Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity



March 22, 2016

Financial Regulations for Improving Financial Inclusion

As recently as 2011, only 42 percent of adult Kenyans had a financial account of any kind; by 2014, according to the Global Findex database, that number had risen to 75 percent, including 63 percent of the poorest two-fifths. In Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, the share of adults with financial accounts, either a traditional bank account or a mobile account, rose by nearly half over the same period. Many countries in other developing regions have also recorded, if less dramatic, gains in access to the basic financial services that most people in richer countries take for granted. Much of this progress is being facilitated by the digital revolution of recent decades, which has led to the emergence of new financial services and new delivery channels.

February 25, 2016

Balancing Financial Integrity with Financial Inclusion: The Risk-Based Approach to “Know Your Customer”

Recognizing the importance of financial inclusion as a policy objective, regulators have endorsed the use of a risk-based approach (RBA) towards know-your-customer (KYC) requirements aimed at strengthening financial integrity.  This paper considers applications of the RBA in domestic banking, mobile money and international financial transactions against the features of a rigorous RBA where both the rigor and level of due diligence and the structure and balance of incentives should be proportional to the balance of risks, including that of exclusion. Recommendations include greater attention to national identification systems and to encourage the use of digital technology to shift from cash-cash wire transfers to more transparent account-account transactions between identified holders.

February 22, 2016

Using Identification for Development: Some Guiding Principles

There is growing recognition of the importance of identification for sustainable development. Its role is recognized formally in target 16.9 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which calls for providing “legal identity for all, including through birth registration” by 2030. Identification is also an enabler of many other development targets, from social protection (delivering support) to financial inclusion (opening bank or mobile accounts and establishing a credit record) to women's empowerment.Having a recognized identity is crucial for achieving several development outcomes.

Should Countries Be More Like Shopping Malls? A Proposal for Service Performance Guarantees for Africa
September 17, 2014

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.

Alan Gelb , Vijaya Ramachandran and Alice Rossignol
August 10, 2010

How Should Oil Exporters Spend Their Rents? - Working Paper 221

This paper argues for approaches that increase public understanding of the need for prudent spending of oil revenues in booms, and for comprehensive consideration of a range of options for using rents. Drawing on the experience of a few successful countries, it points to a number of common factors that seem to be important in enabling countries to obtain a positive payoff from resource wealth. These include a strong concern for social stability and growth, a capable and engaged technocracy, and interests in the non-oil sectors able to act as agents of restraint.

Alan Gelb and Sina Grasmann
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.