Institutions for Trade: Translating Trade into Development Impact

This report includes a study on Rwanda as a positive reference point


The African Development Bank publication ‘African Economic Outlook 2019’, urges policy makers to implement the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) to reduce the time it takes to cross borders and the transaction costs tied to non-tariff measures. When added to the removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers, these measures could yield a cumulative income gain of 3.5% of Africa’s GDP or just over US$100 billion. Against this backdrop, this rapid literature review contends that the combination of economic opportunity, trade law commitment and government mindfulness of reputational standing will squeeze the space in which negative forces within political elites can in respect of self-interest, act to maintain the status quo and complacency towards reforms. This review finds evidence of countries successfully translating the trade liberalisation narrative into national action where it has been anchored to strong political will, empowered institutions, an enabling legal framework, and a well-defined and sufficiently financed national development strategy. In this regard, the study cites Rwanda as a positive reference point for progress where as a post conflict nation, its achievements in trade reform (notwithstanding concerns over cases of restriction of free speech and political activity are evident in the rise in global rankings across a range of performance indices (where it is significantly outpacing its regional partners in the East African Communities.

K4D helpdesk reports provide summaries of current research, evidence and lessons learned. This report was commissioned by the UK Department for International Development.


Norley, P. and Rosenthal, J. (2019). Institutions for Trade: Translating Trade into Developmental Impact. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies

Institutions for Trade: Translating Trade into Development Impact

Published 11 June 2019