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  • Author: Vijaya Ramachandran, Leonardo Iacovone, Martin Schmidt
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Many countries in Africa suffer high rates of underemployment or low rates of productive employment; many also anticipate large numbers of people to enter the workforce in the near future. This paper asks the question: Are African firms creating fewer jobs than those located elsewhere? And, if so, why? One reason may be that weak business environments slow the growth of firms and distort the allocation of resources away from better-performing firms, hence reducing their potential for job creation.
  • Topic: Economics, Industrial Policy, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Fragile/Failed State
  • Political Geography: Africa, Israel
  • Author: Vijaya Ramachandran, Alan Gelb, Christian J. Meyer
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: We consider economic development of Sub-Saharan Africa from the perspective of slow convergence of productivity, both across sectors and across firms within sectors. Why have "productivity enclaves", islands of high productivity in a sea of smaller low-productivity firms, not diffused more rapidly? We summarize and analyze three sets of factors: First, the poor business climate, which constrains the allocation of production factors between sectors and firms. Second, the complex political economy of business-government relations in Africa's small economies. Third, the distribution of firm capabilities. The roots of these factors lie in Africa's geography and its distinctive history, including the legacy of its colonial period on state formation and market structure.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Industrial Policy, Markets
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: Laura E. Seay
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Although its provisions have yet to be implemented, section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is already having a profound effect on the Congolese mining sector. Nicknamed “Obama's Law” by the Congolese, section 1502 has created a de facto ban on Congolese mineral exports, put anywhere from tens of thousands up to 2 million Congolese miners out of work in the eastern Congo, and, despite ending most of the trade in Congolese conflict minerals, done little to improve the security situation or the daily lives of most Congolese. In this report, Laura Seay traces the development of section 1502 with respect to the pursuit of a conflict minerals-based strategy by U.S. advocates, examines the effects of the legislation, and recommends new courses of action to move forward in a way that both promotes accountability and transparency and allows Congolese artisanal miners to earn a living.
  • Topic: Security, Development, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Poverty, Natural Resources, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Author: Dean Karlan, Ryan Knight, Christopher Udry
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: We show how financial and managerial constraints impede experimentation and thus limit learning about the profitability of investments. Imperfect information about one's own type, but willingness to experiment to learn one's type, leads to short-run negative expected returns to investments, with some outliers succeeding. We find in an experiment that entrepreneurs invest randomized grants of cash and adopt advice from randomized grants of consulting services, but both lead to lower profits on average. In the long run, they revert back to their prior scale of operations. In a meta-analysis, results from 19 other experiments find mixed support for this theory.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Markets, Foreign Aid, Foreign Direct Investment
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: Jenny C. Aker, Michael W. Klein, Stephen A. O'Connell, Muzhe Yang
  • Publication Date: 04-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: This paper addresses two important economic issues for Africa: the contribution of national borders and ethnicity to market segmentation and integration between and within countries. Market pair regression analysis provides evidence of higher conditional price dispersion for both a grain and a cash crop between markets separated by the Niger-Nigeria border than between two markets located in the same country. A regression discontinuity analysis also confirms a significant price change at the international border. The international border effect is lower, however, if the cross-border markets share a common ethnicity. Ethnicity is also linked to higher price dispersion within Niger; we find a significant intranational border effect between markets in different ethnic regions of the country. This suggests that ethnic similarities diminishing international border effects could enhance international market integration, and ethnic differences could contribute to intranational market segmentation in sub-Saharan Africa. We provide suggestive evidence that the primary mechanism behind the internal border effect is related to the role of ethnicity in facilitating access to credit in agricultural markets. We argue that the results are not driven by differences in price volatility or observables across borders.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Ethnic Conflict, Markets
  • Political Geography: Africa, West Africa, Nigeria
  • Author: Tom Slayton
