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Commodity prices and African economies

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Once again, commodity prices are on the rise

Unlike in 2008, when oil importers and exporters experienced symmetric shocks (one negative, the other positive), this time it appears as if both oil exporters and some oil importers in Africa are experiencing positive shocks. 

The reason is probably that, along with oil prices, other minerals such as gold and copper, cotton, and cocoa prices are also up—so even an oil importer may have on net a favorable terms of trade shock.  In addition, although some world food prices are rising, most food is domestically produced and not traded, so the negative effect of that may also be muted.  Of course, the situation may change if oil prices rise even further.

The following summary table, taken from the complete data set prepared by my colleague Cristina Savescu, gives the ten countries with the biggest positive and negative terms of trade shocks between December 2009 and December 2010, as a share of 2009 GDP.  

Terms of trade change December 2009-December 2010 as a percent of 2009 GDP:


Submitted by Imran on
Another point that might be of interest is that of currency fluctuations. It's more of a theoretical point, and I'm not sure how applicable it is here. Nonetheless, if these countries are importing some food, and the price is rising they will be affected. If the importing country's currency is ascending relative to the country that it is importing the food from this can help mitigate the rising food prices. Again, not sure what the empirical literature is regarding Africa and this issue, but it might be an avenue worth investigating.

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