


This paper sets out to answer the question why African governments aiming to industrialize their economies introduce export bans on some processable commodities and not on others. It forwards the hypothesis that governments fear restricting the export of commodities produced by a larger share of the population, as their producers tend to possess significant potential to endanger the political survival of rulers. Importantly, the paper argues that large producer groups can unleash this potential because export bans have an extremely severe and visible imp act on them and that equally affected (yet wealthier and better-organized) traders have the incentives and means to inform producers about the government's responsibility and organize their protest against it. Yet, while the same holds for high export taxes, it does not for low export taxes. Low export taxes are less severe and visible in their impact, and traders are less agitated given that it is easier for them to pass on price distortions to producers. Producer mobilization is thus less likely and imposing low export taxes even on larger groups poses no significant risk to policy-makers. To test the argument against competing explanations, I conduct a large-N analysis based on an original dataset covering all export bans and taxes employed in 36 African states in the last three decades and find robust support for the core hypothesis: the larger the share of the population producing a commodity, the less likely governments will impose export bans on them. As expected, this also holds for high but not for low export taxes. Overall, these findings provide new insights into the critical role politics plays in industrial policy-making in Africa and shows that African mass producer groups can overcome usual Olsonian collective action problems to oppose policies adverse to their interests in certain circumstances.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 Elsevier Ltd
Divisions: International Development
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 17 Mar 2020 10:30
Last Modified: 24 Nov 2023 07:54

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