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Foreign direct investment, financial flows, private-sector development, humanitarian assistance, Africa
Vijaya Ramachandran is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. She works on the impact of the business environment on the productivity of firms in developing countries, and is the coauthor of an essay titled "Development as Diffusion: Manufacturing Productivity and Africa's Missing Middle,” published in the Oxford Handbook on Economics and Africa. Vijaya is also studying the unintended consequences of rich countries’ anti-money laundering policies on financial inclusion in poor countries. She has published her research in journals such as World Development, Development Policy Review, Governance, Prism, and AIDS and is the author of a CGD book, Africa’s Private Sector: What’s Wrong with the Business Environment and What to Do About It. Prior to joining CGD, Vijaya worked at the World Bank and in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. She also served on the faculties of Georgetown University and Duke University. Her work has appeared in several media outlets including the Economist, Financial Times, Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, National Public Radio, and Vox.
Africa receives only a tiny fraction of global investments in emerging markets. But the problem is not that fund managers are scared away by a seemingly steady stream of bad news out of Africa, nor is a general marketing of Africa to global investors the solution. Instead the authors of this new CGD working paper find that the small size of African markets and low levels of liquidity are a binding deterrent for foreign institutional investors. Drawing on firm surveys to explore why African firms remain small, the authors offer practical recommendations for increasing portfolio investment in Africa. Learn more
Countries cannot grow without a vibrant domestic private sector, yet most growth in sub-Saharan Africa in the past decade has come from extractive industries, not private, entrepreneurial activity. Furthermore, non-extractive activity in the private sector is often dominated by firms owned by minority ethnic entrepreneurs--of Asian, Middle Easterner or Caucasian descent--not indigenous Africans. In this working paper, CGD visiting fellow Vijaya Ramachandran and her co-author analyze the constraints faced by domestic firms in five countries in sub-Saharan Africa. They offer policy recommendations to help indigenous entrepreneurs enter and survive in the private sector, including increasing university education and building networks among business professionals.Learn more
How do employers decide whether to provide their employees with HIV/AIDS prevention services? CGD Visiting Fellow Vijaya Ramachandran's data from 860 firms and 4,955 workers in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya shows that larger firms, and those with more highly skilled workers, invest more in HIV/AIDS prevention. Firms in which more than 50 percent of workers are unionized also are more likely to provide more prevention services.
In this CGD Brief, Todd Moss and Vijaya Ramachandran analyze the survey results of 300-400 manufacturing firms in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Their main finding? Foreign firms perform better than local firms in generating jobs, increasing the productivty of their workers, and in skills transfer.
The world has increasingly recognized that private capital has a vital role to play in economic development. African countries have moved to liberalize the investment environment, yet have not received much FDI. At least part of this poor performance is because of lingering skepticism toward foreign investment, owing to historical, ideological, and political reasons. Results from our three-country sample suugest that many of the common objections to foreign investment are exaggerated or false. Africa, by not attracting more FDI, is therefore failing to fully benefit from the potential of foreign capital to contribute to economic development and integration with the global economy.
This paper ties together the macroeconomic and microeconomic evidence on the competitiveness of African manufacturing sectors. The conceptual framework is based on the newer theories that see the evolution of comparative advantage as influenced by the business climate—a key public good—and by external economies between clusters of firms entering in related sectors. Macroeconomic data from purchasing power parity (PPP), though imprecisely measured, estimates confirms that Africa is high-cost relative to its levels of income and productivity. This finding is compared with firm-level evidence from surveys undertaken for Investment Climate Assessments in 2000-2004.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been getting negative press about the relief efforts after the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. Perhaps worst is a scathing report from Refugees International accusing the UN of ineffectual leadership, missing coordination, and weak communication while an estimated 1.2 million Haitians remain displaced. Though much of the report consists of standard blandishments (the authors spent just 10 days in-country), there is indeed evidence of serious negligence. To give just one example: the organization initially planned on allowing itself two and a half months—well into the rainy season—to distribute plastic sheeting to protect the displaced. It took a personal intervention from a senior official to get this activity moved up.
A hearty congratulations to Esther Duflo, winner of this year’s John Bates Clark Medal! Since 1947 the American Economic Association has awarded the medal to “that American economist under the age of forty who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.” In our profession, the Clark Medal ranks second only to the Nobel Prize, and about 40 percent of medal winners have gone on to win a Nobel. Esther, a 37-year-old native of France, richly deserves this platinum honor.