A year ago, Farzana had no idea that an online business would so drastically change her life. She was drowning in debt with no way of repaying, worrying about her family’s financial future. Reaching for a lifeline, she joined GharPar, a women-founded, women-led social enterprise that connects beauticians with clients seeking at-home salon services through an Uber-like digital platform.
In November 2016, we published the “Practical Guide for Measuring Retail Payment Costs”, an innovative methodology that can be customized to country needs and circumstances, without losing the international comparative dimension.
The guide enables countries to measure the costs associated with retail payment instruments, based on survey data, for the payment end users, payment service/infrastructure providers, and the total economy. The guide also enables countries to derive projected savings in shifting from the more costly to the less costly payment instruments.
For decades, various governments around the world have used trade-distorting policies (tariff and non-tariff barriers) to support the development of local automotive industries that would not have otherwise been economically viable. However, to what extent are these policies, which once helped attract market-seeking automakers (or Original Equipment Manufacturers: OEMs), still serving the interests of these countries is uncertain.
In fact, for India and Pakistan, two of the biggest South Asian automotive producers, a recent World Bank Group report highlights that such polices might be reducing competitiveness and slowing down the spread of world-class good practices in the value chain. These effects need to considered carefully. A process of reform via gradual reduction of import tariffs and convergence with international environmental and safety standards is recommended to enhance competitiveness of this sector.
In the automotive sector, India is the world’s sixth-largest auto producer by volume, but it owns less than 1 percent of global export markets compared with more than 3 percent for China, 4.5 percent for Korea and 7 percent for Mexico. The average auto firm in India exported only 5 percent of its total sales, compared to 16 percent in China. Productivity levels in India are one-third the levels in China, and this gap persists for OEMs that are sub-scale, with below-average investment in innovation and skills, and with low participation in global value chains (GVCs). All these factors were discussed in a previous Private Sector Development blog post. The situation is worse in Pakistan, with lower levels of exports and productivity, and with similar factors driving it.
Trade policies, through tariff and non-tariff barriers, play an important role in shaping the external environment, which in turn influences a firm’s incentive to become more productive (or not). Firms facing greater competition in their product markets are inclined to raise the minimum productivity threshold to operate profitably and reduce inefficiencies. They do this both through investing in productivity-enhancing activities and through reducing costs, which in turn helps them capture greater market shares. Competition also helps reallocate resources from the less-productive to the more-productive firms, increasing the incentives for all firms to invest in the within-firm productivity levers such as innovation and skills.
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.
Telenor believes in empowering societies. Motivated by the prospect of building something that can make a difference for customers with very limited access to traditional financial services, we ventured to leverage our mobile tele-density strength in developing countries to bring about financial inclusion. Telenor has committed to enabling 50% of its customers to use their mobile phones for financial services by 2020, which means 100 million customers will have access to mobile financial services. We joined the UFA2020 initiative eager to learn from other players on shared challenges, drive strength from a common goal, and scale solutions that have demonstrated success in other markets.
We are about to launch in Myanmar and have obtained a banking license in India. We are already working in Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Hungary, Malaysia, Pakistan, Serbia and Thailand. In each country we have adopted different models of financial services catering to the needs of that market. For example, in Serbia fully owned Telenor Banka is the first fully mobile and online bank, consolidating banking needs in a unified digital interface, making it the fastest growing bank and the highest rated banking app in the region. In Pakistan, Telenor’s subsidiary Tameer Micro Finance Bank offers mobile financial services under the globally recognized brand of Easypaisa, serving over 20 million customers for domestic and international remittances, purchase airtime, pay utility bills, receive government social cash transfers, pay taxes, save and borrow money, buy insurance or make online retail purchases. We are picking up speed in delivering straightforward digital banking services in most of our Asian markets. Last year we established the groundwork for business in five out of six Asian countries, and this year we are focusing on expanding our footprint in these markets. When all businesses are up and running, we will be ready to build scale and to reach our 100 million customers target.
Questions like those – focusing on the private sector as the principal driver of growth, with deft public policy as an indispensable catalyst – inspired a dialogue among some of the developing world’s most experienced policymakers at a major forum, “Powering Up Growth: Ideas for Beating the Slowdown,” during the recent Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund. All four government Ministers on the panel – from both commodity-exporting and -importing countries – voiced a sense of urgency, describing their efforts to attract private investment to spur job creation, amid a global economy that seems destined for prolonged weakness.
Before the policymakers ascended the Preston Auditorium stage, sobering updates had arrived from the Bank and the Fund: The Bank’s latest forecast for global growth has been lowered from 2.9 percent to 2.5 percent – with the caveat that this latest forecast is subject to further downside risks. That downward revision is in parallel with the Fund’s similar projection, which sees global growth this year in the neighborhood of just 3 percent.
Policymakers worldwide are eager to explore any option to try to lay the foundation for an eventual return to a long-term economic expansion. It was clear that the panelists in the “Powering Up Growth” event – which was convened by Jan Walliser, the Vice President for the Bank Group’s practice group on Equitable Growth, Finance and Institutions (EFI) and organized by the Global Practice for Macroeconomics and Fiscal Management (MFM) – were focused on long-term structural changes that can energize the private sector’s ability to drive growth.
