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The future of business matchmaking

Aman Baboolal's picture

How a new green business facility in South Africa is connecting local companies to the global green economy

Traditional trade mission functions are becoming obsolete. Over hors d'oeuvres, business cards are exchanged, elevator pitches are delivered but, in most cases, entrepreneurs leave with empty promises to stay in touch and no useful contacts. This may sound a little cynical but the reality is that in an age of business models “ripe for disruption,” the ways to create viable business partnerships across borders have not changed for decades.
 

Transforming markets, one fan at a time: Punjab and the drive for more energy-efficient celling fans

Saima Zuberi's picture

Surrounded by hardened fan manufacturers in the city of Gujranwala, 70 kilometers north of Lahore, the task facing our World Bank Group team was to convince them that more efficient fans, to be promoted through an energy-efficiency labeling program by Pakistan’s government, would be beneficial to the sector as a whole. Questions abounded about how regulations can help competitiveness, and about whether small and lower-tier manufacturers might be left out of the equation. How would labeling be enforced, and how would forgeries be kept off the market?

Fast-forward 12 months to an IFC advisory project, which the government has set up for the procurement of 20,000 Pakistan Energy Label (PEL) energy-efficient fans in public buildings. Those fans will save the country an estimated  800,000 kilowatt hours – the  equivalent of the annual energy use of about 600 domestic refrigerators – translating to about 400 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction per year.

The project has created a new market segment for manufacturers of more efficient fans, nine of whom have received certification for the PEL from the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (NEECA). The fact that four fan manufacturers out of these nine are from the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector is a positive indication of wider acceptance of this standards and labeling initiative.



Photo by Etiennne Kechichian

In time for the region’s next hot season, the request for more information and knowledge about energy-efficient fans has increased. The government of Punjab, as well as NEECA, has launched a comprehensive marketing campaign to promote these PEL fans and to improve the public’s knowledge about their benefits. In a market where heavy, inefficient cast-iron fans are considered good quality, changing perceptions requires coordination with technicians, real estate developers, retailers in the streets of Lahore and the countryside, and a deep understanding of the market.

The concept of market transformation is at times abstract – but we’ve seen signs in this relatively small project, implemented by the Trade & Competitiveness (T&C) Global Practice of the World Bank Group, that targeted and client-based interventions can have a significant impact on the competitiveness of an industry.

New project uses satellites for rapid assessment of flood response costs

Antoine Bavandi's picture

High-risk areas for natural disasters are home to 5 billion out of the 7 billion total people on our planet.

Overall global losses from natural disasters such as floods, landslides or earthquakes amount to about $300 billion annually. A rapid and early response is key to immediately address the loss of human life, property, infrastructure and business activity.

Severe flooding occurred during the 2011 monsoon season in Thailand, resulting in more than 800 deaths. About 14 million people were affected, mostly in the northern region and in the Bangkok metropolitan area.

After such natural disasters, it is important that governments rapidly address recovery efforts and manage the financial aspects of the disaster’s impacts. Natural disasters can cause fiscal volatility for national governments because of sudden, unexpected expenditures required during and after an event.

This is especially critical in emerging-market economies, such as those in Southeast Asia, which have chronic exposure to natural disasters. To conserve and sustain development gains and analyze societal and financial risks at a national or regional scale, it is also critical to understand the impacts of these disasters and their implications at the socioeconomic, institutional and environmental level.
 
New project to monitor and evaluate flood severity

Financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, this World Bank Group’s Disaster Risk Financing and Insurance Program (DRFIP) and Columbia University’s Earth Institute joint project aims to define an operational framework for the rapid assessment of flood response costs on a national scale.  Bangladesh and Thailand serve as the initial demonstration cases, which will be expanded to other Southeast Asian countries such as Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.

India, Malaysia share experiences how to support start-up SMEs

Mihasonirina Andrianaivo's picture



Both Malaysia and India are countries steeped in innovation with a strong desire to foster new, innovative start-up enterprises. 
 
With a global focus on providing more support to Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) – and recognizing that start-ups play a crucial role in creating jobs, growth, exports and innovation within most economies – Asian countries are keen to learn from each other’s experiences. These efforts have taken on a greater priority in India under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and his “Make in India” and “Start-Up India” campaigns.
 
