Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity



Cover of Working Paper 466
October 15, 2017

Can Africa Be a Manufacturing Destination? Labor Costs in Comparative Perspective - Working Paper 466

Our central question is whether African countries can break into global manufacturing in a substantial way. Our results suggest that for any given level of GDP, labor is more costly for firms that are located in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, we also find that there are a few countries in Africa that, on a labor cost basis, may be potential candidates for manufacturing—Ethiopia in particular stands out.

July 20, 2009

To Formalize or Not to Formalize? Comparisons of Microenterprise Data from Southern and East Africa - Working Paper 175

Why do so many businesses choose to remain informal? Vijaya Ramachandran and co-authors discover that the answer is more nuanced than often believed. In East Africa, for instance, the difference in productivity between formal and informal firms is often indistinguishable, while in Southern Africa productivity it is more differentiated. Policies to encourage formalization and increase productivity are likely to be more successful in East Africa, whereas an emphasis on job training and vocational skills might be more appropriate in Southern Africa.


Alan Gelb , Taye Mengistae , Vijaya Ramachandran and Manju Kedia Shah
February 18, 2005

Business Environment and Comparative Advantage in Africa: Evidence from the Investment Climate Data - Working Paper 56

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.