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To foster innovation, let a hundred flowers bloom?

Jean-Louis Racine's picture


Helen Mwangi and her solar-powered water pump in Kenya © infoDev/World Bank

Managers of initiatives that support innovative entrepreneurs have a choice to spread their resources (and luck) among many opportunities or focus them on the most promising few. In developing countries, public and donor programs can learn a lot from how private investors pick and back innovative ventures.

In the early days of infoDev’s Climate Technology Program, our thinking was very much about letting a hundred flowers bloom: supporting a large number of firms with the hope that a few would emerge as blockbusters. Firms were selected on the basis of objective metrics tied to the innovative nature of their ideas and their economic, social and climate-change impacts. For example, while infoDev’s partner the Kenya Climate Innovation Center has more than 130 companies in its portfolio, a $50 million venture-capital fund in California would have at most six. Inspired by private investors, we have since rethought our program objectives for these centers, as well as the way we select and support businesses. The Kenya center is going through a rationalization of the firms it supports.

Like many public programs, infoDev and its network of Climate Innovation Centers had good reasons to support large numbers of companies. The main reason is the need to spread the entrepreneurship risk through a diversified portfolio. A recent infoDev literature review found that up to a third of all new firms do not survive beyond two years, let alone grow. Out of those that survive, data from high-income countries suggest that fewer than 10 percent become high-growth firms. So casting a wide net increases the chances of hitting the jackpot. The opposite approach, picking winners, is seen as destined to fail and distort the market. 

Six tips to balance the gender scale in start-up programs

Charlotte Ntim's picture

Sinah Legong and her team meet at Raeketsetsa, a program that encourages young women in South Africa to get involved in information and communications technologies. © Mutoni Karasanyi/World Bank

Olou Koucoi founded Focus Energy, a company that brings light, news and entertainment to people living off-grid in his country, Benin. Its spinoff program ElleAllume hopes to train more than 1,000 women to bring power to 100,000 Beninois homes this year. “At the end of the day, [inclusive hiring] is not a gender decision, it’s a business decision,” he says.
 
Over the past few months, I interviewed a number of incubator and accelerator programs to compile best practices for the World Bank Group’s Climate Technology Program. The research spanned 150 programs in 39 countries, ranging from relatively new to seasoned veterans of the clean tech incubation space. The consensus regarding gender diversity and inclusion was almost unanimous; all but one program echoed Koucoi’s sentiments – in principle.
 
In practice, however, encouraging more women into the clean energy sector and related programs has proved challenging. Below are some of the most popular explanations for the low levels of female representation:
 
“We can’t find them.”
Many clean energy incubation programs said they had difficulty recruiting due to a lack of women in the industry and strong women’s networks to tap into. While there is no shortage of women in clean energy (with industry-specific examples such as clean cookstoves serving as a good example) there are few women-led businesses. This lack of visible leadership translates into lower rates of participation.
 
“We would love to focus on bringing more women into the program, but we have limited resources.”
Incubation programs are often lean, with little time and few resources to expand on offerings and create targeted programs for women. Instead, to create quick wins and draw in additional funds, programs often take a “low-hanging fruit” approach, seeking out the most visible companies to recruit and invest in, which tend to have male co-founders.
 
“Does it really matter at the end of the day?”
Many programs are pro-gender-diversity in principle, but gender-agnostic in practice. This stems from a disconnect between the “gendered-lens” approach discussed when fundraising for incubation programs and the results frameworks which judge their success. Such factors as the number of companies exited are still weighed much more heavily than gender balance.

Below are some of the best ways I have found to create more gender-diverse and inclusive programs:

Jobs in Africa: Designing better policies tailored to countries’ circumstances

Klaus Tilmes's picture

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – one of the many cities in Africa that is expected to see sharp population increases – will need rapid job creation to keep pace with its swift population growth. The city’s new bus transit system – completed in 2015, with a $290 million credit from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest countries – is now reducing transportation costs, easing traffic and promoting private sector development.
Photo: Hendri Lombard / World Bank


Africa’s working-age population is expected to grow by close to 70 percent, or by approximately 450 million people, between 2015 and 2035. Countries that are able to enact policies conducive to job creation are likely to reap significant benefits from this rapid population growth, according to the Africa Competitiveness Report 2017, co-produced by the World Bank Group, the African Development Bank, and the World Economic Forum. The report also warns that countries which fail to implement such policies are likely to suffer demographic vulnerabilities resulting from large numbers of unemployed and underemployed youth.

