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How can we learn whether firm policies are working in africa ? challenges (and solutions?) for experiments and structural models

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  • McKenzie, David

Abstract

Firm productivity is low in African countries, prompting governments to try a number of active policies to improve it. Yet despite the millions of dollars spent on these policies, we are far from a situation where we know whether many of them are yielding the desired payoffs. This paper establishes some basic facts about the number and heterogeneity of firms in different sub-Saharan African countries and discusses their implications for experimental and structural approaches towards trying to estimate firm policy impacts. It shows that the typical firm program such as a matching grant scheme or business training program involves only 100 to 300 firms, which are often very heterogeneous in terms of employment and sales levels. As a result, standard experimental designs will lack any power to detect reasonable sized treatment impacts, while structural models which assume common production technologies and few missing markets will be ill-suited to capture the key constraints firms face. Nevertheless, the author suggests a way forward which involves focusing on a more homogeneous sub-sample of firms and collecting a lot more data on them than is typically collected.

Suggested Citation

  • McKenzie, David, 2011. "How can we learn whether firm policies are working in africa ? challenges (and solutions?) for experiments and structural models," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5632, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5632
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. David McKenzie, 2010. "Impact Assessments in Finance and Private Sector Development: What Have We Learned and What Should We Learn?," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 25(2), pages 209-233, August.
    2. Nicholas Bloom & Benn Eifert & Aprajit Mahajan & David McKenzie & John Roberts, 2013. "Does Management Matter? Evidence from India," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(1), pages 1-51.
    3. Karlan, Dean S. & Zinman, Jonathan, 2009. "Expanding Microenterprise Credit Access: Using Randomized Supply Decisions to Estimate the Impacts in Manila," CEPR Discussion Papers 7396, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Marcel Fafchamps & David McKenzie & Simon Quinn & Christopher Woodruff, 2011. "When is capital enough to get female microenterprises growing? Evidence from a randomized experiment in Ghana," CSAE Working Paper Series 2011-11, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    5. Michiel Dijk, 2003. "South African Manufacturing Performance In International Perspective 1970-1999," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 71(1), pages 119-142, March.
    6. Fafchamps, Marcel & McKenzie, David & Quinn, Simon & Woodruff, Christopher, 2012. "Using PDA consistency checks to increase the precision of profits and sales measurement in panels," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(1), pages 51-57.
    7. Harrison, Ann E. & Lin, Justin Yifu & Xu, Lixin Colin, 2014. "Explaining Africa’s (Dis)advantage," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 59-77.
    8. Suresh de Mel & David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2009. "Returns to Capital in Microenterprises: Evidence from a Field Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 423-423.
    9. Miriam Bruhn & David McKenzie, 2009. "In Pursuit of Balance: Randomization in Practice in Development Field Experiments," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(4), pages 200-232, October.
    10. Lars Ivar Oppedal Berge & Kjetil Bjorvatn & Bertil Tungodden, 2015. "Human and Financial Capital for Microenterprise Development: Evidence from a Field and Lab Experiment," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 61(4), pages 707-722, April.
    11. McKenzie, David, 2012. "Beyond baseline and follow-up: The case for more T in experiments," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 210-221.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. David McKenzie & Christopher Woodruff, 2014. "What Are We Learning from Business Training and Entrepreneurship Evaluations around the Developing World?," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 29(1), pages 48-82.
    2. Mckenzie,David J., 2016. "Can business owners form accurate counterfactuals ? eliciting treatment and control beliefs about their outcomes in the alternative treatment status," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7668, The World Bank.
    3. Axel Demenet, 2016. "Does Managerial Capital also Matter Among Micro and Small Firms in Developing Countries?," Working Papers DT/2016/12, DIAL (Développement, Institutions et Mondialisation).
    4. Campos, Francisco & Coville, Aidan & Fernandes, Ana M. & Goldstein, Markus & McKenzie, David, 2014. "Learning from the experiments that never happened: Lessons from trying to conduct randomized evaluations of matching grant programs in Africa," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 4-24.
    5. Long Thanh Giang & Cuong Viet Nguyen & Tuyen Quang Tran, 2016. "Firm agglomeration and local poverty reduction: evidence from an economy in transition," Asian-Pacific Economic Literature, Asia Pacific School of Economics and Government, The Australian National University, vol. 30(1), pages 80-98, May.
    6. Long Thanh Giang & Cuong Viet Nguyen & Tuyen Quang Tran, 2015. "A Linkage between Firm Agglomeration and Poverty Reduction First evidence in Vietnam," Working Papers 2015-617, Department of Research, Ipag Business School.
    7. repec:eee:wdevel:v:97:y:2017:i:c:p:330-348 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Microfinance; Small Scale Enterprise; E-Business; ICT Policy and Strategies; Banks&Banking Reform;

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