SHARES OF RACIAL GROUPS AND OF FIRMS IN THE IMPORT TRADE
In West Africa the first stage in the import trade, that is, direct importing, is largely in non-African hands. From information extracted by the Department of Statistics in Nigeria from customs records it appears that in 1949 about 85% of the import trade of that country was handled by European firms, about 10% by Levantine and Indian firms, and about 5% by African firms. Since then the African share has probably increased slightly, partly as a result of preferential treatment in the allocation of import licences in the commodities affected by specific licensing.
The information available for the Gold Coast is less comprehensive than for Nigeria, but as will be suggested subsequently in this chapter it is sufficient to show that the general pattern of the participation of different groups in the import trade is similar to that in Nigeria. The share of African traders is probably somewhat larger as a result of more marked discrimination in their favour in the administration of import licensing. But as in recent years (especially in 1949 and 1950) specific licensing covered only a comparatively small part of all imports it did not affect the general picture greatly. It is probable that if the statistics for the Gold Coast were available in the same detail as for Nigeria they would show a somewhat larger proportion of importing in Indian and Levantine hands.
Africans frequently maintain that their small participation in direct importing proves that the import trade is in the nature of a monopoly. This is misleading, since a trade can be highly competitive even if all the traders are members of the same expatriate community. In the West African import trade there is in fact a substantial measure of concentration,1 a large share of the trade being handled by a small number of firms. In view of the political and social importance of this question it seems Worth while to investigate the degree of concentration____________________