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Can Trade Reduce Poverty in Africa?

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World Bank, Washington, DC
Africa | Africa
2013-10-11T19:45:53Z | 2013-10-11T19:45:53Z | 2013-04

While most economists accept that, in the long run, open economies fare better in aggregate than closed ones, many fears that trade could harm the poor. African countries, for example, have realized significant improvements in trade liberalization in recent decades, yet Africa remains the poorest continent in the world. It seems that the large gains expected from opening up to international economic forces have been limited in Africa, especially for poor people. Drawing on the findings of a recently published working paper (Le Goff and Singh 2013), this note argues that the benefits of trade are not automatic, but rather depend on accompanying policies aimed at developing the financial sector, promoting primary education, and improving governance. This accompanying policy agenda allows people to take advantage of the opportunities offered by freer trade, by reallocating resources away from less productive activities to more promising ones. Trade liberalization therefore should not be implemented on its own, but with the necessary complementing policies.

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