Economic marginalization of minorities: Do laws provide the needed protections?

Elaine R.E. Panter's picture

Never in recent history has anti-minorities rhetoric — anti-immigrants, anti-religious-minorities, anti-LGBTI — been so pronounced in so many countries around the world. Those groups, we are told, are the cause of our current economic crisis because they steal our jobs, fuel criminality and threaten our traditional way of living. And yet, the causes of our economic crisis are probably more nuanced, and initial research seems to suggest that more and not less social inclusion will help us overcome the instability of our times.

The exclusion of minorities from the labor force is becoming politically and economically unsustainable for many states that are struggling to retain their legitimacy and strengthen their competitive potential in an increasingly global marketplace. As a consequence, governments, international development agencies and academic institutions are now looking seriously at ways to develop policies that guarantee a more equal and sustainable form of economic development — development that addresses both short- and  long-term economic goals.

The World Bank’s Equality Project attempts to address this problem. The idea driving the project is that institutional measures that hamper the access of ethnic, religious and sexual minorities to the labor market and financial systems (such as legal and policy restrictions, or the absence of appropriate, positive nondiscrimination actions) directly affect their economic performance and, as a consequence, represent a cost for the economy: If a sizeable percentage of the population is not given the opportunity to acquire a high-quality education, a good job, secure housing, access to services, equal representation in decision-making institutions and protection from violence, human capital will be wasted, income inequality will grow and social unrest will ensue. The World Bank’s widely cited Inclusion Matters report puts it succinctly: “Social inclusion matters because exclusion is too costly. These costs are social, economic and political, and are often interrelated.”

The project collected and validated data on the legal framework of six pilot countries: Bulgaria, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Tanzania and Vietnam. The methodological approach of collecting cross-country comparable data according to key indicators yielded some general but interesting results, published in a research working paper in March 2017.

How one reform can lead to more: The spillover impact of legal reform in Bangladesh

S. Akhtar Mahmood's picture

Business reforms have an impact not only on businesses, and thereby on the economy and society, but also within government. When one part of government carries out a reform, it is noticed by others in government – and sometimes dynamics are created that lead to even more reforms.

Such a spillover impact can happen within the same government office that pursued the initial reform, or it can occur in other agencies, including those working in unrelated areas. Often the multiplier effect is unanticipated and the wider impact may not happen automatically. Project teams that support the initial reform may need to do something extra to nudge the dynamics in the right direction.

Back in 2008, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) was approached by the Bangladesh chapter of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC-B) for support in bringing its ambitious idea of arbitration into practice. Three years of rigorous preparatory work – including due diligence of market demand, learning about global experience, and socializing the idea among stakeholders in Bangladesh – led to the establishment of the Bangladesh International Arbitration Center (BIAC) in 2011.

This initiative – through an IFC-supported consortium of three premier business chambers: ICC-B, the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industries (DCCI) and the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce – was an important milestone in itself. But there was more to come.


 

From establishing a facility to changing the law

During project design, the implementing team thought that establishing and operationalizing BIAC would be sufficient for introducing ADR in Bangladesh. Implementation, however, had more sobering lessons. It quickly became apparent that, for BIAC to succeed, changes would also be required in the legal and regulatory environment governing dispute resolution. As the organization’s credibility was critical to its operational success, the team initiated discussions with the Ministry of Law (MoL) to win its support for the enactment of regulatory and legislative changes, as well as the endorsement of BIAC rules.

Progress toward Universal Financial Access

Stephen Kehoe's picture


Photo Credit: Women’s World Banking 

Two years ago, Visa announced a commitment, alongside other organizations, to provide financial access to 500 million unbanked adults as part of the World Bank Group’s goal of achieving Universal Financial Access (UFA) by 2020.  It’s widely reported that 2 billion people worldwide (38% of all adults) don’t have access to formal financial services—no bank or savings account, no formal way to store or send money, no basic financial tools to manage life or business or help to generate income.

