I wanted to alert our readers to a new competition for ideas of how to best foster Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) growth. Typically with impact evaluation we end up evaluating a program that others have designed, or working with the occasional bank or NGO that is willing to try a new idea, but usually with firms that are very small in size. What is missing is a space where people with innovative ideas can get them into the hands of governments designing SME programs. I am working with the new Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice at the World Bank to try to do something new here, to give researchers and operational staff with ideas the chance to get them to a stage where they can become part of World Bank projects, and thereby have the potential to be implemented at much larger scale on lots of SMEs.
At the end of August I gave several presentations at the IPA Impact and Policy Conference in Bangkok, which had days on SME development, Governance and Post-Conflict recovery, and Financial Inclusion. The agenda is here. There was a good mix of new results from studies that don’t get have papers, along with more polished work on the conference topics.
Millions of dollars are spent each year trying to improve the productivity of firms in Africa (and those in other developing countries), yet we have very little rigorous evidence as to what works. In a new working paper I look at whether it is even possible to learn whether such policies even work, and what can be done to make progress.
Small number of firms + Large heterogeneity = Not much power