The panelists – from Bolivia, Pakistan, Angola and Ukraine – represented countries from different regions and at various levels of economic development, but they shared a determination to jump-start growth through reforms that will strengthen the private sector’s long-term confidence. The Ministers, at times, seemed to envision opportunities, not just for short-term structural adjustment of their priorities or medium-term structural reform of their policy farmeworks, but for far-reaching structural transformation of their economies and societies.
Two billion people worldwide still lack access to formal and regulated financial services. In 2015, the Bank Group with private and public sector partners committed to promoting financial inclusion and achieving Universal Financial Access by 2020. We've invited our partners to reflect on why they've joined the UFA2020 initiative and how they're contributing toward this goal. This contribution comes from the Pakistan Microfinance Network. #FinAccess2020
Photo Credit: Muhammad Kaleem, Courtesy of the Farmers Friend Organization (FFO)
Kaneez Fatima is a 50 year-old entrepreneur living in Sheikhupura, a city situated 40 km northwest of Lahore, Pakistan. Years before when her husband passed away, she had no idea to find the means for raising a family of six and her future seemed bleak. In her childhood she had acquired the skill of stitching footballs, and she thought about setting up her own workshop. But as a woman in a male dominated market, in an already challenging entrepreneurial environment, she faced what seemed to be an uphill challenge.
Sadly, Kaneez is not alone. World Bank Group Findex data estimates that Pakistan is home to 100 million unbanked people, or 5.2% of the world’ unbanked population, and the ‘Access to Finance Survey 2015’ commissioned by the State Bank of Pakistan states that only 23% of adults use formal financial services offered by formal financial intermediaries with only 16% of Pakistani adults have an account with a formal financial institution.
It takes a special type of woman to be an entrepreneur.
I didn’t quite know what to expect when, earlier this year, I met with a group of women entrepreneurs in Karachi who are participating in the World Bank Group’s womenX program. I had read a lot about the low numbers of women running businesses in Pakistan, the challenging environment they operate in, and their many constraints. But I was struck by the positivity and drive of the women I met. They shared with me how they are improving their business and financial practices, building their confidence, and expanding their networks.
Take for instance, Mussarat Ishaq, who runs Al-Karam Packages. Mussarat was a Karachi-based housewife, pregnant with her third child, when her husband divorced her. With no work experience, little education, no money and no plan, she learned the ropes of polythene production and with a business partner, started out small – purchasing the raw material from local markets, using outdated machinery to produce plastic bags, and supplying them to small businesses in their area. Today, they have purchased more sophisticated equipment and they employ 250 employees, working to provide low-cost, high-quality, reusable and environment-friendly packaging materials to Pakistani clients.
More than half of the world’s population lives in Asia and its robust growth is supporting the world economy. After weathering well the 2008 crisis Asia is now in the spotlight with currencies depreciating and capital markets in retreat. One widely voiced concern is rapid expansion of credit in the past decade fueled by abundant liquidity. Globally, and in Asia, regulatory response to the 2008 crisis has been to strengthen financial regulation and de-risk financial intermediation. Yet the reality of credit markets in most Asian economies is quite different from that in high income economies. While domestic credit by financial sector represented on average over 100% of GDP for high income OECD countries, emerging Asia’s average in 2014 stood at 60%. The differences across countries are substantial in this diverse region, but in two thirds of Asian economies domestic credit is less than 60% of GDP. The reality for most economies in Asia is that of limited and often inefficient financial markets which do not serve fully their growth needs. Low level of financial inclusion is a major contributing factor and a major challenge.
Pick any country in the developing world.
Where are the women entrepreneurs in Pakistan?
They start and manage digital-content creation firms serving international clients. They are sole proprietors of construction businesses bidding for government projects. They supervise tailors and embroiderers in windowless storage rooms that double as stitching units. They export high-end gems and jewelry around the world.
Women entrepreneurs in Pakistan lead cutting-edge, innovative businesses – but there are far too few of them. The recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report finds that only 1 percent of Pakistani women are engaged in entrepreneurship – the lowest proportion in the world.
Pakistan is not alone in its dismal ratio of growth-oriented (or indeed any kind of) women entrepreneurs. Even in the developed Asian economies of Korea and Japan, only about 2 percent of women are entrepreneurs. Sub-Saharan Africa does much better in this regard, with 27 percent of women, on average, engaged in entrepreneurship -- but they are mostly involved in low-productivity sectors of the economy.
Women entrepreneurs, in Pakistan and globally, have narrow networks of friends and family who provide them with some initial capital to start their small businesses, with little expectation of further financial support. Their export customers are located wherever they have extended family. And they rarely feature in local chambers of commerce activities.
Banks are often reluctant to extend lines of credit to, provide working capital to or lend to women-led enterprises. This makes it difficult for these enterprises to pursue growth. Perhaps this is why the average growth projections for women-led enterprises are seven to nine percentage points below those for their male counterparts.