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Global recession and poverty in Africa

This project explored the effect of the 2008-09 global recession on exports of garments and small manufactured goods from Guangzhou to street traders in Lomé, Togo, that demonstrated the precarious growth of the China-Africa trade.

Fieldwork in Guangzhou explored the trading strategies and vulner-abilities of African traders and Chinese wholesalers in key wholesale centres in Guangzhou. Interviewees reported a fall in profits since 2008 and multiple pressures including: ex-change rate fluctuations, rising production costs in China, collapse of the customer base in Africa, and continued tightening of Chinese visa regulations.The research found significant impacts of international trade on the urban poor of Lomé. Impacts of the global recession are evident in the increase in competition and recent influx of traders from Niger, but the vulnerabilities are also linked to local problems, such as uncertainty over the March 2010 election, and poor infrastructure.

For hawkers in Lomé, little had changed, and limited market demand and frequent police harassment left them few prospects for advancement. The plight of both women hawkers from rural areas and the Nigeriens illustrates the vulnerability of poor young migrants. The research concluded the reliance of sub-Saharan African economies on imports of Chinese-manufactured goods does little to address wider poverty-reduction agendas.


British Academy Small Grant (2008-2011)


  • Alison Brown, Cardiff University
  • Professor LI Zhigang, School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou
  • Professor Michal Lyons, London South Bank University