Trade networks and gender in West Africa

Lawali Gaya 2018 (115)

In West Africa, interpersonal networks between entrepreneurs make food systems both economically efficient and socially unequal

In a new paper published with Michel Tenikue and Marie Trémolières in World Development today, we show that economic performance is statistically correlated with centrality in the network. The most prosperous actors in the rice network are those who have established numerous ties within and beyond their community.

The paper also confirms that gender generates many inequalities that limit women’s participation in the food system. Women’s income is lower than men’s because the structure of business relations within trade networks imposes an unequal division of labor based on gender.

While many previous studies have shown that women were marginalized in agricultural supply chains in West Africa, our study is the first to identify all the individual actors involved in a supply chain and highlight how their structural position is constrained by gender.

In a business environment where strong cultural barriers are imposed on women activities, comparative advantages that would promote economic efficiency within agricultural supply chains appear far less important than gender.

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