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How to Make Zones Work Better in Africa?

Cecile Fruman's picture

Sub-Saharan Arica has launched a new wave of “special economic zones” (SEZs), with more and more countries establishing or planning to establish SEZs or industrial parks. However, can Africa overcome the past stigma and make the zone programs truly successful?

This was one of the hot topics during the China-Africa “Investing in Africa Forum,” held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from June 30 to July 1, organized by the World Bank Group with the government of Ethiopia, the government of China, the China Development Bank and UNIDO.
 
Why did the the African zones fail, in the past, to attract many investors? My answer was they were not truly “special” in terms of business environment and infrastructure provisions, and many constraints were not significantly improved inside the zones. This analysis was supported by another panelist, His Excellency Dr. Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. According to Dr. Oqubay, past zones in Africa were “missing the ‘basics’ such as power, water and one-stop services, and were not aligned with national development strategy.”

That viewpoint was shared by almost all the other panelists, which included senior African and Chinese officials and international experts at the SEZ session, which was characterized with candid discussions and greatly benefited from the background paper prepared by Douglas Zeng of the World Bank Group’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice.

From Tirole to the WBG Twin Goals: Scaling up competition policies to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity

Anabel Gonzalez's picture
The role of policies that ensure and promote competition in the marketplace have moved to the forefront of economics and the development agenda. The Australian G20 presidency highlighted competition as one of the four policy areas for the growth agenda. India’s prime-minister Modi has placed competition on his transformational reform agenda, and The Economist recently emphasized the lack of competition as a source of low productivity among Latin American firms. Jean Tirole, who won the latest Nobel Prize for his analysis of market power and regulation, demonstrated how competition policies can spur powerful firms to become more productive and can give smaller firms more opportunity to thrive.

To respond to client demand at this crucial moment for economic development, the World Bank Group is generating knowledge to better understand the links among competition, growth and shared prosperity, and to develop policies that promote competition. Last week, at a Bank Group event, held jointly with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), experts and practitioners discussed the growing body of empirical evidence on these matters. Representatives from the WBG’s client countries, in turn, shared how WBG competition policy tools are leveraging their development impact.

Competition in the marketplace matters for economic growth and household welfare for two reasons:
 
  • First, it fosters more productive firms and industries, allowing domestic firms to become more competitive abroad and to export more. A WBG study shows that substantially increasing competition in Tunisia would boost labor productivity growth by 5 percent.
  • Second, it protects poorer households from paying too much for consumer goods, and from missing out on the benefits of trade liberalization. In Mexico, lack of competition costs the poorest households 20 percent more than richest households. In Kenya, poverty could fall by 2 percent if competition was more intense in the maize and sugar markets.


Competition is restricted by businesses practices that undermine competitive dynamics. When firms agree to fix prices, empirical evidence reveals that consumers pay on average 49 percent more, and 80 percent more when cartels are strongest. Developing economies are still frequently marked by regulations that restrict the number of firms or limit private investment; rules that increase business risks and facilitate agreements among competitors; and rules that discriminate against certain competitors or affect competitive neutrality. When new retail firms are allowed to enter the market, real household income increases by 6.2 percent.

'Model Law for Best Practice in Financial Consumer Protection': An important driver for Universal Financial Access

Ros Grady's picture

The Client Protection Principles: Model Law and Commentary for Financial Consumer Protection (the "Model Law"), recently launched by the Microfinance CEO Working Group, has the potential to be a useful resource for the many developing and emerging economies that are seeking to design and implement international best practices in financial consumer protection, having recognized that consumer protection is a critical element in building and maintaining trust in the financial sector and achieving financial inclusion targets.

The Model Law was prepared on a pro-bono basis by the international law firm DLA Piper on the basis of the 7 Client Protection Principles of the Smart Campaign. The project, which took place over a 15-month period and was managed by Accion on behalf of the Council of Microfinance Counsels, included consultations with financial inclusion stakeholders and legal experts, who undertook a review of existing legal frameworks in various countries. Reference was also made to international best practices and principles such as the World Bank’s Good Practices on Financial Consumer Protection and the G20 High Level Principles on Financial Consumer Protection.
 
The Model Law is a high-level, activities-based law that is intended to apply equally to all financial-services providers. This includes “banks, credit unions, microfinance institutions, money lenders and digital financial-service providers.” The apparent aim is to ensure an equal level of protection for all consumers and a level playing field. The consumers concerned may be an individual or a micro-, small or medium-sized business, and so the law will apply equally to consumption and small-business facilities. Many of the provisions are framed in terms of principles, the detail of which would need to be filled out in related legislation.


