The majority of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity. Traditional power companies often find it too costly to bring electricity to rural and suburban areas, but in recent years, the cost of alternative energy sources like solar power has fallen dramatically. Providing small businesses with access to reliable electricity through off-grid solar power systems could potentially help small retailers earn more by keeping their businesses open longer and introducing new services. This randomized evaluation tests how price and payment method affect the adoption of off-grid solar power among small retailers near Nairobi and if access to electricity can improve their businesses’ performance.
Nearly 70 percent of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity. Most traditional power companies find it too costly to extend the electric grid to many rural and suburban areas. Without access to power, households and small businesses typically use kerosene-powered lanterns or candles to provide light at night. Access to electricity could potentially help small retail businesses earn more revenue by extending their hours of operation or offering other services to customers, such as mobile phone charging facilities.
Many have proposed solar power as a way to bring safe and reliable electricity to small businesses and households that cannot access the electric grid. Yet for small retail businesses the cost of off-grid solar power systems may still be prohibitive. How do price and different payment methods affect the adoption and use of off-grid solar power systems among small retailers and how does access to electricity affect their business performance?
The small businesses participating in this study typically sell food, drink, clothing, or other household goods. Access to electricity could potentially allow them to increase their evening operating hours, offer mobile phone charging services in their stores, and save on their own mobile phone charging costs.
Angaza Design is a company that markets off-grid solar power systems to consumers and businesses in East Africa. Their main product is an LED light unit with integrated mobile phone charging and a detachable 3-watt solar panel to charge the unit’s battery. While the total cost of this solar power system is often too high for small retailers to purchase all at once, Angaza Design allows people to purchase the solar unit for a small down payment and then use a mobile money platform to pay for energy output in affordable increments by “topping up” device credit, just like they currently purchase mobile phone airtime. The device can be disconnected if payments are not made. Regular payments are applied towards paying off the full cost of the device, after which it is automatically “unlocked” and can be used without purchasing additional device credits.
Description of Intervention:
Researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation in partnership with Angaza Design and SunnyMoney to estimate the impact of different pricing schemes, payment schedules, and enforcement methods on the adoption of off-grid solar power and the impact of access to electricity on small retail businesses’ revenue and profits. From a sample of 1,849 small retail businesses operating in the outskirts of Nairobi, researchers randomly assigned some businesses to receive one of four different offers to purchase the Angaza Design solar power system and some businesses to serve as the comparison group. Those offered the solar power system received marketing visits in which the salesperson read a script describing the features of the solar power system, the payment process, and penalties for late payments. The salesperson then gave the customer a voucher needed to purchase the solar power system from a sales agent, under one of four different payment schemes:
Offer 1 provides the customer with a pay-as-you-go solar power device at 15 Kenyan shillings (KSH) per hour (about US$0.17) of electricity used. Customers are sent one text message per week to remind them to purchase more solar power time.
Offer 2 instead allows the customer to make weekly payments of 130 KSH (about US$1.70) for unlimited use of the solar power system. The customers are sent a reminder to pay the day before their next payment is due. If a payment is missed, the solar power system automatically shuts off until the payment and a 50 KSH (US$0.56) penalty are paid.
Offer 3 is identical to Offer 2 except that while customers are told about the 50 KSH penalties for non-payment during the initial marketing visit, after they receive the solar power system they are told it will not be applied. If customers fail to make a payment, the solar power system will not work until the retailer pays the weekly installment, but no penalty is charged.
Offer 4 is identical to Offer 2 except that after customers receive the solar power system, they are told that neither the late payment penalty nor the shutoff will be applied if they fail to pay their weekly bill. Under this condition, there are no penalties for failing to pay and the device continues to work.
Increasing evidence suggests that poverty reduction in developing countries is best pursued by creating stable employment opportunities in medium and large firms. Where do employment opportunities in these firms come from? The macro-economic literature argues that, ultimately, employment generation comes from increases in productivity at the aggregate level. The issue of productivity has therefore gained centre-stage in micro studies of industrial development.
