Cover of Africa and Preferential Trade by Richard E. Mshomba
Africa and Preferential Trade
An Unpredictable Path for Development
Richard E. Mshomba

September 2024
266 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503614611



Nonreciprocal preferential trade arrangements are a defining feature of the relationship between developed and developing countries dating back to the colonial era. In the late 1950s, these arrangements started to take a multilateral form when members of the European Economic Community established special trade arrangements with their colonies. Since then, several trade arrangements have featured African countries among the preference-receiving countries. Yet it is not always clear how preferential these arrangements are and whether they in fact help African countries or instead lead them to perpetual dependence on specific markets and products.

Richard E. Mshomba carefully examines the history of these programs and their salient features. He analyzes negotiations between the EU and African countries to form Economic Partnership Agreements. Nonreciprocal preferential trade arrangements are often unpredictable, since the duration and magnitude of preferences are at the discretion of the preference-giving countries. However, when used in conjunction with other development programs and with laws and regulations that encourage long-term investment and protect employees, they can increase economic opportunities and foster human development. This book recognizes the potential impact of nonreciprocal preferential trade arrangements and provides recommendations to increase their viability.

About the author

Richard E. Mshomba is Professor Emeritus of Economics at La Salle University. Born and raised in Arusha, Tanzania, he is the author of Africa in the Global Economy (2000), Africa and the World Trade Organization (2009), and Economic Integration in Africa (2017).

"'Trade, not aid' has become the banner slogan signaling donor fatigue among Western nations. Many nations have turned, instead, to non-reciprocal preferential trade agreements as a vehicle for promoting economic development in poorer countries. But have these agreements really worked? To what extent? And can they be made to work more effectively? Mshomba's cogent, accessible, and nuanced book offers persuasive answers to these questions."

—Michael Lofchie, UCLA

"An invaluable survey of the strengths and weaknesses of trade preference programs.While the benefits of these programs are not automatic, Mshomba makes crystal clear that sustained market access to the world's largest economies, through programs such as GSP and the African Growth and Opportunity Act, can be vital to Africa's prosperity."

—Witney Schneidman, Brookings Institution

"Mshomba draws on trade theory, history, and political economy to explain the complex evolution of non-reciprocal trade preferences since the 1960s and their ambiguous impacts on export diversification and economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Lucidly written and well documented, this book is a crucial resource for policymakers and scholars alike."

—Stephen O'Connell, Swarthmore College

"An incisive analysis of how African countries have or have not benefited from non-reciprocal trade arrangements with the European Union, the US, and China. Mshomba shows clearly how, with the right domestic policies, African countries can benefit from these programs. But he also cautions countries against dependence on these arrangements, which are controlled by the preference-giving countries."

—Taufila Nyamadzabo, former Executive Director of Africa Group 1, World Bank Group