The World Bank has been supporting India for several years in the area of MSME finance, which is one of the most widely recognized impediments to SMEs, particularly for start-up enterprises.  Through the $500 million MSME Growth Innovation and Inclusive Finance Project, the World Bank supports MSMEs in the service and manufacturing sectors as well as start-up financing for early stage entrepreneurs.  The start-up support under this project ($150 million) is for early stage debt funding (venture debt) which isn’t well evolved. (Unlike India’s market for early stage equity which is considered to already be reasonably well developed.)
 
As part of this project, the World Bank and the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), recently held a workshop in Mumbai to allow market participants to learn from one another, and particularly about Malaysia’s successful support for innovative start-up SMEs. The workshop’s participants included banks, venture capital companies, entrepreneurs, fintech companies, seed funders and representatives from the Malaysian Innovation Agency (Agensi Inovasi Malaysia – AIM).

How to make grants a better match for private sector development

Cecile Fruman's picture



From the Yemen Enterprise Reviltalization and Employment Pilot Project.

In December 2016, the 18th  replenishment of the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries, put private sector development squarely at the heart of our organization’s commitment to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. In addition, the Internal Finance Corporation’s 3.0 strategy placed new emphasis on creating and catalyzing markets and scaled up the role of advisory services in providing firm-level support.

This new focus makes it even more important to answer the following question: Do we have sufficient evidence about the efficiency and effectiveness of the tools used by the World Bank Group to help firms grow in our client countries?

Building on a broad evaluation of the Bank Group’s support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), published in 2014, a recent report by the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice, supported by the Competitive Industries and Innovation Program, reviews the experience to date of supporting SMEs through matching grant schemes. The report looks at the how and why of an instrument that has been used in more than 100 Bank Group projects since the 1990s.

Matching grants are short-term, temporary subsidies, provided to the private sector on a cost-sharing basis (typically 50 percent). The grants generally aim at building firms’ capacity and knowledge through the procurement of business development services (BDS), which include a wide variety of non-financial services such as employee and management training; consultancy and advisory; marketing and information services; and technology development and diffusion. For example, a matching grant initiative in Uganda targets businesses in priority sectors such as tourism, agribusiness and fisheries with the goal of diversifying their products and increasing exports. A similar facility in Afghanistan operates in four cities – Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, Jalalabad and Herat – and helps SMEs and business associations to improve product quality and processing technologies, and to gain market knowledge in order to expand their presence in domestic and international markets.

The economic rationale for subsidies to private firms is usually a perceived underinvestment in BDS. This could be due to market failures preventing a profitable investment in such services (e.g., lack of financing for intangible activities, insufficient awareness of the potential benefits or perceived high risk), or to positive externalities from an otherwise unprofitable private investment (e.g., knowledge spillovers). If these conditions are not present, however, matching grants could create distortions in resource allocation, could have limited additionality and spillovers, or could have non-durable impacts if they fail to address the underlying market failure.

The Trade & Competitiveness report reviewed virtually all matching grant projects financed by the Bank Group over the last two decades. Most of these have focused on SME development while some have also supported rural development. Over half of the reviewed projects are in Africa, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean. The average size of matching grant schemes is $11.5 million, with grants for agriculture projects typically being significantly larger than for SME development. The average number of beneficiaries per project is 450 and the average maximum cumulative funding going to a single beneficiary is $112,000, although this amount is much lower in many projects.

In terms of how, the report examines a number of common variables of matching grant projects, such as type of implementing agency and eligibility criteria. A key conclusion is that there appears to be no obvious correlation between the design features of matching grants and either positive or negative outcomes. Rather, matching grants need to be tailored to local circumstances and capacities.

The report does find that personalized technical assistance to beneficiary firms can increase the odds of success. In addition, contrary to perceptions, public implementing agencies generally outperform private consulting firms. Public agencies do particularly well in lower income countries where procuring large international contracts can be difficult and where the agencies know the local context. Whether public or private, strengthening of local capacities, broad stakeholder engagement, and transparent communication increase the chances that a matching grant will achieve its goals.

In terms of why, the report also examines how projects define what constitutes a successful outcome.  About three quarters of the reviewed projects received a positive outcome rating. However, the definition of success varied widely, and rarely reflected measures of broad and sustainable economic benefit. Projects should articulate a sound economic rationale identifying a specific market failure. Otherwise, the benefits of a grant may not extend beyond the recipient firm or be sustainable in the long term.

