While the chief argument for trade liberalization is that it leads to improved living standards and well-being, its advocates also acknowledge that there are winners and losers. The diffusion of its benefits in developing countries (where resources are unevenly distributed to begin with) is therefore an issue of central importance to the debate.
A number of recent studies have found that in some countries, liberalized trade may benefit society’s most vulnerable by reducing the gap between rich and poor. Results in other countries are less favourable, indicating that freer trade may actually widen the gap between social classes. Since poor people generally lack the means and ability to profit from new opportunities in the market, some studies have proposed incentives to help poor people reap greater benefits from trade liberalization. These divergent findings give rise to questions (i.e. what is the source of these disagreements, can we draw lessons from them to help poor people in all countries benefit from freer trade, etc.).
In the course of this project, teams of researchers applied advancements in research on the distributional impact of freer trade, while taking the diversity and distinct character of African economies into account.
This book will be of interest to African decision-makers, professionals and organizations in African civil society, the staff of international agencies, and individuals interested in the issue of trade liberalization in Africa.