In the Africa Chief Economist’s Office, we seek to generate knowledge on key development issues around the continent. We also host the Gender Innovation Lab, which – as the name suggests – specifically generates evidence on how to close the gender gap in Africa. Over the course of 2018, we’ve produced a range of products (regional reports and updates), but we also produce academic articles and book chapters seeking to answer key, specific development questions.
Private Sector Development
The mobile money market is booming in Somalia. Approximately 155 million transactions, worth $2.7 billion or 36% of gross domestic product (GDP), are recorded every month. Mobile money accounts for a high proportion of money supply in the domestic, dollarized economy and has superseded the use of cash; seven out of 10 of Somalis use mobile money services regularly.
Since the Edelman company began tracking trust with its Trust Barometer, never has the world seen such an “implosion of trust.” In 2017, two-thirds of countries fell into “distruster” territory with trust levels of below 50 percent. Governments are now distrusted by investors in 75 percent of countries, and the same is the case for business in 46 percent.
At first glance it might seem surprising that the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) has zeroed in on agriculture as the focus for our 2017 flagship report, launched this week at the World Bank’s Annual Meetings in Washington. But that’s precisely the point: this is not primarily about agriculture, it is about how you transform the broader economy, with agriculture as the catalyst.
The Nigerian government’s Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission has blazed an important trail, publishing details of 51 Federal Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracts—the culmination of a year’s work with the World Bank to ensure that all, non-confidential information is easily accessible to the public. We hope other countries will follow Nigeria’s trend-setting lead.
In 2016, the world faces uncertainty and volatility – as well as huge opportunities for significant progress. Africa stands not just to gain from these major shifts, but also to lead some of them.
The global landscape is certainly challenging, with the political and economic news dominated by slowing growth, rocky stock markets, falling commodity prices, risks in emerging markets (especially China), increasing numbers of refugees, geopolitical tensions and the threat of violent extremism.
As international donors gather this week in Brussels to mobilize resources for Guinea-Bissau, the government and people of this West African nation appear ready for a fresh start.
This peculiarity cannot be explained only by the fact that the region is poor. The company has found a market in about 30 countries with GDP per capita of less than US$ 3,000 (in constant 2005 US$) at the time of their first McDonald’s opening. Hamburgers, Cheeseburgers, and Big Macs are also on offer in a dozen of low-income countries as well. When the first McDonald’s opened in Shenzhen in 1990, China’s GDP per capita was less than US$ 500 per person. Of course, Shenzhen’s per capita income was several times higher, but the company has also found a market in Moldova since 1998 when the GDP per capita of the 3 million person country was less than US$ 600 per capita. There are many cities in SSA today that have higher income, population concentration, and tourists than what Chisinau had in 1998; yet they do not have a McDonald’s. As a matter of fact, 22 SSA countries today have higher income per capita than what Moldova or Pakistan had when the first McDonald’s opened there, and 15 of them have higher income per capita even than what Indonesia or Egypt had at their McDonald’s openings (see chart).
Is bigger always better? Economists have long debated what size firms are more likely to drive business expansion and job creation. In industrial countries like the United States, small (young) firms contribute up to two-thirds of all net job creation and account for a predominant share of innovation. (Source: McKinsey, Restarting the US small-business growth engine, November 2012). In developing countries, evidence from Ethiopia, Ghana and Madagascar shows that the vast majority of small operators remain small, and so are unlikely to create many decent jobs over time [Source: World Bank, Youth Employment, 2014]. By contrast, ‘big’ enterprises are seen as the best providers of employment opportunities and new technologies.
The difference in role and performance of small firms in developing and industrial countries reflects to a large extent their owners’ characteristics. In the US, small firm owners are generally more educated and wealthier than the average worker, while the opposite is true in most developing countries. This point was emphasized by E. Duflo and A. Banerjee in their famous book ‘Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty’ (Penguin, 2011). Most business owners in developing countries are considered to be ‘reluctant’ entrepreneurs; essentially unskilled workers that are pushed into entrepreneurship for lack of other feasible options for employment.
This is also very much a reality in Tanzania where small business owners have few skills and limited financial and physical assets. Of the three million non-farm businesses operating in the country, almost 90% of business owners are confined in self-employment. Only 3% of business owners possess post-secondary level education. As a result, their businesses are generally small, informal, unspecialized, young and unproductive. They also tend to be extremely fragile with high exit rates, and operate sporadically during the year. Put simply, most small businesses are not well equipped to expand and become competitive.