 
The framework of the Model Law follows the Smart Campaign’s 7 Client Protection Principles, and so it covers the topics of appropriate product design and delivery; prevention of overindebtedness; transparency; responsible pricing; fair and respectful treatment of clients; privacy of client data; and mechanisms for complaint resolution. There is also a section covering the establishment of a dedicated supervisory authority with broad functions relating to the regulation, supervision and registration of financial-services providers, market monitoring and enforcement.

World Bank launches survey to assess the impact of de-risking on remittances

Massimo Cirasino's picture

An increasing number of anecdotal reports about banks’ de-risking remittances service providers and the negative impact these actions have had on the industry have been circulating within the international financial community over the last few years.

Different sources have for instance reported that banks are supposedly cutting off access to banking services to money transfer operators (MTOs) because generated revenue isn’t sufficient to offset the cost of complying with AML/CFT and other requirements.

MTOs are crucial to the international remittances industry and provide relevant services for many migrants and their families. They also help extend reach and access to remittances and other financial services since they operate in many remote locations where banks aren’t present.
 

'Business unusual' can still work

Cecile Fruman's picture

I recently spent three days in Hargeisa, Somaliland. An eye-opening experience, as much as one that strengthens my conviction that World Bank Group is doing the right thing by engaging in this fragile country.

Somaliland is business unusual. Imagine among others, sitting in a mandatory security brief and specifying your blood type straight off the plane, going to meetings in armored cars, wearing the hijab  – a veil worn by Muslim women in the presence of adult males – scheduling meetings around prayers and the time of Iftar, the evening meal when Muslims end their daily fast during Ramadan.

The business environment in Somaliland is characterized by a fragile state, poor public service delivery, a weak legal and regulatory regime, inefficient and costly trade logistics, and a fragmented private sector with limited structured engagement with the government. Although the private sector accounts for more than 90 percent of GDP (an anomaly in Africa), it has poor access to finance and lacks an organized voice.



Meeting with the President of the Republic of Somaliland.
 
During my mission, I met with key Ministers, entrepreneurs and development partners and discussed the challenges and opportunities linked to the ongoing economic development agenda, notably the development of infrastructure and the energy sector. The exchanges highlighted how the World Bank Group's program in Somaliland is laying a foundation to create job opportunities and to accelerate the pace of economic development by fostering business reforms and SME engagement. In this light, the set-up of a high-level taskforce – reporting directly to the President – to implement Doing Business reforms compiled in a Doing Business memo, is a milestone and a strong sign of client buy-in. That is always crucial for the World Bank Group's programs to reach their objectives.  

Last, I participated in the presentation of the pilot Reform Champion Program, which aims to develop the capacity of government officials and some representatives of the private sector to implement key reforms that will address constraints to economic growth and development. The project is expected to help trained reform champions implement at least five reforms to improve government-to-business services by July 2016.

The World Bank’s Caribbean Entrepreneurship Program: One Woman’s Story of Growth

Michael Grant's picture

After managing businesses in television and tourism, Shirley Lindo returned to Jamaica with a desire to create a community-enriching enterprise. As the daughter of a St. Ann farmer, she chose natural products, free of additives, that could be grown on her "Outa Earth" plot in the old Bernard Lodge sugar lands.

Since castor beans grow fairly easily on Jamaica’s plains, she settled on the production of castor oil, a versatile commodity valued as a food additive, manufacturing element, cosmetic ingredient and healing agent. As a testament to the oil’s quality, it has won blue ribbons at the Denbigh Agricultural show, Jamaica’s largest, three years running.
 
Shirley discovered, after a few years of producing the oil using a laborious traditional process and selling to local and American customers, that her product generated large quantities of waste. Rising everywhere were piles of bean shells and leftover bean pulp, plus the leftover trash from another crop, the moringa seeds that were becoming a popular health food on the island.

After doing some research on uses for these agricultural byproducts, Shirley applied for a grant to use them to develop a sustainable soil conditioner and low-smoke briquettes.

From 300 entrants, Shirley was one of 11 winners selected from across the CARICOM (Caribbean Community and Common Market) region, and one of four women in that group. Her initial progress was slow, as she grappled with the cost of scaling up castor oil production in order to create the critical mass required for producing the newer products more efficiently.
 

The impact of investment climate reform in Africa: How has 'Doing Business' reform promoted broader competitiveness?

Aref Adamali's picture

Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) impressive growth over the past decade or so has been matched by its equally impressive showing on the World Bank Group's "Doing Business" index. In 2012, one-third of the world’s top reformers on the index were from the continent, and every year its countries feature in the top 10 most active reformers. In 2014, five of the top 10 were from SSA.

Doing Business tracks progress in reforms that support a firm through its life-cycle, from start-up, through to raising capital, to potential closure. Through a mix of wide geographic coverage and rankings that generate a lot of public attention (not all of it wholly positive), the report has been a powerful motivator of investment climate reform, with the data serving as a useful means to measure progress made.
 
