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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Cotonou's Klondike: African Traders and Second-Hand Car Markets in Benin
Author:Beuving, J. JoostISNI
Periodical:Journal of Modern African Studies
Geographic term:Benin
used goods
Economics and Trade
Urbanization and Migration
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/3876137
Abstract:This article addresses the theme of entrepreneurship in Africa by focusing on second-hand car markets in Cotonou, Bénin. Trade statistics suggest that the import of used European cars into Bénin skyrocketed from a few thousand per year in the mid-1980s to about 200,000 by the year 2000. At first glance this booming business seems to confirm neoliberal and institutional models of entrepreneurship, in which entrepreneurial behaviour constitutes rational calculation in a situation of economic opportunity. The universe in which African car traders operate, however, is characterized by significant capital scarcity, dramatic losses and widespread bankruptcies. The article argues that viewing entrepreneurs as economic calculators is not the proper way to understand the Cotonou car trade. Based on case analysis of a Béninese car trader, it shows that the outcome of car trading in Cotonou is determined by the manipulation of social contacts, characterized by self-interest and distrust among business partners. Analogous to the Klondike gold rush, it appears that the car trader's engagement with the trade is to a large extent motivated by the dream of making a fortune. Thus, even though entrepreneurial failure is widespread among African car traders, most of them remain convinced that car trading can yield significant profits. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]