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  • Author: Jenny C. Aker, Michael W. Klein, Stephen A. O'Connell, Muzhe Yang
  • Publication Date: 04-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: This paper addresses two important economic issues for Africa: the contribution of national borders and ethnicity to market segmentation and integration between and within countries. Market pair regression analysis provides evidence of higher conditional price dispersion for both a grain and a cash crop between markets separated by the Niger-Nigeria border than between two markets located in the same country. A regression discontinuity analysis also confirms a significant price change at the international border. The international border effect is lower, however, if the cross-border markets share a common ethnicity. Ethnicity is also linked to higher price dispersion within Niger; we find a significant intranational border effect between markets in different ethnic regions of the country. This suggests that ethnic similarities diminishing international border effects could enhance international market integration, and ethnic differences could contribute to intranational market segmentation in sub-Saharan Africa. We provide suggestive evidence that the primary mechanism behind the internal border effect is related to the role of ethnicity in facilitating access to credit in agricultural markets. We argue that the results are not driven by differences in price volatility or observables across borders.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Ethnic Conflict, Markets
  • Political Geography: Africa, West Africa, Nigeria
  • Author: Jenny C. Aker
  • Publication Date: 10-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Due partly to costly information, price dispersion across markets is common in developed and developing countries. Between 2001 and 2006, cell phone service was phased in throughout Niger, providing an alternative and cheaper search technology to grain traders and other market actors. Weconstruct a novel theoretical model of sequential search, in which traders engage in optimal search for the maximum sales price, net transport costs. The model predicts that cell phones will increase traders' reservation sales prices and the number of markets over which they search, leading to a reduction in price dispersion across markets. To test the predictions of the theoretical model, we use a unique market and trader dataset from Niger that combines data on prices, transport costs, rainfall and grain production with cell phone access and trader behavior. We first exploit the quasi-experimental nature of cell phone coverage to estimate the impact of the introduction of information technology on market performance. The results provide evidence that cell phones reduce grain price dispersion across markets by a minimum of 6.4 percent and reduce intra-annual price variation by 12 percent. Cell phones have a greater impact on price dispersion for market pairs that are farther away, and for those with lower road quality. This effect becomes larger as a higher percentage of markets have cell phone coverage. We provide empirical evidence in support of specific mechanisms that partially explain the impact of cell phones on market performance. Robustness checks suggest that the results are not driven by selection on unobservables, nor are they solely a result of general equilibrium effects. Calculations of the four-firm concentration index suggest that the grain market structure is competitive, so the observed reductions in price dispersion are not due to greater market collusion. The primary mechanism by which cell phones affect market-level outcomes appears to be a reduction in search costs, as grain traders operating in markets with cell phone coverage search over a greater number of markets and sell in more markets. The results suggest that cell phones improved consumer and trader welfare in Niger.
  • Topic: Agriculture, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: Africa, Nigeria
  • Author: Jenny C. Aker
  • Publication Date: 12-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: How do markets respond to extreme rainfall in West Africa? This paper examines the effect of weather on grain market performance in Niger, a country increasingly affected by drought and severe food crises over the past two decades. Using a dataset that combines information on rainfall, agricultural production, prices and transaction costs, I exploit rainfall variation to estimate the impact of drought on grain market performance between 1997 and 2006. Time series tests suggest that grain markets in Niger respond to supply shocks and that markets are more integrated during drought years. Exploiting the exogeneity of extreme rainfall in a difference-in-differences framework supports these findings: drought reduces grain price dispersion across markets. This impact is stronger as a higher percentage of markets are affected by drought, as was the case in 2004/2005, the year of a severe food crisis. The results suggest that early warning systems in West Africa should focus on the spatial impact of drought at the sub-regional level, as well as monitor prices in key forecasting markets during the harvest period.
  • Topic: Agriculture, International Political Economy, Markets
  • Political Geography: Africa, Nigeria