Syndicate content

Afghanistan

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.

Structured dialogue, value chain and competitiveness: A journey through implementation, from Copenhagen to Kabul

Steve Utterwulghe's picture



Afghanistan. Photo by Steve Utterwulghe.

This latest blog post should start with a mea culpa. Indeed, my 2015 work plan for public-private dialogue (PPD) did start in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, not Copenhagen. However, who can swear that he never tweaked a title a tiny bit to make it catchier?
 
While Dushanbe hosted the very productive First Regional PPD Forum in the “stans,” the 8th Global PPD Workshop took place in March in the Danish capital. There, “more than 300 representatives from governments, private enterprises, PPD coordination units, investors’ councils, competitiveness partnerships, civil society, business organizations, and various development partners participated in the event. They represented 54 countries and a total of 40 PPD initiatives who joined the event to share their experiences and discuss lessons learned.”
 
High-powered individuals kick-started the Copenhagen event, including HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, who reiterated that, to make a difference in the world, “it will take partnerships across countries, governments, and between public and private sectors.”
 
Once the keynote speeches had been delivered, the real work began among the delegates and with the PPD experts. I jumped from impromptu coffee break to coffee break and strategized with the Côte d’Ivoire delegation on how to prepare for the National Day of Partnership/Dialogue in Abidjan; discussed ways to better involve the private sector in Morocco; debriefed with the Guinea Minister of Industry, SMEs and Private Sector Promotion on how the PPD structure that we helped put in place is strengthening the local value chain for extractive industries (see below); and moderated an engaging session on public-private dialogue in fragile states and conflict-affected countries (FCS), which provided great insights as I prepared to fly out on PPD missions to Somalia and Afghanistan.
 
Aside from the buzz of international gatherings, what really matters for the delegates, from both governments and the private sector, is to get inspired and bring back home ideas that can be adapted locally and successfully implemented. Public-private dialogue is an art defined by some fundamental core principles that can be adjusted according to specific needs and environments.
 
As a reminder, PPD refers to the structured interaction between the public and private sectors to promote the right conditions for private sector development. Its ultimate function is to contribute to a prosperous economy by expanding market opportunities and enabling private initiative. This is also very much the mission of the new World Bank Group Global Practice on Trade & Competitiveness (T&C). Its Senior Director, Anabel Gonzales, wrote in one of her blog posts on Trade and Development in Africa that fostering competitiveness and strengthening supply chains is a key to development and an integral part of T&C’s offering.
 
As I reflected on the links between structured multi-stakeholder dialogue, competitiveness and supply chains, I remembered a Harvard Business Review article written by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, entitled Strategy and Society: The Link between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility.
 
What particularly caught my attention at the time was the theory on interdependence between companies and society that the Harvard professors put forward. They argued that this interdependence takes two forms: the social impact that a company’s activities has on society, or “inside-out linkages,” and the social influences on the company’s competitiveness, or “outside-in linkages.”
 

The Next Afghan Mobile Entrepreneur

Anushka Thewarapperuma's picture


With as many as 12 million mobile phone users, mobile is booming in Afghanistan (Credit: USAID, Flickr Creative Commons)

Afghanistan has made significant progress in its development since 2001. Yet, these achievements remain fragile due to a volatile security situation and limited human capacity. Of an estimated 30 million inhabitants, 46 percent is under the age of 15 and with high population growth, the country is experiencing a classic youth bulge. In addition, literacy rates remain at extremely low levels (approximately 43% for men and 12% for women).