Economists have been increasingly looking at culture to explain the divergent economic fortunes of nations. Does culture matter for development? If it does, what kind of culture? In a recent paper we argue that differences in economic development across countries can be explained by a culture of entrepreneurship, that there is a role for government policy to shift culture towards risk-taking and innovation but that, ultimately, culture is subordinate to institutions.
Heading back from a recent mission to Ghana, I felt really proud of what we have accomplished: training 20 of the most promising local clean-tech entrepreneurs through the Green Innovators Bootcamp. The words used to inaugurate the event are still in my head: “This bootcamp is not an end in itself. It’s the beginning of your journey as entrepreneurs.”
Indeed, bootcamps for startups and SMEs – as well as close cousins like Hackathons, Start-up Weekends, and Business Plan Competitions – are an increasingly popular activity used to catalyze innovative ideas and provide entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to launch their ventures.
In Ghana for example, infoDev -- a global innovation and entrepreneurship program in the World Bank Group -- organized a two-day training event to help a group of 20 early-stage entrepreneurs assess the feasibility of their business concept, identify their customer base, and refine their business model.
Organizing a bootcamp can be very challenging and time-consuming, but, when done properly – read “7 things you need to do to prepare for the perfect bootcamp” – the payoff is big. "Bootcampers" find these initiatives very useful to identify new solutions to the challenges they face to launch their businesses -- mostly access to finance, product development, and marketing. Furthermore, "pitching competitions" and "business contests" offer new entrepreneurs an excellent and safe stage to refine their business pitch -- a key tool of every successful entrepreneur.
One of the goals of bootcamps and pitching competitions is to bring together different stakeholders – from entrepreneurs to investors and policymakers – to facilitate the creation of ecosystems in which entrepreneurs can grow and thrive. But is it realistic to expect that bootcamps and similar training initiatives are enough to enable promising entrepreneurs to reach their full potential? The answer is simply: No. Make no mistake: Bootcamps are an exciting tool to create buzz and interest in countries that have little entrepreneurial history and culture. In most contexts, however, there is no follow-through with effective action plans that can keep the momentum going. This not only limits the value of these initiatives, but can also cause harm to a nascent ecosystem.
Facilitating investments into Fragile and Conflict-Affected States (FCS) is one of the most important strategic pillars in MIGA’s Strategy. In an effort to further expand MIGA’s support in FCS countries, I recently visited Burundi, South Sudan, and Afghanistan and met with investors, government agencies, and donors. Although the investment climate varies in these FCS countries, I observed the following four common threads during my visit.
First, despite the deteriorating security situations, there are still investors seeking business opportunities in FCS countries, as long as the expected return on investment is sufficiently high to cover a required level of return plus risk premium. When it comes to the investors actively operating in FCS countries, their concerns appeared to be more focused on unexpected and arbitrary changes in government policies against their investments, rather than the security issue itself. Most aspects of the government-related procedures are risks beyond the control of investors, for example, renewal of licenses and permits, taxation, and various contracts signed with the government. Investors usually go through several political cycles during their investment horizon. An approval from the current government does not guarantee the same approval would be obtained from the succeeding government. A foreign investor I met in Afghanistan cemented this notion by telling me that “when we made a decision to invest in Afghanistan, we were already well-aware of the security issue in the country. For us, the security was a foreseeable risk that could be mitigated to some extent, if not entirely avoidable. We can take care of security risks as well as commercial risks; but what concerned us the most was the risks related to uncertainties in the government’s regulation and policy.”
- fragile and conflict affected states
- business opportunities
- Law and Regulation
- diaspora investments
- new business
- operational efficiencies
- new technology
- Political Risk Insurance
- transfer restriction
- war and civil disturbance
- capital flight
- investment assets
- high rate of return
- service sectors
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Dial ICT for conflict? Four lessons on conflict and contention in the info age
The Washington Post
The past decade has witnessed an explosion of interest among political scientists in the outbreak and dynamics of civil wars. Much of this research has been facilitated by the rise of electronic media, including newspapers but extending to social media (Twitter, Facebook) that permit the collection of fine-grained data on patterns of civil war violence. At the same time, a parallel research program has emerged that centers on the effects of new information and communication technologies (ICTs). Yet these two research efforts rarely intersect.