This project—one of the first randomized control trials of a vocational training program for production workers in medium large factories—is designed to analyze whether training programs have the potential to address the “skills gap” that is an impediment to increased productivity in many developing economies. The context of the proposed study is the ready-made garment (RMG) sector in Bangladesh - an industry that employs about three millions low skilled workers, mostly women, and that has historically played a crucial role in the early phases of the industrialization process. This project evaluates the GIZ Female Supervisor Training Program, which selects and trains female workers to become line supervisors and middle managers. The main hypothesis to be tested is whether providing skills to workers and supervisors improves productivity and other outcomes (e.g. quality defects, lead time and waste) at the production-line level. Research questions include: 1) What is the impact of training and skills on the income, livelihoods and working conditions of production floor workers, particularly young women? 2) What is the impact of training and skills on productivity, organizational, labor and managerial practices as well as labor relations and conditions at both the factor and production line level? and 3) What are the mechanisms through which training and skills affect productivity? Does promoting a better gender balance across layers in the hierarchy increase coordination and communication on the production line?
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are thought to be important drivers of growth in developing economies, but entrepreneurs in these countries face many barriers, including poor access to training, finance, and business networks. In Colombia, Fundación Bavaria’s “Destapa Futuro” (Open the Future) program identifies promising enterprises and provides them with a suite of financial, technical, business, and training resources. Researchers found that the trainings did not affect key business outcomes, such as sales and profits, but helped entrepreneurs to expand their business networks.
For additional information on current SME Initiative projects, click here.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are thought to be important sources of innovation and employment in developing countries, due to their flexibility in responding to new market opportunities and their potential for growth. However, entrepreneurs face a number of barriers to expanding their businesses and employing more workers, including constrained access to credit, lack of management skills, and unfavorable government regulation. Business training, capital, and mentorship are possible tools that could help SMEs overcome these barriers, but existing evaluations of business training programs and capital injections for enterpreneurs have found mixed results. Additional research is needed to understand how training programs should be designed and delivered in order to best help entrepreneurs develop their operations and foster economic growth.
Context of Evaluation:
Fundación Bavaria, a foundation started by one of the largest beverage companies in Colombia, works to foster entrepreneurship in Colombia through an intensive, year-long program called “Destapa Futuro” (Open the Future). The program uses a competitive process to identify entrepreneurs with promising business plans or small start-ups and provides them with business training, capital, technical advice, and the opportunity to network with investors. Since 2005, Bavaria has spent close to $10 million on the program, trained thousands of entrepreneurs, and financially assisted more than 200 businesses.
Destapa Futuro targets relatively experienced and educated entrepreneurs. The average participant was 36 years old, had 16 years of education, and had four years of experience as an entrepreneur. Seventy-three percent were male. During the fifth round of Destapa Futuro in 2010-2011, these participants received business training from two organziations that support entrepreneurs, the Centro de Formación Empresarial (CFE) and Endeavor Colombia.
Description of Intervention:
Researchers evaluated Destapa Futuro’s impact on business outcomes, the difference between the two organization’s different training strategies, and the relative impact of receiving prizes in cash or in kind. In order to participate in the program, entrepreneurs completed an online application, which included questions on business characteristics, leadership potential, experience in business administration, and potential social impact. From the database of 8400 applications 475 candidates, half of them with business plans and the other half with existing start-ups, were selected and ranked.
This pool of 475 entrepreneurs was divided into three groups:
The top 25 entrepreneurs all received the Endeavor training. Because their participation in the training program was not randomly assigned, they were not part of the study sample.
The following 100 entrepreneurs were randomly assigned to receive training from either Endeavor or CFE.
The remaining 350 entrepreneurs were randomly assigned to either the CFE training group or the comparison group, which did not receive any training.
