What Constrains Africa's Exports?

We examine the effects of transit, documentation, and ports and customs delays on Africa’s exports.

We find that transit delays have the most economically and statically significant effect on exports. A one day reduction in inland travel times leads to a 7 percent increase in exports. Put another way, a one day reduction in inland travel times translates into 1.5 percentage point decrease in all importing-country tariffs. In contrast, longer delays in the other areas have a far smaller impact on trade. We control for the possibility that greater trade leads to shorter delays in three ways. First, we examine the effect of trade times on exports of new products. Second, we evaluate the effect of delays in a transit country on the exports of landlocked countries. Third, we examine whether delays affect time-sensitive goods relatively more. We show that large transit delays are relatively more harmful because of high within-country variation.

No: ERSD-2010-07

Caroline Freund — Development Economic Research Group, The World Bank
Nadia Rocha — Economic Research and Statistics Division, WTO

Manuscript date: February 2010

Key Words:

trade facilitation, export times, transit delays, gravity models

JEL classification numbers:

F13, F14 and O55


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This is a working paper, and hence it represents research in progress. This paper represents the opinions of the author, and is the product of professional research. It is not meant to represent the position or opinions of the WTO or its Members, nor the official position of any staff members. Any errors are the fault of the author. Copies of working papers can be requested from the divisional secretariat by writing to: Economic Research and Statistics Division, World Trade Organization, Rue de Lausanne 154, CH 1211 Geneva 21, Switzerland. Please request papers by number and title.

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