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: The world rice market was aflame last spring and for several months it looked as if the trading edifice that had exhibited such resilience over the last two decades was going to burn to the ground. World prices trebled within less than four months and reached a 30- year inflation-adjusted high. Many market observers thought the previous record set in 1974 would soon be toast. The fire was man-made, not the result of natural developments. While the governments in India, Vietnam, and the Philippines did not to set the world market on fire, that was the unintended result of their actions which threatened both innocent bystanders (low-income rice importers as far away as Africa and Latin America) and, ultimately, poor rice consumers at home. This paper describes what sparked the fire and the accelerants that made a bad situation nearly catastrophic. Fortuitously, when the flames were raging at peak intensity, rain clouds appeared, the winds [market psychology] shifted, and conditions on the ground improved, allowing the fire to die down. It remains to be seen, however, if the trading edifice has been seriously undermined by the actions of decision makers in several key Asian rice exporting and importing countries. In describing the cascading negative effects of these seemingly rational domestic policies, this paper aims to help policy makers in the rice exporting and importing nations to avoid a repeat of the disastrous price spike of 2008.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Economics, Health, Humanitarian Aid, Markets, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Africa, India, Asia, Latin America
  • Author: Vijaya Ramachandran, Manju Kedia Shah, Alan Gelb, Taye Mengistae
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Why do firms choose to locate in the informal sector? Researchers often argue that the high cost of regulation prevents informal firms from becoming formal and productive. Our results point to a more nuanced story.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Markets, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: David Wheeler
  • Publication Date: 02-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: At the recent UN climate change conference in Bali, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a revolutionary change in the world's energy mix to minimize the risk of catastrophic global heating. This paper explores the implications for the World Bank and other donor institutions, employing proposed Bank financing of the Mmamabula coal-fired power project in Botswana as an illustrative case. Using the latest estimates of generating costs for coal-fired and low-carbon power options, I compute the CO2 accounting charges that would promote switching to the low-carbon options. In all cases, I find that that the switching charges are at the low end of the range that is compatible with safe atmospheric limits on carbon loading. Among the low-carbon options that I have considered for Botswana, solar thermal power seems to dominate carbon capture and storage.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Environment, Markets, United Nations
  • Political Geography: Africa
  • Author: Jenny C. Aker
  • Publication Date: 10-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Due partly to costly information, price dispersion across markets is common in developed and developing countries. Between 2001 and 2006, cell phone service was phased in throughout Niger, providing an alternative and cheaper search technology to grain traders and other market actors. Weconstruct a novel theoretical model of sequential search, in which traders engage in optimal search for the maximum sales price, net transport costs. The model predicts that cell phones will increase traders' reservation sales prices and the number of markets over which they search, leading to a reduction in price dispersion across markets. To test the predictions of the theoretical model, we use a unique market and trader dataset from Niger that combines data on prices, transport costs, rainfall and grain production with cell phone access and trader behavior. We first exploit the quasi-experimental nature of cell phone coverage to estimate the impact of the introduction of information technology on market performance. The results provide evidence that cell phones reduce grain price dispersion across markets by a minimum of 6.4 percent and reduce intra-annual price variation by 12 percent. Cell phones have a greater impact on price dispersion for market pairs that are farther away, and for those with lower road quality. This effect becomes larger as a higher percentage of markets have cell phone coverage. We provide empirical evidence in support of specific mechanisms that partially explain the impact of cell phones on market performance. Robustness checks suggest that the results are not driven by selection on unobservables, nor are they solely a result of general equilibrium effects. Calculations of the four-firm concentration index suggest that the grain market structure is competitive, so the observed reductions in price dispersion are not due to greater market collusion. The primary mechanism by which cell phones affect market-level outcomes appears to be a reduction in search costs, as grain traders operating in markets with cell phone coverage search over a greater number of markets and sell in more markets. The results suggest that cell phones improved consumer and trader welfare in Niger.