Both the Endeavor and CFE trainings included modules on financial management, marketing and business plan development. Endeavor offered an in-person training,delivered in two two-day sessions. All classes had a maximum of 20 entrepreneurs per trainer. In addition to lectures, each entrepreneur participated in several one-on-one discussions with program coordinators, trainers and mentors. CFE used a combination of online learning and in-person classes. In the online component, which consisted of four modules over one month, participants were assigned to groups of 18-21 students. They completed online modules with homework assignments, participated in online forums, and collaborated via email and phone. The entrepreneurs who completed homework and participated in forums were eligible for the in-classroom training, which consisted of four days of classes with the same tutor assigned during the online training.
After the CFE and Endeavor trainings were completed, the 100 entrepreneurs with the best business plans and course performance were selected to receive an additional coaching session in preparation for the business plan presentation that would determine the prize winners. The coaching session provided contestants with feedback on content and style of their presentations. After the presentations, the best 60 entrepreneurs were awarded a prize to fund their bussines.
In order to test how having the flexibility to choose how to spend the prize money affected business outcomes, half of the winners were randomly assigned to receive cash, and the other half received an in-kind prize. Cash prizes ranged from about 5,600 USD to 56,000 USD (10-100 million COP). Fundacion Bavaria determined the nature of the in-kind prizes based on the entrepreneur’s requests and available resources, and they included business equipment, marketing and advertising materials and other business investments. Forty winners were also randomly selected to receive mentorships with Bavaria executives, who listened to business plan prsentations, gave advice, and suggested potential contacts.
Results and Policy Lessons:
Impact on business outcomes: Enterpreneurs who participated in the CFE training did not have higher sales, costs, profits or number of employees than the entrepeneurs who did not receive any training. Entrepreneurs in the CFE training were just as likely to start a company as entrepereneurs who did not receive training. Similarly, entrepreneurs who participated in the Endeavor training did not have significantly different business outcomes compared to those who participated in the CFE training.
One of the goals of the Destapa Futuro program was to help entrepreneurs expand their business networks by meeting fellow entrepreneurs, trainers and mentors. Entrepreneurs in the CFE training who did not have existing start-ups were more likely to secure a contact with a partner, ally or investor than entrepreneurs who did not participate in the training. The Endeavor training was more beneficial for network expansion for enterpreneurs with existing start-ups, while the CFE training was more beneficial for enterpreneurs with business plans only.
In-kind versus cash prizes: Compared to recipients of cash, winners of in-kind prizes did not have significantly different sales, profits or costs. The type of prize also did not influence investment choices of entrepreneurs, with the majority investing their winnings into machinery and equipment. Since the type of prize did not affect outcomes of entrepreneurs, and it was logistically easier and faster to disburse cash prizes, in this context cash may be a preferred option.
In the sixth round of Destapa Futuro, Bavaria Foundation modified the program to be more financially sustainable while providing more personalized support to entrepreneurs.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are thought to be an important source of innovation and employment in developing countries due to their flexibility in responding to new market opportunities and their potential for growth. However, entrepreneurs face a number of barriers to expanding their businesses and employing more workers, including limited access to credit and other financial services. For many firms, especially small and medium enterprises, collateral requirements are often an obstacle for getting access to finance. Banks usually require potential borrowers to provide collateral such as land or real estate, and will not accept collateral in the form of movable assets such as vehicles, machinery, or inventory, which SMEs are more likely to own. This mismatch prevents entrepreneurs from applying for and receiving formal loans. Banks may be unwilling to accept movable assets as collateral if there is no legal framework to govern and enforce this type of lending or if they lack knowledge on how to conduct movable asset-based lending. It is possible that regulatory reform providing such legal framework will encourage banks to adopt movable asset-based lending, helping SMEs access much-needed credit to expand and grow. Additional research is needed to understand how such programs should be designed and to what extent such regulatory reform actually expands access to credit for individual firms.