Improving Innovation in Africa
Harvard Business Review
Opportunity is on the rise in Africa. New research, funded by the Tony Elumelu Foundation and conducted by my team at the African Institution of Technology, shows that within Africa, innovation is accelerating and the continent is finding better ways of solving local problems, even as it attracts top technology global brands. Young Africans are unleashing entrepreneurial energies as governments continue to enact reforms that improve business environments. An increasing number of start-ups are providing solutions to different business problems in the region. These are deepening the continent’s competitive capabilities to diversify the economies beyond just minerals and hydrocarbon. Despite this progress, Africa is still deeply underperforming in core areas that will redesign its economy and make it more sustainable.
With high levels of self-employment in developing countries (see our recent blog “Self-Employment and Subsistence Entrepreneurs?”), policy makers are weighing various types of interventions to reduce poverty and improve productivity. The options for them fall into two key categories: (1) helping raise the returns for the self-employed in the activities and sectors where they are now; and (2) helping move them from self-employment into higher paying wage jobs. In this blog, we share the perspectives of three experts: David Margolis (Research Director, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, University of Paris), Tim Gindling, (Professor of Economics, University of Maryland), and Gary Fields (Professor of Economics, Cornell University).
More than half of all workers in the developing world are self-employed, mainly in agriculture. But unlike in the developed world, self-employment is typically because of constraints (like a lack of available wage jobs) – not by choice. In other words, it’s a question of survival. In this blog, we share the thoughts of three experts on the challenges these people face: Gary Fields (Professor of Economics, Cornell University), David Margolis (Research Director, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, University of Paris), and Tim Gindling, (Professor of Economics, University of Maryland).
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Aid Transparency Index 2014
Publish What You Fund
The 2014 ATI results follow the trends observed in previous years. A lead group of organisations are making significant and continuous improvements to the information they publish on their current aid activities – and many others have taken steps towards improving their publication in 2014 – but the majority have not made significant progress and continue to lag behind.
12 ways to communicate development more effectively
From fundraising to behaviour change, communications is key to development work. Our panel explain how to do it better. Sina Odugbemi, senior communications officer (policy), World Bank, Washington DC, USA, @WorldBank:
- Make a case for development spending: Polls in Europe consistently show that support for development is wide but shallow. This is due to the limited power of emotive campaigns. People need to know if any of their money is doing permanent good or whether the cynics are right. That kind of case-making is, sadly, not done consistently and rigorously.
- Avoid promoting quick fixes: What that does is provoke disillusionment down the road. We need to discourage young people particularly from thinking complex problems can be solved with a rush of energy and cool new tools. We need to be communicating that many tough challenges will require stamina and sustained effort and commitment.
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.
The increasing penetration of mobile services and mobile internet is opening up opportunities for innovation, especially in emerging markets. This can be seen in the health sector, financial services, and many other fields, where ICT start-ups and small and medium enterprise (SMEs) are working with mobile services to create business and jobs. The World Bank reports that "9 out of 10 jobs in developing economies" come from the private sector, and that "The main thrust of that comes from micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises, especially in technology sectors—a recent study argues that 3 jobs are created in a community for every new high-tech job."
The following graph shows the distribution of ICT start-ups and SMEs in relation to the number of mobile subscribers. In developed countries, technology firms and internet providers have been at the forefront of innovation, but in emerging markets mobile operators are increasingly leading the way.
When it comes to helping young women in Africa with both economic and social opportunity, what does the evidence tell us? Broadcaster Georges Collinet sat down with researchers and policymakers to discuss the hard evidence behind two programs that have succeeded in giving girls a better chance at getting started in their adult lives.
Try to search for stories that feature the growing pains and gains of growth-oriented technology startups – content that is not only entertaining, but of high quality and most important, educating. It is a surprisingly hard task in today's economy, where entrepreneurship is booming again.