altHenri Atangana Ondoa (pictured, middle), lecturer at Virtual Institute core Cameroonian university member, the Université de Yaoundé II, examined the impact of trade openness on economic growth in African countries April 15 to May 24 during a Vi fellowship funded by the Government of Finland.

Noting the low share of Africa in world trade, its dependence on commodity exports and the growing trade openness of African economies, Atangana Ondoa sought to establish whether trade with certain groups of countries and in particular products has a different impact on the continent's economic growth.

Supported by UNCTAD expert, Piergiuseppe Fortunato  (pictured, right), of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, Atangana Ondoa conducted an extensive literature review, determined the methodology and econometric analysis needed to underpin findings, and completed the first draft of a research paper he plans to submit for publication to international journals in the coming weeks.

Two conclusions can be drawn from his analysis: First, that trade with developed countries, given the high share of primary commodities in African exports, contributes to economic growth in Africa more than trade with Asian developing economies. Second, that trade in manufactured products, highly represented in African imports from Asia, in general contributes more to economic growth in Africa than trade in commodities. This is due to the positive effect of imports of machinery and equipment on the diffusion of technology in African countries.

Based on these findings, Atangana Ondoa proposes the promotion of trade with Asian countries, as well as intra-African trade, diversification of African economies away from dependence on one or two major export commodities, support to the development of the manufacturing sector, and promotion of good governance.

His presentation of the draft paper on the last day of the fellowship gathered several UNCTAD experts, as well as First Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Cameroon, Paul Batibonak  (pictured, left), who said he particularly appreciated the timeliness of the topic, and the fact that the Virtual Institute makes efforts to involve academics into this kind of research.

"Development is a series of good decisions", he said. "Such decisions need to be supported by forward-looking analyses, and it is important to inspire researchers to undertake research in this field."

Atangana Ondoa, who said the Vi fellowship had greatly reinforced his research skills in the area of trade and development, particularly credited the Vi team and his mentor with helping him to design the methodology to apply.

“The method learned will assist us in other research,” he said.