A market in Ramallah, West Bank. © Arne Hoel/The World Bank
Snapchat made its historic initial public offering this month with a market valuation of $33 billion, which qualifies it as a decacorn (a firm valued at least $10 billion, compared to a unicorn, which is valued at a mere $1 billion). Snapchat, once the bane of parents as a teenage distraction, overtook Alibaba’s record of raising $22 billion in 2014 and has spawned two 26-year-old multi-billionaires.
It is tempting to be dazzled by the likes of Snapchat, Uber, Facebook and Airbnb and to conclude that the start-up scene is dynamic and thriving. However, the reality is rather different, and perhaps even somewhat grim: U.S. Census data released in 2016 show that new business creation is near a 40-year low. According to a number of researchers, the rate of business start-ups and the pace of employment dynamism in the U.S. economy have fallen over the past decades.
A critical factor in accounting for the decline in business dynamics is a lower rate of business start-ups and the related decreasing role of dynamic young firms in the economy. For example, the share of U.S. employment accounted for by young firms has declined by almost 30 percent over the past 30 years. This statistic has significant implications given that the churning effect of new firms is an important means of reallocating capital and labor from low-productivity to high-productivity activities, which in turn is required for long-term productivity-led growth.
If this were not worryisome enough, the data also shows that since around the year 2000, there are far fewer high-growth young firms being created in the United States. Most start-ups fail, but a very small percentage (between 1 percent and 5 percent, based primarily on data from OECD countries) are innovative and dynamic, grow rapidly and create the most jobs and value, thus making a disproportionate contribution to overall productivity growth.
The likelihood of a start-up in the United States becoming a high-growth firm is now lower than before the year 2000, which is counterfactual in the age of digital disruption. No one is quite certain of the economic, social, and demographic factors behind these trends of declining start-up activity and the dearth of high-growth firms in the United States, but there are a number of theories, including the effects of the Great Recession, generational cultural changes and changing risk appetite of young people, a burdensome regulatory environment, and the increasing importance of large, innovative firms that have adapted many of the appealing features of startups.
A World Bank Group team is exploring the topic of high-growth entrepreneurship in developing countries to examine whether there are similar patterns and trends as in the United States and OECD countries. This study looks at the prevalence and characteristics of high-growth firms in various economies, the attributes of the firm and the entrepreneur, the business environment, and other factors such as the role of foreign direct investment and spillovers/linkages and agglomeration effects. The focus of the study will be also to assess the policy instruments being deployed and how effective are these in providing targeted support to high growth firms.
The Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) this week in Johannesburg, South Africa provides an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas and deepen insights on the challenges of identifying and nurturing high-growth firms. This year’s GEC theme is “Digital Disruption.” More than 4,000 disruptors — entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and ecosystem builders from more than 160 countries — are coming together to exchange market-specific insights on how to identify and nurture the most innovative high-growth entrepreneurs from across the world to create high-quality jobs, drive productivity-led sustainable growth and find solutions to global challenges.
Private Sector Development
Fatima brimmed with optimism. The 19-year-old recently established a poultry enterprise with the support of a micro-grant, and was thrilled at the prospect of financial independence.
“After my family moved from Pakistan, I had few options for work,” she said from her home in the Paghman district in the outskirts of Kabul. “The grant not only allowed me to start my own poultry business, but let me work from my own home.”
With over half the population under the age of 15, Afghanistan stands on the cusp of a demographic dividend. To reach their full potential, Afghanistan’s youth need to be engaged in meaningful work – enabling young people to support themselves, but also contribute to the prosperity of their families and communities.
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We are developing Macro Simulation Models to estimate how investments and interventions may generate jobs. Following the Jobs Study conducted by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, the Let’s Work Partnership was established to develop, refine, and apply tools to estimate direct, indirect, and induced job effects. Macro models are one of these tools.
Businesses, for many the real drivers of job creation, can also be the foundation of wealth and greater economic inclusion of the general population. Jobs or Privileges, a World Bank Group report published in 2014, shows that high-growth startups—or young firms—accounted for all net job creation in Morocco’s manufacturing sector at the time. But, by comparison with older small or medium–size enterprises, young start-ups faced far greater barriers in Morocco to accessing finance.
