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Vijaya Ramachandran is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. She works on the impact of the business environment on the productivity of firms in developing countries, and is the coauthor of an essay titled "Development as Diffusion: Manufacturing Productivity and Africa's Missing Middle,” published in the Oxford Handbook on Economics and Africa. Vijaya is also studying the unintended consequences of rich countries’ anti-money laundering policies on financial inclusion in poor countries. She has published her research in journals such as World Development, Development Policy Review, Governance, Prism, and AIDS and is the author of a CGD book, Africa’s Private Sector: What’s Wrong with the Business Environment and What to Do About It. Prior to joining CGD, Vijaya worked at the World Bank and in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. She also served on the faculties of Georgetown University and Duke University. Her work has appeared in several media outlets including the Economist, Financial Times, Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, National Public Radio, and Vox.
More than 25% of businesses surveyed in some of Africa’s biggest economies cited losing double-digit sales due to power outages
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Washington – In Sub-Saharan African countries with unreliable power, outages cost some companies as much as 31 percent in sales, according to a new study released today by the Center for Global Development.
Researchers from the Center for Global Development (CGD) examined data from more than 3,000 firms in 37 African countries in an effort to examine how businesses across Sub-Saharan Africa respond to frequent power outages, and what it means for their businesses’ bottom lines and growth prospects.
“While there’s a lot of effort put into providing solar panels and generators to African households to power their daily lives, to actually change the economic development equation in Africa we must focus our efforts on the energy infrastructure that can power businesses,” said Vijaya Ramachandran, the study’s lead author and a senior fellow at CGD. “We found that unreliable power can have a major impact on businesses, dampening their growth prospects and undermining job creation opportunities.”
The study found:
In some of the continent’s largest economies like Nigeria, Angola, and Ghana, more than 25% of businesses lose double-digit sales due to power outages—with some firms averaging losses of 31%.
The largest grouping of firms are just surviving. Thanks to a heavy reliance on generators their sales are mostly unaffected by power outages, but they average just 3% growth.
Across the continent, some firms have grown rapidly despite frequent power outages—even in very poor countries.
In middle-income countries, especially in Southern Africa, many firms suffer relatively limited power outages and don’t see significant effects on sales.
The hardest-hit firms average more than 200 hours without power each month, while even the least-affected firms average more than 10 hours per month.
Some individual firms report losing over 70% of their sales.
“Of course, there’s no single story of how African businesses cope with unreliable power, but it’s clear that across the continent, a huge number of firms suffer high costs and lost sales,” said Ramachandran. “Better power infrastructure could enable business growth, create jobs, and produce better economic outcomes for the region.”
You can read the full study at https://www.cgdev.org/publication/how-do-african-firms-respond-unreliable-power-exploring-firm-heterogeneity-using-k-means.
Many countries in Africa suffer high rates of underemployment or low rates of productive employment; many also anticipate large numbers of people to enter the workforce in the near future. This paper asks the question: Are African firms creating fewer jobs than those located in other parts of the world? And, if so, why?
The White House and the World: A Global Development Agenda for the Next U.S. President shows how modest changes in U.S. policies could greatly improve the lives of poor people in developing countries, thus fostering greater stability, security, and prosperity globally and at home. Center for Global Development experts offer fresh perspectives and practical advice on trade policy, migration, foreign aid, climate change and more. In an introductory essay, CGD President Nancy Birdsall explains why and how the next U.S. president must lead in the creation of a better, safer world.
The need for infrastructure improvements is a top-tier economic, political, and social issue in nearly every African country. Although the academic and policy literature is extensive in terms of estimating the impact of infrastructure deficits on economic and social indicators, very few studies have examined citizen demands for infrastructure.
Many developing countries have made progress in political openness and economic management but lag in terms of attracting private sector investments, at least outside of narrow resource-based enclaves.These countries may have recognized potential but have not yet established the reputation needed to sustain investment through the inevitable political and policy shocks that take place in most countries. The concerns that deter investors are many but can be broadly classified into high costs that that prevent global competitiveness and high actual or perceived risks.
Originally published in October 2013 and updated January 2015
Food security has arisen again on the development agenda. High and volatile food prices took a toll in 2007–08, and in many low-income countries agricultural yields have risen little, if at all, in the last decade. Moreover, food production in these poor countries is especially vulnerable to climate change. Meeting this demand is a global challenge. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is expected to lead the way in meeting this challenge and, with the arrival in 2012 of the first new director-general in 18 years, it has an opening to restructure itself to do so.
CGD visiting fellow Vijaya Ramachandran and co-authors Manju Kedia Shah and Gaiv Tata used firm-level survey data from more than 1,500 enterprises in six African countries to discover how and why African firms lobby. Their working paper concludes that larger, entrenched firms lobby to protect their market share, and that this inhibits competition, reducing efficiency and growth. The authors suggest that regional integration could be one way out of this trap, because it expands the number of enterprises in the marketplace as well as the size of the market, thus making it both harder and less worthwhile for domestically entrenched enterprises to lobby to protect their market share.
Africa receives only a tiny fraction of global investments in emerging markets. But the problem is not that fund managers are scared away by a seemingly steady stream of bad news out of Africa, nor is a general marketing of Africa to global investors the solution. Instead the authors of this new CGD working paper find that the small size of African markets and low levels of liquidity are a binding deterrent for foreign institutional investors. Drawing on firm surveys to explore why African firms remain small, the authors offer practical recommendations for increasing portfolio investment in Africa. Learn more
Countries cannot grow without a vibrant domestic private sector, yet most growth in sub-Saharan Africa in the past decade has come from extractive industries, not private, entrepreneurial activity. Furthermore, non-extractive activity in the private sector is often dominated by firms owned by minority ethnic entrepreneurs--of Asian, Middle Easterner or Caucasian descent--not indigenous Africans. In this working paper, CGD visiting fellow Vijaya Ramachandran and her co-author analyze the constraints faced by domestic firms in five countries in sub-Saharan Africa. They offer policy recommendations to help indigenous entrepreneurs enter and survive in the private sector, including increasing university education and building networks among business professionals.Learn more
How do employers decide whether to provide their employees with HIV/AIDS prevention services? CGD Visiting Fellow Vijaya Ramachandran's data from 860 firms and 4,955 workers in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya shows that larger firms, and those with more highly skilled workers, invest more in HIV/AIDS prevention. Firms in which more than 50 percent of workers are unionized also are more likely to provide more prevention services.
The world has increasingly recognized that private capital has a vital role to play in economic development. African countries have moved to liberalize the investment environment, yet have not received much FDI. At least part of this poor performance is because of lingering skepticism toward foreign investment, owing to historical, ideological, and political reasons. Results from our three-country sample suugest that many of the common objections to foreign investment are exaggerated or false. Africa, by not attracting more FDI, is therefore failing to fully benefit from the potential of foreign capital to contribute to economic development and integration with the global economy.
This paper ties together the macroeconomic and microeconomic evidence on the competitiveness of African manufacturing sectors. The conceptual framework is based on the newer theories that see the evolution of comparative advantage as influenced by the business climate—a key public good—and by external economies between clusters of firms entering in related sectors. Macroeconomic data from purchasing power parity (PPP), though imprecisely measured, estimates confirms that Africa is high-cost relative to its levels of income and productivity. This finding is compared with firm-level evidence from surveys undertaken for Investment Climate Assessments in 2000-2004.