Context of the Evaluation:
While Colombia has made a lot of progress in recent years in increasing access to finance for SMEs, entrepreneurs still report that access to finance is among the largest constraints to operating their businesses.1 According to the 2010 World Bank Enterprise Surveys, over 41 percent of firms in Colombia identified access to finance as a major constraint to operating their businesses, which is roughly ten percentage points higher than the average for the Latin America and Caribbean region. At the same time, prior to 2013, Colombia had no legal framework to govern the use of moveable assets as collateral, which restricted the ability of SMEs to take out loans secured with movable collateral.
The Colombian government, with support from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), an international development organization that focuses exclusively on the private sector, is introducing a new Secured Transactions Reform, which will provide a legal framework for the use and enforcement of movable collateral. The hope is that, by reducing the risk that banks face in accepting movable property as collateral, the reform will allow SMEs to use vehicles, industrial equipment, inventory, and other movable assets as collateral for their loans.
Details of the Intervention:
In order to understand whether the Secured Transactions Reform has an impact on firm-level outcomes such as sales and employment, researchers will assign a randomly selected group of firms to receive extra encouragement to apply for loans under the new regulation. Out of a sample of 1000 SMEs across three Colombian metropolitan areas (Bogotá, Cali, and Medellín), 500 firms will be randomly selected to receive additional information and encouragement to apply for a loan secured with movable collateral.
The remaining 500 firms will serve as the comparison group.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are thought to be important drivers of growth in developing economies, but entrepreneurs in these countries face many barriers, including access to business training, finance, and business networks. In Bogotá, Columbia, Fundación Bavaria’s “Destapa Futuro” (Open the Future) program identifies promising enterprises and provides them with a suite of financial, technical, business and training resources. In this round of the program, Fundacion Bavaria and its partners competitively selected 1,000 entrepreneurs for a month-long virtual training which culminated in a business plan competition. Based on their business plans, 454 entrepreneurs were chosen to participate in an evaluation. Half were randomly selected to receive additional classroom training, and will be compared to those that didn’t. Researchers will measure the impact of the program on SME profits, sales, and business creation rates.
For additional information on current SME Initiative projects, click here.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are thought to be an important source of innovation and employment in developing countries, due to their flexibility in responding to new market opportunities and their potential for growth. However, entrepreneurs face a number of barriers to expanding their businesses and employing more workers, including things like constrained access to credit, lack of management skills, and unfavorable government regulation. Business training, capital, and mentorship are possible tools that could help SMEs overcome these barriers, but rigorous evaluations of business training programs have found mixed results. Additional research is needed to understand how training programs should be designed and delivered, and how they might work in combination with additional inputs such as seed funding, in-kind donations, or mentorship.
Context of the Evaluation:
Fundación Bavaria works to foster entrepreneurship in Colombia through an intensive, year-long program called “Destapa Futuro” (Open the Future). The program uses a competitive process to identify entrepreneurs whose businesses have the potential for high growth and provides them with training, capital, technical advice, and the opportunity to network with investors. Since 2005, Bavaria has spent close to $10 million on this program. A prior project evaluated the 5th round of Destapa Futuro in 2010-2012.
During the sixth round of Destapa Futuro in 2012-2013, Bavaria introduced several changes that were intended to make the program more financially sustainable while providing better support to entrepreneurs. First, they began partnering with Ventures Colombia, an NGO that promotes entrepreneurship in Colombia. Second, a new training curriculum was introduced, which taught entrepreneurs to think holistically about their business models and prepared them to make presentations to potential investors. Third, Bavaria switched from granting cash prizes to granting loans through a large Colombian bank for a selected group of qualified entrepreneurs and smaller cash prizes for the rest.
Details of the Intervention:
Entrepreneurs were invited to submit online applications to take part in the Destapa Futuro program. Out of 5,000 applications, a group of approximately 1,000 entrepreneurs who passed Bavaria’s initial selection process participated in a virtual training course based on the Business Model Canvas approach, which is designed to help entrepreneurs visualize and document various aspects of their business operations. They also received four virtual business training sessions on strategy, marketing, financial, and legal strategies. At the end of the month-long course, participants were asked to submit their business plans to the Ventures team for evaluation. All the business models submitted by the end of the training were evaluated by Ventures staff, and the top 73 entrepreneurs from this pool were selected to receive an in-person business training program. Because their participation in the training program was not randomly assigned, they are not part of the study sample.
