Do low levels of trust limit the spread of ideas and knowledge among small-scale firms in African cities? A new study provides micro-level descriptive evidence on the spatial patterns of economic activity among small business owners in one of the fastest-developing cities in southern Africa: Lusaka, Zambia. Innovations for Poverty Action worked with researchers to collect new survey data to investigate the relation between knowledge sharing, trust, and business agglomeration within the city.
Access to quality jobs is a pressing concern in sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers have partnered with Samasource and Innovations for Poverty Action to conduct a randomized evaluation measuring the impact of a digital vocational training program, with and without an employment program, on formal employment of young Kenyans.
Millions of people in developing countries work in the informal sector, due in part to significant barriers to registering one’s business and entering the formal sector. In this study, researchers carried out a randomized evaluation in Malawi, within the context of the World Bank Business Environment Strengthening Technical Assistance Project (BESTAP), to measure the impact of formalization on the business performance of micro-, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
While evidence suggests that microloans are not effective in reducing poverty, providing microenterprises with larger loans may be more effective in helping them grow, reducing poverty, and increasing business opportunities for microfinance lenders.
Compared to their counterparts in high-income countries, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in low-and-middle-income countries, are often less productive, grow slower, and hire fewer workers. In Mexico, Innovations for Poverty Action worked with researchers to test if this lagging productivity could owe to lower managerial capacity. They found that providing subsidized managerial consulting to Mexican SMEs boosted their productivity and hiring.
Micro-loans are a promising means of promoting entrepreneurship, but conventional loan products are often unsuited to the needs of small businesses in developing countries. Offering microenterprise borrowers the ability to postpone loan payments when needed may encourage long-term investments in business expansion and help owners cope with financial hardship.
Entrepreneurs in developing countries face a number of constraints that limit their growth and therefore their contribution to employment and long-term economic development.
Sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing rapid demographic growth. While formal unemployment is low, wage job opportunities are also limited. In this context, a vast majority of young people are engaged in low-productivity self-employment. Traditional apprenticeships are one of the most common sources of skills acquisition for youths. Many governments attempt to intervene in the apprenticeship market, but there is limited evidence on the impacts of these public interventions.
When small or informal firms are invisible or inaccessible to large buyers, including governments, these firms cannot grow and reach their full potential. Innovations for Poverty Action is working with researchers to evaluate whether a bid training provided by Building Markets that intends to teach businesses how to find, apply for, and win larger contracts can help small businesses grow.
Differences in productivity between firms, which are especially large in developing countries, are often attributed to the quality of their management practices. Researchers tested the effect of management practices by randomly assigning some Indian textile firms to receive free consulting advice. Firms that received this advice significantly raised their productivity within a year, resulting in an estimated increase in annual profits of US$325,000.
A lack of access to finance can impede the potential for growth among small firms. To meet this finance gap and to encourage high-growth entrepreneurship, governments and multilateral agencies throughout the developing world often directly fund small and medium enterprises. Governments, however, have little guidance when it comes to choosing the firms with growth potential, and making sure that limited funds are targeted where they will spur the most growth.
Many microentrepreneurs in developing countries may lack the training or skills to make the most effective financial and business management decisions. In India, researchers tested a low-cost and easy-to-scale financial capability intervention that delivered easy-to-remember and easy-to-adopt rules of thumb via voice-based mobile phone messages.
Small farm productivity in sub-Saharan Africa lags behind that in Asia and other parts of the world. One reason for this may be low rate of adoption of inputs such as fertilizer. In Tanzania one reason for this may simply be the absence of local retailers, especially in more remote areas. Researchers are testing if their absence may be because of the costs of entering these markets or demand, with interventions targeted to each.
Industrial sector development to boost mass hiring is seen as important to poverty alleviation at the macroeconomic level. But how those jobs, particularly in early stages of industrial sector development, affect the workers themselves and what the workers prefer are less well-understood. In Ethiopia, Innovations for Poverty Action worked with researchers measure the effects of being offered an industrial job or an entrepreneurship promotion program.