Diversification and sophistication of livestock products: The case of African countries.

Core message

This study assesses the level of sophistication of livestock products in Africa by evaluating technology intensity and economic complexity of each product. Using trade data from 1995 to 2012, livestock commodity exports are classified based on technology intensity. Employing a method of reflection in computing the economic complexity of export products, we find that one fifth of African livestock commodity exports are manufactured with low technology while the rest is composed of raw materials. The results also show that the ten most complex livestock commodities represent about a third of African livestock total exports while the world level is almost double this figure. Yet African countries spend a huge share of their wealth on importing complex products. The results imply that by exporting non-complex products Africa loses nearly a third of the total value of its livestock exports. To boost the value of livestock products, African countries should exploit their untapped potential while securing the domestic market to achieve import substitution. This can be done by integrating with global value chains or developing niche markets at the regional or international markets and improving productive capabilities.



  • Africa has enormous potential for livestock commodity production.

  • African livestock products and their delivery are insufficiently sophisticated.

  • Long-term African comparative advantage in the export of unsophisticated livestock commodities.

  • Intra-regional trade of livestock products is minimal.

  • Africa spends a lot to import processed livestock products from abroad.

Full citation

Yameogo, N.D., Nabassaga, T., Ncube, M. 2014. Diversification and sophistication of livestock products: The case of African countries. Food Policy 49(2): 398–407.