For this reason, the report recommends that, when considering the use of matching grants, development practitioners identify a clear economic rationale, consider alternative instruments, carry out an economic analysis, assess the potential for additionality and spillovers, and establish a realistic exit strategy that would leave sustainable benefits. A strong monitoring and evaluation system is an equally important requirement and an essential tool for real-time assessment of impact, potential course corrections and learning. Strengthening these elements could help development practitioners and their clients maximize the benefits of this potentially powerful tool for private sector development and competitiveness.

To gain access to the full report, click here.

To foster innovation, let a hundred flowers bloom?

Jean-Louis Racine's picture


Helen Mwangi and her solar-powered water pump in Kenya © infoDev/World Bank

Managers of initiatives that support innovative entrepreneurs have a choice to spread their resources (and luck) among many opportunities or focus them on the most promising few. In developing countries, public and donor programs can learn a lot from how private investors pick and back innovative ventures.

In the early days of infoDev’s Climate Technology Program, our thinking was very much about letting a hundred flowers bloom: supporting a large number of firms with the hope that a few would emerge as blockbusters. Firms were selected on the basis of objective metrics tied to the innovative nature of their ideas and their economic, social and climate-change impacts. For example, while infoDev’s partner the Kenya Climate Innovation Center has more than 130 companies in its portfolio, a $50 million venture-capital fund in California would have at most six. Inspired by private investors, we have since rethought our program objectives for these centers, as well as the way we select and support businesses. The Kenya center is going through a rationalization of the firms it supports.

Like many public programs, infoDev and its network of Climate Innovation Centers had good reasons to support large numbers of companies. The main reason is the need to spread the entrepreneurship risk through a diversified portfolio. A recent infoDev literature review found that up to a third of all new firms do not survive beyond two years, let alone grow. Out of those that survive, data from high-income countries suggest that fewer than 10 percent become high-growth firms. So casting a wide net increases the chances of hitting the jackpot. The opposite approach, picking winners, is seen as destined to fail and distort the market. 

Six tips to balance the gender scale in start-up programs

Charlotte Ntim's picture

Sinah Legong and her team meet at Raeketsetsa, a program that encourages young women in South Africa to get involved in information and communications technologies. © Mutoni Karasanyi/World Bank

Olou Koucoi founded Focus Energy, a company that brings light, news and entertainment to people living off-grid in his country, Benin. Its spinoff program ElleAllume hopes to train more than 1,000 women to bring power to 100,000 Beninois homes this year. “At the end of the day, [inclusive hiring] is not a gender decision, it’s a business decision,” he says.
 
Over the past few months, I interviewed a number of incubator and accelerator programs to compile best practices for the World Bank Group’s Climate Technology Program. The research spanned 150 programs in 39 countries, ranging from relatively new to seasoned veterans of the clean tech incubation space. The consensus regarding gender diversity and inclusion was almost unanimous; all but one program echoed Koucoi’s sentiments – in principle.
 
In practice, however, encouraging more women into the clean energy sector and related programs has proved challenging. Below are some of the most popular explanations for the low levels of female representation:
 
“We can’t find them.”
Many clean energy incubation programs said they had difficulty recruiting due to a lack of women in the industry and strong women’s networks to tap into. While there is no shortage of women in clean energy (with industry-specific examples such as clean cookstoves serving as a good example) there are few women-led businesses. This lack of visible leadership translates into lower rates of participation.
 
“We would love to focus on bringing more women into the program, but we have limited resources.”
Incubation programs are often lean, with little time and few resources to expand on offerings and create targeted programs for women. Instead, to create quick wins and draw in additional funds, programs often take a “low-hanging fruit” approach, seeking out the most visible companies to recruit and invest in, which tend to have male co-founders.
 
“Does it really matter at the end of the day?”
Many programs are pro-gender-diversity in principle, but gender-agnostic in practice. This stems from a disconnect between the “gendered-lens” approach discussed when fundraising for incubation programs and the results frameworks which judge their success. Such factors as the number of companies exited are still weighed much more heavily than gender balance.