Of the remaining business plan submissions, 454 were selected to participate in the evaluation. Of these 454 entrepreneurs, half were randomly allocated to a treatment group, which received in-class training and mentorship. The in-class training lasted two to three days and covered the same topics as the virtual training, but in more depth. The remaining 227 entrepreneurs served as the comparison group and received no new training or mentorship.
Researchers will measure the impact of the training, mentoring, and networking program on SME profits, sales, and business creation rates.
How does access to credit affect the growth of small and medium enterprises – both firms receiving loans as well as their competitors, suppliers and customers? Limited access to credit is commonly identified as a key constraint to SME growth, but little evidence exists of the direct and indirect effects of loans on small firms in a given market. Researchers are working with a large bank in the Philippines, using random assignment to offer loans to SME applicants who fall just below the threshold to be automatically approved for a loan. The researchers will compare the firms that received the loans to a similar group that did not. Comparing the two groups will allow for a better understanding of the impact of loans on firm performance and growth as well as any additional effects on firms in the same market or in the loan recipient’s supply chain.
For additional information on current SME Initiative projects, click here.
Small businesses are often thought to be an important source of employment, innovation, and economic growth. In many developing countries, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) make up a large share of registered businesses, but a much smaller share of GDP. Data from several countries suggest that few SMEs grow to become larger businesses. One reason could be that unlike larger businesses, SMEs have limited access to credit, preventing them from making larger investments to improve their operations, upgrade to new technologies, or expand.
Most SMEs’ financing needs exceed the small loans that microfinance institutions provide. Yet larger commercial banks often find it too expensive to lend to SMEs because the cost of assessing whether an SME is creditworthy is high relative to the return banks could earn by lending to them. Many banks also perceive SMEs as being too risky and more likely to default on loans. Credit scoring has been used extensively in developed countries to reduce the cost and time required to process loan applications and to assess the riskiness of loan applicants in order to make small business and consumer lending profitable for banks. Can a credit-scoring system increase lending to SMEs in emerging markets, and does access to credit improve these businesses’ profitability? How does increased access to credit affect other businesses in the same market, namely the competitors, suppliers, and customers of businesses receiving loans?
Context of the Evaluation:
In the Philippines, the vast majority of registered enterprises are small or medium sized. Nationwide, there are over 800,000 micro, small, or medium enterprises. These businesses span a range of industry sectors, including wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing, and services. Promoting SME growth is a central focus of national policy and all banks are mandated to set aside at least 8 percent of their total loan portfolios for SMEs. The Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) is a development banking institution mandated to provide medium and long term loans to SMEs. In 2013, DBP began to roll out its new Retail Lending Program for Micro and Small Enterprises in 45 bank branches across the country. Under this program, DBP will make lending decisions using credit scoring software, which will determine loan approvals based on verifiable client information and an objective credit score, replacing the current approval process which relies on loan officers’ perceptions about applicants’ creditworthiness.
Details of the Intervention:
Researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation in partnership with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to test how access to credit affects both borrowing businesses’ performance and that of their competitors and suppliers.
Each of the 45 DBP branches will advertise the new Retail Lending Program to SMEs in their area and encourage them to apply. The branches will be assigned to either target SMEs in certain randomly chosen industries for loans (e.g. bakeries or water purification plants) or to not target any industries in particular. After SMEs submit an application, the credit scoring software will assign each applicant a score. Applicants whose scores fall in a pre-defined range just below the minimum score that automatically qualifies someone for a loan will be randomly assigned to either receive a loan or serve as part of the comparison group. In branches that are randomly assigned to target certain industries, marginally qualified applicants in the targeted industries will have a 90 percent chance of receiving a loan. This randomized “bubble” will include approximately 250 of these marginally qualified applicants.
