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Aid for Trade at a Glance 2019

Economic Diversification and Empowerment

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This edition analyses how trade can contribute to economic diversification and empowerment, with a focus on eliminating extreme poverty, particularly through the effective participation of women and youth. It shows how aid for trade can contribute to that objective by addressing supply-side capacity and trade-related infrastructure constraints, including for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises notably in rural areas.

The analysis is based on the views of 133 respondents – 88 developing countries, 35 donors, 5 providers of South-South trade-related support and 5 regional organisations – who participated in the 2019 aid-for-trade monitoring and evaluation exercise. They share the view that economic diversification is a gateway for economic empowerment, but also that empowerment is essential for economic diversification particularly when it enables youth, women and micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises to engage in international trade.

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Economic diversification: lessons from practice

Economic diversification remains a challenge for most developing countries and is arguably greatest for countries with the lowest incomes as well as for those whose economies are small, landlocked and/or dominated by primary commodity dependence. For such countries, economic diversification is inextricably linked with the structural transformation of their economies and the achievement of higher levels of productivity resulting from the movement of economic resources within and between economic sectors. Rooted in examples of World Bank Group support, this chapter traces the boundaries of any discussion of economic diversification by advancing a definition that encompasses two related dimensions of diversification: (i) trade diversification (i.e. exporting new or better products, or to new markets) and (ii) domestic production diversification (i.e. cross-sectoral rebalancing of output, driving the reallocation of resources across industries and within industries between firms to increase total factor productivity). The chapter raises awareness on the complexity of the diversification process and the state of knowledge surrounding economic diversification. While the current global environment creates challenges for poor, small, landlocked and/or resource-dependent countries, a range of new diversification routes can be followed. This however requires that policy attention be paid to four key determinants of successful diversification strategies, which development partners and International Organisations can support through targeted Aid for Trade interventions. These are: (i) the supply of appropriate incentive frameworks; (ii) investments and policy reforms targeted at reducing trade costs; (iii) effective policies to support adjustment and the reallocation of resources towards new activities; and (iv) government interventions directed at specific market, policy and institutional failures.

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