Nigeria has a vibrant and growing tech sector. In a survey of tech firms conducted in 2018, we find that most firms start small but grow quickly, more than doubling their size in the few years since the start of operations. Many are addressing inefficiencies in distribution of goods and services. But firms are still hampered by the business environment, notably unreliable electricity and lack of access to credit. Most suffer significant power outages, forcing them to purchase generators. Few firms have access to financial institutions or venture capitalists, relying instead on family and professional networks. Finally, tech firms employ very few women. While the Nigerian government has made the tech sector a priority, it needs to do more to improve the basics of the business environment. The government and the private sector must also take steps to increase the participation of women in the tech sector.
How Do African Firms Respond to Unreliable Power? Exploring Firm Heterogeneity Using K-Means Clustering - Working Paper 493
While previous studies have found a positive relationship between the reliability of power and firm growth, we find that such a clear relationship seems not to prevail. In other words, some firms are able to cope with an unreliable supply of power while many others do not.
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.
When Agglomeration Theory Meets Development Reality: Preliminary Lessons from Twenty World Bank Private Sector Projects
The World Bank has currently committed $1.5 billion to various projects that promote agglomeration benefits across firms, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.
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.
Should Countries Be More Like Shopping Malls? A Proposal for Service Performance Guarantees for Africa
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.
Development as Diffusion: Manufacturing Productivity and Sub-Saharan Africa’s Missing Middle - Working Paper 357
We consider economic development of Sub-Saharan Africa from the perspective of slow convergence of productivity, both across sectors and across firms within sectors.
Getting Serious about Underperformance of the African Growth and Opportunity Act: Policy Options for Supporting Trade Potential in Africa
With the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) scheduled to expire in September 2015, the US Congress and Obama Administration will need to consider its status this year.
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?
Africa’s industrial progress has been disappointing. Part of the reason is that labor costs are higher than one might expect, given GDP per capita. Alan Gelb, Christian Meyer, and Vijaya Ramachandran distill the policy lessons.
China's Development Finance to Africa: A Media-Based Approach to Data Collection - Working Paper 323
China’s presence in Africa is, beyond dispute, large in both trade and what can be called official finance to Africa. But how large, exactly? A new database from the College of William and Mary brings additional resources to help answer the question. This paper describes the new database, its key findings, and its possible applications and limitations of the data, which is being made publicly available for the first time.
The authors assess the World Bank’s private sector interventions in African fragile states. They summarize and analyze project-level data from IDA, IFC, and MIGA, and introduce a new framework which may assist in the design and implementation of projects in fragile states.
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.
Why should the United States care about economic growth in Africa? Because it is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Helping to spur economic growth in Africa promotes our values, enhances our security, and helps create economic and political opportunities for the people of the continent. Public interest in Africa is higher than ever—witness consumer movements such as Product Red—and bipartisan political support recently renewed funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Several new opportunities now exist for U.S. firms to compete and benefit from a win-win partnership with the region.
CGD senior fellow Vijaya Ramachandran argues in this essay that the next U.S. president can play a valuable role in helping Africa to overcome two crucial barriers to poverty reduction: lack of power and lack of roads. Ramachandran urges the next president to create a $1 billion Clean Energy Fund for Africa to facilitate the transfer of U.S. infrastructure technology, including renewable energy; and to encourage the World Bank and the African Development Bank to focus on cross-country regional infrastructure projects, also with a strong emphasis on clean technology. The essay is included in a forthcoming CGD volume: The White House and the World: A Global Development Agenda for the Next U.S. President.
Does Influence-Peddling Impact Industrial Competition? Evidence from Enterprise Surveys in Africa - Working Paper 127
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.
Why Doesn't Africa Get More Equity Investment? Frontier Stock Markets, Firm Size and Asset Allocations of Global Emerging Market Funds - Working Paper 112
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
Why Are There So Few Black-Owned Firms in Africa? Preliminary Results from Enterprise Survey Data - Working Paper 104
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