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

By P. T. Bauer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
CRITERIA, CHARACTERISTICS AND BASES OF MONOPOLY

Part 3 of this study 1 reviews certain factors in the degree of concentration in West African trade, in the emergence of monopoly and oligopoly, and in the limitations on the exercise of monopoly and oligopoly power. These matters bear on both branches of external trade. But they are discussed here immediately after the import trade, and in the general context of that trade, because the export trade is dominated by the statutory marketing boards. The monopoly power of these organizations is of a different order from that of even the largest private firm or concerted group of firms in West Africa, because they are the only buyers in their respective fields (which together cover almost all agricultural exports) and the barriers to new entry are erected by statute. For this reason, as well as for the quantitative importance of the statutory monopolies, the marketing boards are discussed separately in Part 5.

This part of the book covers a wide and diverse range of topics. It may help the reader if the order in which they are treated is set out here.

The criteria and characteristics of monopoly and oligopoly and of a high degree of concentration are considered in this chapter and the appended note. Some underlying factors in these economies favouring concentration in external trade are reviewed in Chapter 8. This is followed by an examination of the importance and limitations of some self-perpetuating influences engendered by a high degree of concentration, especially through certain types of marketing arrangements (Chapters 9 and 10). The importance of official attitudes and policies in creating barriers to the entry and expansion of newcomers and smaller firms are discussed in Chapters 11-13. Chapter 14 deals with the effects on the trading situation of the comparatively high degree of concentration in the provision of certain important ancillary services.


1. CRITERIA AND CHARACTERISTICS OF MONOPOLY

Allegations of monopoly are frequent and widespread in West Africa. On closer examination it is found that the term 'monopoly' covers a variety of different sets of circumstances or situations, and some of its

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1
The discussion of this part of the study is in places more technical than that of the other parts. The reader more interested in a description of the principal aspects of West African trade rather than in an analysis of underlying factors can pass straight to Part 4.

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