Published on Jobs and Development

What we’re reading about boosting productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Technicians check the maintenance of solar panels. An engineer performs a maintenance check at a solar station in Tanzania. Copyright: Shutterstock

Sub-Saharan African countries have become less productive relative to global efficiency benchmarks over past decades. These countries are not where they aspire to be. The persistence of this productivity gap is due to the slow accumulation of physical and human capital relative to the region’s growing population, and the poor allocation of these resources. In other words, the problem of low endowments of physical and human capital is made worse by its inefficient allocation.

Policies and institutions have affected output and productivity through three interconnected channels:

(a) technology, as reflected in the level of productivity of each producer in the economy;

(b) selection, i.e., choice of producers that would operate in the industry given the entry costs, and their level of productivity; and,

(c) misallocation, i.e., inefficient allocation of capital and labor among operating producers.

A wide array of policies can be put in place to correct these distortions and the misallocation of resources that are holding back productivity growth. These distortions include restricted access to credit, land market imperfections, lack of market contestability, inadequate enforcement of property rights, and size-dependent tax policies, among others.

This month’s essential reading list features publications that contribute to the vast literature on the role of misallocation in explaining aggregate productivity losses. It also includes policies and institutions that can help farmers and firms allocate their resources more efficiently. Finally, we present a selection of articles that discuss the broader jobs agenda, as well as COVID-19 related articles.

Boosting productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa

This book examines the aggregate productivity consequences of production decisions across agricultural farms and manufacturing firms in Sub-Saharan Africa. (Calderon, World Bank, January 2022)

Essential readings

Broader jobs agenda

COVID-19-related articles


This blog is based on the March 2022 edition of the Knowledge4Jobs newsletter, curated by the World Bank’s Jobs Group and Labor and Skills Global Solutions Group. Click here to sign up for the Knowledge4Jobs newsletter.

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