West African Trade: A Study of Competition, Oligopoly and Monopoly in a Changing Economy

By P. T. Bauer | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION
SCOPE AND METHOD OF THE STUDY

1. OUTLINE OF THE SCOPE OF THE STUDY

This study began as an inquiry into the structure of West African external trade with special reference to monopolistic tendencies. As it is generally interpreted, a study of the structure of trade involves an inquiry into the role of different classes of trading intermediary, the quantitative significance of each class, and the shares of the trade handled by one or more of the largest firms. Where the emphasis is on monopolistic tendencies, the share of trade handled by large firms and by groups of firms acting together deserves special attention; in addition, the nature and effects of various marketing practices which influence the extent of concentration also require more detailed investigation. Some of these topics have been prominent in the emphatic and acrimonious, though generally imprecise and uncritical, discussions on West African trade in recent decades.

These matters are discussed at some length in this study. It gradually became clear, however, that proper discussion of the original subjectmatter of the inquiry postulated analysis and review of the forces influencing economic power and the extent of concentration in trade. Some of these varied and diverse forces are in turn so closely interwoven with certain general characteristics of the West African economies that it has been necessary to examine these also. A lengthy treatment thus became inevitable once the study extended beyond the confines of the structure of trade.


2. LIMITATIONS ON THE SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The British West African colonies have about one-half of the population of the colonial Empire; indeed, the population of Nigeria, which by now may be not far short of 30 million, is itself almost one-half of the total. The external trade of these colonies is about one-fifth of the total of the colonial Empire. The proportion would be larger of entrepôt trade were excluded; and it would be larger still if the prices received by the producers of export crops were nearer their commercial values than they are at present. The total value of the merchandise trade of these territories in recent years is shown in Table 1.

A measure of selection has been necessary to reduce to manageable proportions a survey of the trade of the large and diverse territories and economies of the British colonies in West Africa. Thus there is no special

-1-

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