Absorptive Capacity and Export Diversification in Sub-Saharan African Countries

Alexis Habiyaremye & Thomas Ziesemer


This paper examines the extent to which dependence on primary commodities in Sub-Saharan African(SSA) countries can be explained by low levels of absorptive capacity (the ability to acquire, internalize and utilize knowledge developed elsewhere). We examine the individual and combined effects of various indicators of absorptive capacity on export diversification. We test the significance of these effects on a sub-sample consisting of SSA countries and a sample of other developing countries. Our results show that the association between higher levels human capital and basic infrastructure -two crucial components of absorptive capacity -with more export diversification is subject to threshold level effects, while the abundance of natural resources turns out to be impeding diversification in SSA. These results imply that SSA countries need to substantially increase their investments in basic infrastructure as well as reinforce the accumulation pace of human and physical capital to allow active technological learning and reduce their dependence on primary commodities.

Keywords: absorptive capacity, human capital, capital accumulation, export diversification, Sub-Saharan Africa.

JEL Classification: O13, O33, O55.

UNU-MERIT Working Papers ISSN 1871-9872

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