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Global exchange

Globalisation and the increasing imports of Chinese-manufactured goods to sub-Saharan Africa has had major effects on the African street economy.

The research was under-taken in Lomé, capital of Togo and a busy free-port, and in Bamako, capital of land-locked Mali.

The hypothesis of this research was that emerg-ing and rapidly changing supply chains between China and Africa pro-foundly affects the trading prospects and social capital networks of African market and street traders. The changes threaten the livelihoods of some, but open opportunities for those able to capitalise on the new dynamics of international trade.Key findings are that while Chinese imports have undercut established markets and most traders see the local demand for Chinese goods as the result of low purchasing power in Togo and Mali, there are also cultural and political themes in trader discourse, including liberation from ex-colonial Europe, and a sense that the new, Chinese trading partnership is the future.

Competition for sale of Chinese imports is intense, with importers reporting continuing pressure on prices and falling profits, and retailers suggesting that competition is making trade unviable. The findings suggest that economic growth cannot be sustained, with downward trends in profit margins and incomes among both importers and retailers.

Meanwhile, the rapid increase of poor street-traders that results has antagonised local governments, leading to widespread and on-going evictions.

Funder

British Academy Grant BA SG-466228

People

  • Professor Alison Brown, Cardiff University
  • Professor Michal Lyons, London South Bank University
  • Dr Rudith King, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana