A partnership with academia

Building knowledge for trade and development


Latest Vi fellow, Manfred Kouty (pictured, left), researcher at the Centre for Studies and Research in Economics and Management (Centre d’Etudes et de Recherche en Economie et Gestion), of Vi core Cameroonian member, Université de Yaoundé II, spent six weeks at UNCTAD May 12 - June 20 looking into the factors determining trade costs, considered one of the principal reasons for Africa’s poor trade performance.

With mentoring from Marco Fugazza (pictured), of UNCTAD's Division on International Trade in Goods and Services and Commodities, Kouty achieved his principal goal for the fellowship: the development of a database including information on 177 countries, including 30 in Africa, for the period of 1995-2010.

“In my country, I would not have had access to data, documentation and the support through the supervision of Marco Fugazza, especially on the use of the gravity model,” said Kouty, a participant of the 2010 Vi workshop on tools and methods for trade and trade policy analysis and the 2012 Vi online course on trade and poverty.

The first objective of his project was to determine whether higher trade costs faced by African countries can be responsible for the weak performance of the continent in both intra-African trade and Africa's trade with the rest of the world. The second objective then was to break down the trade costs into their various components and identify those that are the most prejudicial to African trade.

Preliminary analysis confirms that the costs in African trade with the rest of the world are higher than those of other regions. According to his findings, this can be explained by higher customs efficiency and better maritime connectivity in other regions. For intra-African trade, geographical distance and higher costs of setting up business are the main factors that push up costs. Based on these results, Kouty concluded that trade costs are an important impediment to African trade.

The final presentation of Kouty's research for a group of UNCTAD experts, held June 19, highlighted the importance of this particular research topic not only from the academic point of view (there is not enough research on this issue on Africa), but also because of its relevance for setting governments' policy direction.

In addition to the database, the fellowship allowed Kouty to complete the first draft of his paper, which he intends to finalize around end-2014 or early 2015 and submit for publication.

“I also plan to organize a meeting to disseminate the results of my work to the attention of fellow teachers, and workshops for Master’s students on the use of the gravity model,” he said.