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Business, Brokers and Borders: The Structure of West African Trade Networks

Olivier Walther

No 1, Working Papers from University of Southern Denmark, Centre for Border Region Studies

Abstract: Using social network analysis, this paper studies the structure of trade networks that developed across West African borders. The first part aims to understand the centralization of cross-border trade networks. In a business environment where transaction costs are extremely high, we find that decentralized networks are well adapted to the various uncertainties induced by long-distance trade. We also study the trade-offs faced by traders between embeddedness and brokerage and find that long-distance trade relies both on the trust and cooperation shared among local traders, and on the distant ties developed with foreign partners from a different origin, religion or culture. In the second part, we study the spatial structure of trade networks and the influence of national borders on the development of social ties. The paper shows that the spatial form of trade networks is constrained by the historical origin of the traders engaged in cross-border activities. In those markets where trade is recent and where most of the traders are not native of the region, national borders are likely to exert a greater influence than in those regions where trade has pre-colonial roots.

Keywords: Social networks; trade; border markets; brokerage; West Africa (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D85 F14 L14 P25 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 24 pages
Date: 2014-05
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-afr, nep-his, nep-int, nep-net and nep-soc
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (2)

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Journal Article: Business, Brokers and Borders: The Structure of West African Trade Networks (2015) Downloads
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