Is Africa’s Skepticism of Foreign Capital Justified? Evidence from East African Firm Survey Data - Working Paper 41

Todd J. Moss
Manju Kedia Shah
July 12, 2005
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. This wariness has manifested in many ways, including a range of business environment factors that impede greater foreign flows. Although much of the ideological resistance has faded, a number of specific challenges to the purported benefits of FDI have been successful in preventing more active liberalization and in moving to deal with indirect barriers. New data from firm surveys in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda suggest that there are important positive effects from FDI for both the host economies and the workers in foreign-owned firms. Based on our three-country sample, foreign firms are more productive, bring management skills, invest more heavily in infrastructure and in the training and health of their workers, and are more connected to global markets. At the same time, foreign firms do not appear to succeed by grabbing market share and crowding out local industry. These results suggest 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.

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