Doing Business as a start
While a large appeal of Doing Business as a measure of a country’s business environment is that it focuses on tangible business activities to which the private sector and policymakers can directly relate, its indicators are limited in scope. They are therefore intended to be used mainly as a litmus test of the state of a country’s investment climate. Therefore, while Doing Business's accessibility and global profile can be very useful in generating momentum for private sector reform, it ought to mainly serve as a starting point for a country to then engage in both broader reaching and deeper investment climate change. (This approach to the use of Doing Business has largely underpinned investment climate reform efforts in SSA by the Bank Group’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice.)  
 
So, if Doing Business is a starting point and is used as such, is there evidence to support the assumption that it triggers wider and deeper private sector reform? Or is movement on Doing Businesses a starting point and, unintentionally, an ending point too?
 
Linkages to wider competitiveness reform data
One of the most comprehensive measures of the state of different countries’ business environments is the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), a data set of over 110 variables that looks at the current state of, and tracks changes in, competitiveness across the world. The data set is structured under 12 pillars that cover measures from institutional development to technology and innovation.

Using GCI as a good measure of competitiveness, and interpreting changes in it as a reflection of a country’s effectiveness in engaging in wider competitiveness reform, we can look at the relationship between GCI and Doing Business and, significantly, the extent of movement on the two indices.
 
A high-level review of the relationship between changes in GCI and Doing Business for different regions between 2007 and 2013 shows SSA to have performed comparatively well on both indices, performing similarly to countries of Eastern and Central Europe and surpassing the world average.[1] However, looking beyond averages to GCI’s specific pillars, SSA’s performance has been variable, advancing as a region in some areas more than others. Figure 1, below, shows GCI pillars where SSA has improved the most and the least, highlighting the top and bottom three.

Figure 1: Variations within competitiveness
(SSA score on GCI, total and select pillars)  




Of particular interest is Pillar 6, Goods Market Efficiency, because many of the areas that this pillar tracks are also areas where the Bank Group has focused its investment climate reform interventions, from business entry and competition, to taxes, trade and investment. (Two of the 16 indicators in this pillar actually comprise Doing Business data – the number of procedures and days required to start a business.)
 
Pillar 6 is one of the top three GCI pillars that have the greatest upward pull on SSA’s overall performance on GCI, countering the areas where SSA has slipped in its scores.

How to join 'the FDI Club': The role of Investment Promotion

Selma Rasavac-Avdagic's picture



For the very first time, developing economies in 2013 attracted more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) than developed countries: fully 52 percent of global FDI flows, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Every government of a developing country aspires to have an economy that’s able to provide a better quality of life for its citizens.

In highly competitive market environments, developing countries turn to private investment as a key driver of growth. Private investment can increase government revenue streams, create jobs, improve labor skills and help link domestic firms to global value chains by creating supply-chain opportunities. Encouraging and attracting private investors is thus one of the core priorities for any government that understands how the private sector can play a key role in fueling the country’s economy, reducing unemployment rates and improving living standards. Every government of a developing country aspires to have an economy that’s able to provide a better quality of life for its citizens. Yet the 52 percent of FDI is highly concentrated in a relatively few countries. The question for most governments thus remains: How to join “the FDI Club”?
 
The role of investment attractiveness often falls to national or subnational investment promotion intermediaries (IPIs). The role of these agencies cannot be overstated, even though their effectiveness in many countries is, at best, mixed. To be effective, an IPI must build on investment-friendly policy and regulatory frameworks, aiming to develop a strong capacity to market the country to investors who are willing to consider investing their capital in the economy’s high-priority sectors.  The aim is not about, “If we build it, they will come”: Instead, it’s about, “Let’s invite them to come and see, so they’ll invest.”

Olympic opportunity: Renew the ideal of the global Games – by restoring the Olympics to their historic home

Christopher Colford's picture

Wasting billions of dollars, time and time again, to stage self-indulgent sports spectacles is no way for any society to build shared prosperity for the long term. But just try explaining that common-sense economic logic to the sports-crazed cities that keep lining up to purchase a moment of fleeting fame – and that end up squandering vast sums, by building use-once-throw-away “white elephants” for one-off events like the Olympic Games or the World Cup soccer tournament.

The sports-industrial complex continues to beguile the gullible and the grandiose, even though scholars have long warned of the futility of sports-event-driven spending. Beijing spent about $40 billion to host the 2008 Summer Games, and Sochi spent upwards of $50 billion to stage the 2014 Winter Games – while Brazil spent $20 billion to host (and heartbreakingly lose) the final rounds of 2014 World Cup soccer. Not to be outdone for extravagance and excess, Qatar reportedly plans to spend as much as $200 billion for the 2022 festivities.