There was no doubt in our minds that Visa had a role to play, given the reach of our payments network and the fact that facilitating the issuance of digital payment accounts is our core business.  What was not as clear was how much our efforts would need to factor in changes to strategy in order to ensure the kind of accounts people are receiving hit their mark in terms of usage and provided a genuine pathway to full financial inclusion. 

Can 'fintech' innovations impact financial inclusion in developing countries?

Margaret Miller's picture
A digital transaction in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Such transactions are made possible in part by FINCA. FINCA's strategy in Africa is to focus operations on underserved markets and groups, namely rural areas and women. Photo: Anna Koblanck/IFC


Financial technology, “fintech,” has been reshaping the financial services industry with the level and speed of innovation that’s simply fascinating.

A month ago, my colleagues and I attended the 5th Annual Lendit USA conference to check out about the latest innovations and thinking in this field and see how we can apply it to our work.

There is growing interest in trying to figure out this new industry and take advantage of the opportunity. Now billed as the largest Fintech industry meeting in the world, Lendit organizers started this event four years ago with about 200 participants. This year’s event attracted more than 5,000 people.

We work on various areas of financial inclusion and are interested in new ways that can help expand access to financial services to hard-to-reach populations and small businesses in developing countries.

We returned with a new appreciation for the magnitude of change that is coming, and how quickly it could occur – and already is in some instances.  Some innovations will help developing countries leapfrog into this new tech era. This could have a significant – and potentially highly positive - impact on financial inclusion, and fundamentally change the nature of financial infrastructure. 

However, these opportunities come with potential risks, such as those related to (un)fair lending practices related to unmonitored use and analysis of big data or increased systemic vulnerabilities due to threats to cybersecurity. 
 

A year in the life of an incubator

Alexandre Laure's picture

Also available in: Français

Youth trained with The Next Economy methodology.
© Cesar Gbedema/Impact Hub Bamako

Last month, Impact Hub Bamako celebrated its first birthday. The first of its kind in Mali, Impact Hub Bamako is part of a global network of more than 15,000 members in more than 80 locations worldwide, from Bogota to Phnom Penh. Combining innovation lab services with incubator and accelerator programs and a center for social entrepreneurship, Impact Hub Bamako provides a unique ecosystem of resources, inspiration and collaboration opportunities for young, creative Malians working towards a common goal.

Co-founded by four young Malians Fayelle Ouane, Kadidia Konaré, Mohamed Keita and Issam Chleuh Impact Hub Bamako seeks to promote entrepreneurship and generate youth-driven solutions to Mali’s problems, as well as support women’s entrepreneurship and encourage social entrepreneurs to build a shared vision and work together for a collective impact.

“Establishing a community of young entrepreneurs was very important to us,” says Ouane, “so that everyone can build on and benefit from each other’s expertise and knowledge.” Indeed, Impact Hub Bamako hosts a diverse community of entrepreneurs, strategic advisors, architects, social workers, students, consultants, renewable energy specialists, and experts in agribusiness, ICT and corporate social responsibility.

By providing a shared space to work, as well as access to meeting rooms, events and that all-important internet connection, Impact Hub Bamako has given participants the opportunity to leverage each other’s expertise, as well as grow their professional networks not just nationally but globally, as Impact Hub boasts a multinational presence.

“This is our comparative advantage,” agrees Keita, now the hub’s director. “Our incubation/acceleration programs seek not only to promote the necessary conditions for job creation in our country, but also to professionalize our workforce and give them the tools to meet the demands of any employer.”

Engineering growth: Innovative capacity and development

William Maloney's picture
This analysis, co-authored by William Maloney and Felipe Valencia Caicedo, was originally published on VoxEU, an economic-policy website of the Centre for Economic Policy Research.  