To understand this, we first need to “unpack” the causes of low efficiency.
Emerging technologies are transforming global logistics. The evidence is everywhere: Logistics companies are exploring autonomous fleets and “lights-out” warehousing, and are looking to Big Data for transport management and predictive analytics. Crowdsourcing start-ups are using a high-tech/asset-light business model. And e-brokerage platforms are providing real-time information from pickup to delivery.
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Investing in infrastructure relies on well-designed, solid projects that both governments and private sector investors can confidently support. But globally, the pipeline of such projects is weak. No surprise, then, that actual infrastructure investments fall far short of demand—the resulting infrastructure gap is estimated to be $1 trillion annually. In the poorest developing countries, the situation is worse: since 2012, they have seen overall private investment in infrastructure fall leaving billions without basic services such as electricity, clean water, or sanitation.
Photo Credit: Flickr user n8agrin
Seven years ago I began working in the infrastructure field, and it has been truly remarkable to witness so much knowledge and so many incredible bright minds dedicated to the cause of providing sustainable and inclusive infrastructures globally, really!
During this time, I have realized how crucial project preparation is even though in the scheme of things it seems like a minute phase of a very long infrastructure life cycle. In fact, I compare the project preparation phase to the “cornerstone concept,” defined as the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.
In other words, if a project is well-prepared, well designed, well-thought of, it is more likely to flow better across the infrastructure life cycle and provide the desired services to the population, and vice versa.
Photo: Visual News Associates / The World Bank
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, if there is one concept to keep in mind above all others, it’s that gender equity is vital 24-7-365, and not just as a once-a-year observance.
You have heard the argument before and you will hear it again: Economies cannot reach their full potential if half the population is systematically blocked from full participation. This fundamental idea motivates the World Bank Group as it redoubles its efforts to address gaps in gender equality.
Our deepening work to close key gender gaps shows that the issues go far beyond economic inequity. Barriers to women’s full economic participation also impose moral, emotional and at times even physical costs.
We see this in the laws that prevent wives from making autonomous decisions about their careers. We see it in instances of violence against women in the workplace. We see this when harassment occurs at rural border crossings where women traders can encounter threats, and worse, from border guards.
In developing and developed countries alike, women face obstacles to starting and managing a business, to accessing finance, to earning equal pay for equal work, and to owning land or other assets. Many countries maintain laws and regulations that advantage men while discriminating against women, often relegating them to the status of a legal minor.
As Emeritus Professor Linda Scott of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School told us recently, “Women are economically disadvantaged in every country on the planet” and “women’s economic exclusion imposes a significant drag on world economies and societies.”
A key part of the Bank Group’s gender effort revolves around the importance of leveraging the private sector to ensure that reform goes beyond policy statements and creates real economic benefits for women and men. The Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice (T&C) has developed an approach to gender equity that focuses on expanding market opportunities, enabling private initiative, and developing dynamic economies.
The work we are doing recognizes the entrenched nature of the obstacles to fuller economic empowerment for women. Achieving results at scale will require sustained commitment. But we also understand the importance of realizing near-term progress to catalyze change, and we recognize how interventions in particular countries can show the way forward elsewhere.
The concept is simple: Good results generate more good results.
- women business and the law
- women's political empowerment
- women's property rights
- women's land rights
- women's empowerment
- women's economic empowerment
- International Women's Day 2017
- Law and Regulation
- Social Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- doing business
Photo: Gennadiy Ratushenko / World Bank
My colleague Victoria and I had an opportunity recently to meet with students at the Tajik-Russian Slavonic University in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, as part of our research and preparation for a new report called Tajikistan Jobs Diagnostic: Strategic Framework for Jobs.
Curious to learn about their future professional ambitions, we asked one class of students how many of them would like to work in the private sector after they graduate. Only about 10% of the students raised their hands. We also asked them how many would like to work for the government. This time, around 20% raised their hands.