Below are some of the best ways I have found to create more gender-diverse and inclusive programs:

Jobs in Africa: Designing better policies tailored to countries’ circumstances

Klaus Tilmes's picture

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – one of the many cities in Africa that is expected to see sharp population increases – will need rapid job creation to keep pace with its swift population growth. The city’s new bus transit system – completed in 2015, with a $290 million credit from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries – is now reducing transportation costs, easing traffic and promoting private sector development.
Photo: Hendri Lombard / World Bank


Africa’s working-age population is expected to grow by close to 70 percent, or by approximately 450 million people, between 2015 and 2035. Countries that are able to enact policies conducive to job creation are likely to reap significant benefits from this rapid population growth, according to the Africa Competitiveness Report 2017, co-produced by the World Bank Group, the African Development Bank, and the World Economic Forum. The report also warns that countries which fail to implement such policies are likely to suffer demographic vulnerabilities resulting from large numbers of unemployed and underemployed youth.

Economic marginalization of minorities: Do laws provide the needed protections?

Elaine R.E. Panter's picture

Never in recent history has anti-minorities rhetoric — anti-immigrants, anti-religious-minorities, anti-LGBTI — been so pronounced in so many countries around the world. Those groups, we are told, are the cause of our current economic crisis because they steal our jobs, fuel criminality and threaten our traditional way of living. And yet, the causes of our economic crisis are probably more nuanced, and initial research seems to suggest that more and not less social inclusion will help us overcome the instability of our times.

The exclusion of minorities from the labor force is becoming politically and economically unsustainable for many states that are struggling to retain their legitimacy and strengthen their competitive potential in an increasingly global marketplace. As a consequence, governments, international development agencies and academic institutions are now looking seriously at ways to develop policies that guarantee a more equal and sustainable form of economic development — development that addresses both short- and  long-term economic goals.

The World Bank’s Equality Project attempts to address this problem. The idea driving the project is that institutional measures that hamper the access of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities to the labor market and financial systems (such as legal and policy restrictions, or the absence of appropriate, positive nondiscrimination actions) directly affect their economic performance and, as a consequence, represent a cost for the economy: If a sizeable percentage of the population is not given the opportunity to acquire a high-quality education, a good job, secure housing, access to services, equal representation in decision-making institutions and protection from violence, human capital will be wasted, income inequality will grow and social unrest will ensue. The World Bank’s widely cited Inclusion Matters report puts it succinctly: “Social inclusion matters because exclusion is too costly. These costs are social, economic and political, and are often interrelated.”

The project collected and validated data on the legal framework of six pilot countries: Bulgaria, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Tanzania and Vietnam. The methodological approach of collecting cross-country comparable data according to key indicators yielded some general but interesting results, published in a research working paper in March 2017.

How one reform can lead to more: The spillover impact of legal reform in Bangladesh

S. Akhtar Mahmood's picture

Business reforms have an impact not only on businesses, and thereby on the economy and society, but also within government. When one part of government carries out a reform, it is noticed by others in government – and sometimes dynamics are created that lead to even more reforms.

Such a spillover impact can happen within the same government office that pursued the initial reform, or it can occur in other agencies, including those working in unrelated areas. Often the multiplier effect is unanticipated and the wider impact may not happen automatically. Project teams that support the initial reform may need to do something extra to nudge the dynamics in the right direction.

Back in 2008, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) was approached by the Bangladesh chapter of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC-B) for support in bringing its ambitious idea of arbitration into practice. Three years of rigorous preparatory work – including due diligence of market demand, learning about global experience, and socializing the idea among stakeholders in Bangladesh – led to the establishment of the Bangladesh International Arbitration Center (BIAC) in 2011.

This initiative – through an IFC-supported consortium of three premier business chambers: ICC-B, the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (DCCI) and the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce – was an important milestone in itself. But there was more to come.


 

From establishing a facility to changing the law

During project design, the implementing team thought that establishing and operationalizing BIAC would be sufficient for introducing ADR in Bangladesh. Implementation, however, had more sobering lessons. It quickly became apparent that, for BIAC to succeed, changes would also be required in the legal and regulatory environment governing dispute resolution. As the organization’s credibility was critical to its operational success, the team initiated discussions with the Ministry of Law (MoL) to win its support for the enactment of regulatory and legislative changes, as well as the endorsement of BIAC rules.

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