International Commodity Flows and New Trade Network

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Session 6 Article Summary—From Scotch Whisky to Chinese Sneakers: International Commodity Flows and New Trade Networks in Oshikango, Namibia by Gregor Dobler

Development of new trade networks feeding consumption have developed, influencing the way Africa integrates into the global economy. Dobler analyses different trade networks that link Oshikango, Nambibia to the world through four case studies on Scotch whisky, Brazilian furniture, Japanese used cars and Chinese sneakers commodities. Through the case studies, he exemplifies how there has been a shift from old colonial domination of trade to new manufacturing countries or trade routes, as well as the essential role of migrant entrepreneurs in these routes. The similarity underlying the different trade networks is that while the people involved in them are of different ethnicity or country of origin, they share the same profit-seeking motive and the opportunities in the international system shape them to become successful examples as facilitators of global trade. Another key concept from the article is that of global integration via consumption. As trade booms in the town of Namibia, it invariably fuels consumption in the town and Africa as a whole. Consumption choices are a means of self-expression in relation to the world and more Africans aspire towards commodities that reflect social standing and a ‘better life’. This thus creates new dependencies on the trade networks to fulfill these desires.

Scotch Whisky Trade
The whisky trade is centrally organized, with production mainly based in Europe and distribution globally through exclusive representatives. Whisky remains as one of the most important good traded from Europe to Africa even in the post-colonial era and the wholesale traders mainly come from families of European background organized along ethnic lines and historical ties, thus the industry is monopolistic in nature. Being a lucrative business with high market transparency (due to...
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