Like the deluded leaders of declining Rome – who distracted their once-industrious city into passivity by pacifying the populace with what the poet Juvenal derided as panem et circenses: "bread and circuses" – modern-day civic leaders are allowing their obsession with media-moment athletic fame to trample economic logic. The scale of their civic hubris – and the malign self-interest of the construction firms, financiers, flacks and fixers who goad credulous Olympic-wannabe cities into wanton overspending – is insightfully dissected in a valuable new book, “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup,” by Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College.

In recent remarks at the World Bank, Zimbalist deplored the reckless rush that stampedes many cities into bleeding their civic coffers in the quest for Olympic notoriety. The saddest example may be the city of Montreal, whose debt from the 1976 Summer Games burdened the sorry city for 30 years.

Yet the suckers keep taking the bait. Boston, said Zimbalist, recently put forth an extravagant multibillion-dollar bid for the 2024 Summer Games – and only later, after the initial headlines and hoopla had abated, did more complete statistics reveal the likely scale of Boston’s folly. And, of course, the Olympic organizers would again stick the long-suffering taxpayers with the bill for any revenue shortfall.

Zimbalist’s logic is a wake-up call for those who somehow imagine that “this time is different” – that one-shot wonders might somehow produce long-term economic benefits. Some occasional exceptions suggest how very rare it is that optimists are rewarded: London, for example, may have gained a much-needed morale boost after its successful 2012 Summer Games, and two (but only two) Olympic festivals actually turned a profit – both of them in Los Angeles, which shrewdly re-used some of its 1936 Olympic facilities when it again played host to the Summer Games in 1984. But for most cities – Montreal in 1976, Sarajevo in 1984Athens in 2004 and many more – the money spent on soon-to-crumble stadia, ski jumps and swimming pools was a diversion from urgent human needs and productive investment.

Zimbalist makes a compelling case – yet beyond the diagnosis of the malady, one seeks a prescription to cure it. Can such Olympic megalomania be tamed? Are there other ways to build, and pay for, worthy sports facilities that honor the spirit of the Olympic Games while avoiding the overspending that bleeds their hosts dry?

A potential solution arose amid Zimbalist’s recent World Bank discussion. Rather than build one-shot Olympic facilities that are destined to be discarded as soon as each extravaganza is finished, why not build just one enduring set of permanent Olympic facilities that can be refurbished and re-used, year after year? Build it right, and build it only once: That way, the cost of building and maintaining an Olympic complex could be spread over generations.

Pursuing that solution seems especially timely right now, and here's why. Where is the historically logical place to locate such a permanent Olympic site? Why, in Greece, of course, where the Olympics originated in 776 B.C. and continued until 393 A.D. There could be no more authentic place to have today’s marathoners run than in Marathon itself – no more meaningful place to have skiers schuss than on Mount Olympus, or to have boaters ply the very waters that warmed Odysseus’ odyssey.

Can countries legislate to attract more investment?

Ivan Nimac's picture

The effectiveness of legislating to address investment policy shortcomings is a recurrent debate in development circles. More specifically, do countries need a singular investment law? Should governments expend the political capital required to put in place a law if the likelihood of its implementation is questionable from the outset? Is it not better to work on more implementation-focused activities? And: If countries do undergo the reform process, what should it entail?

Revising or enacting investment laws is one of the first steps that many developing countries take to achieve its objectives for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). In some cases, the purpose is to signal political will to reform; in other cases, changes are more substantial and seek to profoundly increase legal certainty and improve the value proposition for investors. Reforms may also arise from obligations that countries adopt under international investment agreements.

Investor certainty can bring substantial payoffs to host countries. Foreign investors want to be clear, among other things, about market access; about the requirements for business operation; about their rights and obligations; and about the accessibility and enforcement of dispute resolution.

Lack of certainty can have dire consequences. According to the 2013 Political Risk Survey by the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), almost 10 percent of investment plans were cancelled or existing investments were withdrawn due to various adverse regulatory changes in the preceding year. The value of such lost investment, coupled with the cost of international disputes that may arise from it, could climb to tens of millions of dollars for a single case.

But, this does not mean that enacting an FDI law is a guarantee of more investment. Effective reform requires, first, policy based on good practice and, second, implementation (legal, regulatory and administrative) through institutions that are up to the task. An investment framework should be implementable locally while remaining consistent with good practice.

Ideally, an investment law should be a part of a broader set of reforms dedicated to achieving specific objectives, such as more exports, jobs, productivity and other forms of value addition. All stages of investment should be addressed, including attraction, retention and linkage to the local economy.

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