Abstract: The generation and diffusion of scientific knowledge and technology are assumed to be drivers of modern economic growth, but there is a lack of firm empirical evidence of this. This column uses the first detailed data on the density of engineers in the western hemisphere to argue that historical differences in innovative capacity, as captured by the density of engineers in 1880, explain a significant fraction of the Great Divergence. The results confirm the imperative of developing higher-order human capital.
 

The generation and diffusion of scientific knowledge and technology are fundamental drivers of modern economic growth. Authors agree that human capital is an important part of the innovative capacity required to facilitate this process, but it is not clear which type of human capital is most important. Some have argued for literacy, secondary, or tertiary education, while others stress higher-order technical skills (Goldin and Katz 2009). In his classic article on endogenous growth, Romer (1990) puts the research engineer at centre stage. From a historical perspective, Mokyr (2005) decides that scientifically minded and engineering-minded technicians were instrumental in industrialisation. These so-called 'upper tails of knowledge' are thought to have been particularly important during the second Industrial Revolution between 1870 and 1914.

The lack of systematic historical data on either the prevalence or impact of engineers on income has made it hard to confirm empirically the importance of these skills. Conceptually, Murphy et al. (1991) argue for the importance for modern growth of engineering, compared to less productive professionals such as lawyers. More recently, Cantoni and Yutchman (2014) show higher growth closer to medieval universities, and Squicciarini and Voigtländer (2015) relate faster French industrialisation in 1750 to Encyclopedie subscriptions. To date, however, neither the historical prevalence of Romer's research engineers nor Mokyr's engineers and mechanics have been quantified in a globally comparable form. In our recent work (Maloney and Valencia Caicedo 2017), we argue that historical differences in innovative capacity, as captured by the density of engineers in 1880, explain a significant fraction of the Great Divergence in the Western Hemisphere as documented by Galor (2011), among others.

Density of engineers in 1900

Our initial contribution to the debate has been through data collection. We have created the first systematic information on the density of engineers at the country level – and additionally for the US and Americas at the state or county level – for the western hemisphere. Geolocated patenting density data for the US allow us to tease out innovative versus adoptive capacity (as posited by Mokyr 1992). We control for other levels of education that, as mentioned before, may also have been important, including basic literacy, secondary schooling, college attendance, and the presence of other high-level professions such as lawyers and physicians.

Breaking through the manufacturing glass ceiling: The case of Arçelik

Aref Adamali's picture




White goods are big business, and it's easy to see why. They're among the most important products for any person who cooks and does laundry, making life easier across a wide range of household functions. Therefore, it is unsurprising that as a manufactured product category – that includes refrigerators and freezers, dishwashing machines, washing (and drying) machines, and stoves – global exports hit almost $90 billion in 2015.
 
Some countries that will leap to mind when thinking about white goods – because of the prominent consumer brands that emanate from them – are Germany (with such household names as Bosch or Miele) and the United States (Whirlpool). As with all manufactured goods, China is also a big exporter. However, among the world’s top exporters for home appliances is a county that not everyone would immediately guess: Turkey.
 
Turkey is in the top ten global exporters of fridges and freezers, washing machines and stoves, only just missing the top ten for dishwashers – but with growth averaging 15 percent a year over the past ten years, it's only a matter of a few years before Turkey is among the top-ranked exporters for this product too.
 
Growing steadily, then going global
 
Among Turkey’s better-known white-goods manufacturers is the firm Arçelik, a part of the industrial conglomerate Koç Holdings. Founded in 1955, Arçelik started off making office and metal furniture, producing its first washing machine in 1959, its first refrigerator in 1960, and launching a vacuum cleaner plant in 1979 and a dishwasher plant in 1993.

However, among the firm’s various accomplishments, one stands out, both to outside observers and for the company itself: when Arçelik broke out of Turkey to go global, first in the markets Arçelik sold to and then in its production locations.
 
This expansion has occurred both through organic growth and through strategic acquisitions. For example, aside from the Arçelik brand itself, among the firm’s flagship brands is Beko, initially a home-grown brand that in the 1990s was assigned to drive Arçelik’s expansion outside of Turkey. The Beko team was tasked with the goal of “being a world brand”: Today a Beko-branded product is sold, worldwide, every two seconds.

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