  • Topic: Agriculture, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: Africa, Nigeria
  • Author: Jenny C. Aker
  • Publication Date: 12-2008
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: How do markets respond to extreme rainfall in West Africa? This paper examines the effect of weather on grain market performance in Niger, a country increasingly affected by drought and severe food crises over the past two decades. Using a dataset that combines information on rainfall, agricultural production, prices and transaction costs, I exploit rainfall variation to estimate the impact of drought on grain market performance between 1997 and 2006. Time series tests suggest that grain markets in Niger respond to supply shocks and that markets are more integrated during drought years. Exploiting the exogeneity of extreme rainfall in a difference-in-differences framework supports these findings: drought reduces grain price dispersion across markets. This impact is stronger as a higher percentage of markets are affected by drought, as was the case in 2004/2005, the year of a severe food crisis. The results suggest that early warning systems in West Africa should focus on the spatial impact of drought at the sub-regional level, as well as monitor prices in key forecasting markets during the harvest period.
  • Topic: Agriculture, International Political Economy, Markets
  • Political Geography: Africa, Nigeria
  • Author: Vijaya Ramachandran, Scott Standley, Todd Moss
  • Publication Date: 02-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: This paper addresses the question of investment in sub-Saharan African listed securities by examining characteristics of the continent's 15 equity markets, the rise and fall of African regional funds, and the asset allocation trends for global emerging market (GEM) funds. The data shows that South Africa is now a leading destination of capital, but that few managers invest elsewhere on the continent. However, we find that African markets are not treated differently than other markets and present evidence that small market size and low levels of liquidity are a binding deterrent for foreign institutional investors. Thus, orthodox market variables rather than market failure appear to explain Africa's low absolute levels of inward equity flows. The paper then turns to new data from firm surveys to explore why African firms remain small. The implications of our findings are threefold: (a) efforts to encourage greater private investment in these markets should concentrate on domestic audiences and specialized regional funds, (b) the depth and success of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange can perhaps be better utilized to benefit other parts of the continent, and (c) any long-term strategy should concentrate on the underlying barriers to firm entry and growth.
  • Topic: Government, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: Africa, South Africa
  • Author: Dean Karlan, Jonathan Zinman
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Policymakers often prescribe that microfinance institutions increase interest rates to eliminate reliance on subsidies. This strategy makes sense if the poor are rate insensitive: then microlenders increase profitability (or achieve sustainability) without reducing the poor's access to credit. We test the assumption of price inelastic demand using randomized trials conducted by a consumer lender in South Africa. The demand curves are downward-sloping, and steep for price increases relative to the lender's standard rates. We also find that loan size is far more responsive to changes in loan maturity than to changes in interest rates, which is consistent with binding liquidity constraints.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Markets
  • Political Geography: Africa, South Africa
  • Author: Dean Karlan, Jonathan Zinman
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Expanding credit access is a key ingredient of development strategies worldwide. Microfinance practitioners, policymakers, and donors have ambitious goals for expanding access, and seek efficient methods for implementing and evaluating expansion. There is less consensus on the role of consumer credit in expansion initiatives. Some microfinance institutions are moving beyond entrepreneurial credit and offering consumer loans. But many practitioners and policymakers are skeptical about “unproductive” lending. These concerns are fueled by academic work highlighting behavioral biases that may induce consumers to overborrow. We estimate the impacts of a consumer credit supply expansion using a field experiment and follow-up data collection. A South African lender relaxed its risk assessment criteria by encouraging its loan officers to approve randomly selected marginal rejected applications. We estimate the resulting impacts using new survey data on borrower behavior and well-being, and administrative data on loan repayment. We find that the marginal loans increased credit access and produced measurable benefits in the form of increased employment, reduced hunger, and reduced poverty. The marginal loans also appear to have been profitable for the lender. The results must be interpreted with caution but suggest that consumer credit expansions can be welfare-improving.
  • Topic: Development, Markets, Poverty
  • Political Geography: Africa, South Africa