DBP’s credit committee will then review all loans approved by the credit scoring system prior to final approval, reserving the right to deny loans based on information not included in the credit scoring model, such as criminal history. Loan officers will separately record whether they would have normally approved the loan without the credit scoring system, allowing researchers to compare credit scoring to the current, more subjective lending approach.
Businesses in the treatment group will receive loans between PHP 300,000–10,000,000 (US$5,590–186,200). The terms of the loans will range from three months to five years. A baseline survey will be conducted with all sample firms prior to loan disbursement. One year after the loans are disbursed researchers will conduct a follow-up survey to measure the SMEs’ investment and profits. Administrative data from DBP will be used to measure loan repayment and default.
Researchers will also survey the SMEs’ competitors and suppliers to examine whether receiving a loan had an impact on those firms. Increased access to credit may make SMEs more efficient and profitable, potentially taking away business from their competitors. On the other hand, if increased access to credit leads some businesses to develop better methods of production that their competitors can copy, access to credit could potentially indirectly benefit their competitors. Similarly, access to credit may have spillovers on a loan recipient’s suppliers as a result of business expansion or adoption of new technologies. This study will examine whether increased access to credit indirectly benefits or harms borrowers’ competitors and suppliers.
Highlighting the importance of carrying correct change helped firms to change their behavior and increase profits.
Small businesses in developing countries are thought to face numerous challenges in their efforts to expand and increase profitability. While credit and human capital constraints (i.e. lack of training) have frequently been highlighted as potential barriers, another constraint may be limited attention. Most people face constant tradeoffs between investing attention in work versus in other matters, such as homelife. The poor may face comparatively greater challenges in maintaining their homefront (because of higher rates of illness, for example), which may divert attention away from their work. It is possible to test whether this limited attention reduces productivity by focusing on one particular business decision for small firms: how much change to keep on hand to break larger bills. Not having proper change can have an impact of a firm's profit level. If a firm does not have sufficient small bills or coins to give a buyer change, the buyer may choose to buy the item elsewhere and the firm would lose the sale. Evaluation estimates suggest that the average firm in Western Kenya loses 5 to 8 percent of profits due to lost sales because of a lack of small change.
To understand whether firms run out of change because they do not fully internalize the profits they are losing, the evaluation proceeded in two phases. First, a field officer visited each firm on a weekly basis to administer a short “changeout” questionnaire, which asked a number of questions about change management, including the number of times they ran out of change (i.e. the number of “changeouts”), the number of lost sales due to changeouts in the previous 7 days, the value of these sales, how much time they spent searching for change, and how often they gave or received change from nearby firms. The survey also asked about total sales and profits. Although the survey did not provide any training or information about change, or any direct "reminders," it may have served as a catalyst for firms to start altering behavior, as lost sales and profits due to poor change management became more salient. To measure this effect, the start date for the changeout questionnaire was randomized across firms. This enabled an estimation of the impact of the visits themselves, by comparing lost sales between those firms that started the survey earlier to those that started later.
The second intervention more explicitly emphasized the costs of having insufficient change. After following firms for several weeks, researchers calculated the lost sales for each firm due to insufficient change as well as the market average. This information was then presented to a randomly selected subsample of firms.
Results and Policy Lessons:
Impact on frequency of changeouts: Veteran firms, meaning firms that had joined the survey early, were, on average, 6 percentage points less likely to experience a changeout in a given week than firms who we had just begun the changeout survey. Firms who were randomly selected for the information intervention were similarly 8 percentage points less likely to experience a changeout than those not selected.
As the weekly surveys provided no skills training, nor any direct information, it is most plausible that they served as a reminder which made the importance of changeouts and the amount of money being lost more salient. While the information intervention provided some new information (the average behavior of other firms), the firm-specific information would have already been known to firms if they had processed the information. Thus, a likely explanation for the results is that firms were not paying attention to the lost sales to change, and the interventions reduced the cost of processing the information already available to them.