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Learning from the experiments that never happened : lessons from trying to conduct randomized evaluations of matching grant programs in Africa

Author

Listed:
  • Campos, Francisco
  • Coville, Aidan
  • Fernandes, Ana M.
  • Goldstein, Markus
  • McKenzie, David

Abstract

Matching grants are one of the most common policy instruments used by developing country governments to try to foster technological upgrading, innovation, exports, use of business development services and other activities leading to firm growth. However, since they involve subsidizing firms, the risk is that they could crowd out private investment, subsidizing activities that firms were planning to undertake anyway, or lead to pure private gains, rather than generating the public gains that justify government intervention. As a result, rigorous evaluation of the effects of such programs is important. The authors attempted to implement randomized experiments to evaluate the impact of seven matching grant programs offered in six African countries, but in each case were unable to complete an experimental evaluation. One critique of randomized experiments is publication bias, whereby only those experiments with"interesting"results get published. The hope is to mitigate this bias by learning from the experiments that never happened. This paper describes the three main proximate reasons for lack of implementation: continued project delays, politicians not willing to allow random assignment, and low program take-up; and then delves into the underlying causes of these occurring. Political economy, overly stringent eligibility criteria that do not take account of where value-added may be highest, a lack of attention to detail in"last mile"issues, incentives facing project implementation staff, and the way impact evaluations are funded, and all help explain the failure of randomization. Lessons are drawn from these experiences for both the implementation and the possible evaluation of future projects.

Suggested Citation

  • Campos, Francisco & Coville, Aidan & Fernandes, Ana M. & Goldstein, Markus & McKenzie, David, 2012. "Learning from the experiments that never happened : lessons from trying to conduct randomized evaluations of matching grant programs in Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6296, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6296
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. 4 visiones sobre retos en evaluación
      by Guest blogger in Hacia el desarrollo efectivo on 2013-05-14 21:36:05
    2. Learning from the experiments that didn’t happen: Part I
      by David McKenzie in Development Impact on 2013-01-07 18:43:21
    3. Learning from the experiments that didn't happen: Part II
      by Markus Goldstein in Development Impact on 2013-01-09 21:09:03
    4. Leaning against publication bias: about the experiments that do not work out
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2013-01-29 21:44:00
    5. Development that Works: 4 views on evaluation challenges
      by Guest blogger in Eval Central on 2013-05-14 21:39:55

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Grover,Arti Goswami & Imbruno,Michele, 2020. "Using Experimental Evidence to Inform Firm Support Programs in Developing Countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 9461, The World Bank.
    2. Nathan Fiala & Cormac Mangan, 2013. "Improving Development Effectiveness through R&D: Dynamic Learning and Evaluation," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1325, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    3. Túlio A. Cravo & Caio Piza, 2019. "The impact of business-support services on firm performance: a meta-analysis," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 53(3), pages 753-770, October.
    4. Tulio Cravo & Caio Piza, 2016. "The Impact of Business Support Services for Small and Medium Enterprises on Firm Performance in Low -and Middle- Income Countries: A Meta-Analysis," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 94938, Inter-American Development Bank.
    5. Grimm, Michael & Soubeiga, Sidiki & Weber, Michael, 2021. "Short-Term Impacts of Targeted Cash Grants and Business Development Services: Experimental Evidence from Entrepreneurs in Burkina Faso," IZA Discussion Papers 14892, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. David McKenzie & Nabila Assaf & Ana Paula Cusolito, 2017. "The additionality impact of a matching grant programme for small firms: experimental evidence from Yemen," Journal of Development Effectiveness, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(1), pages 1-14, January.
    7. Hossain, Marup & Mabiso, Athur & Garbero, Alessandra, 2022. "Matching grants and economic activities among horticultural entrepreneurs: Long-term evidence from Rwanda," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 150(C).
    8. David McKenzie & Nabila Assaf & Ana Paula Cusolito, 2016. "The Additionality Impact of a Matching Grant Program for Small Firms," World Bank Publications - Reports 23755, The World Bank Group.

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    Keywords

    Microfinance; Banks&Banking Reform; Access to Finance; ICT Policy and Strategies; E-Business;
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