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

By P. T. Bauer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
THE SUPPLY OF ANCILLARY SERVICES

1. POSSIBLE RESULTS OF CONCENTRATION IN BANKING AND SHIPPING

There is a high degree of concentration in West Africa in banking and shipping, two ancillary services essential to trade. In this situation competition among suppliers is apt to be weak or absent, and the prices of the services likely to be high. The high degree of concentration may also affect the degree of competition among users of the services. 1 This possible influence is of greater interest than the effects of concentration on the price of the services. African traders frequently allege that their trade in competition with expatriate traders is greatly prejudiced, because the latter are in close contact with the banks and to a lesser extent with the shipping companies. In substance the allegation is either that Africans are denied access to these ancillary services, or that they are available on terms which compare unfavourably with those on which they are available to expatriate firms.


2. HIGH DEGREE OF CONCENTRATION IN BANKING IN WEST AFRICA

There are only two important banks in British West Africa: the Bank of British West Africa and Barclays Bank (D.C. and O.). Very recently a third European bank, the British and French Bank for Commerce and Industry, has opened an office in Nigeria. This bank, which as yet operates there only on a very small scale, is associated with an important French bank extensively represented in French West Africa. In Nigeria there are several African banks, one of which, the National Bank of Nigeria, has been working successfully for seventeen years. Its scale of operations is very small compared with that of the two British banks. In the Gold Coast only the two British banks operate; 2 until recently there was a statutory bar on the establishment of other banks.

There are written agreements between the two large banks governing the level of the principal bank charges. 3 Agreements on bank charges

____________________
1
This well-known effect has already been illustrated in the account of the import trade in West Africa. It has been shown that a high degree of concentration among overseas suppliers promotes a high degree of concentration in the import trade.
2
Since this was written the National Bank of the Gold Coast has been established.
3
The National Bank of Nigeria and the British and French Bank also charge these rates.

-180-

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