Xinshen Diao, Mia Ellis, Margaret McMillan, Dani Rodrik, 01 March 2021

Before Covid-19 struck, many economies in sub-Saharan Africa were expanding rapidly – faster than at any time since independence. Yet African growth accelerations were anomalous when viewed from the perspective of comparative development patterns; structural changes were accompanied by declining within-sector productivity growth in modern sectors. This column explores this anomaly in the context of African manufacturing using newly created firm-level panel data for Tanzania and Ethiopia. In both countries, there is a sharp dichotomy between larger firms that exhibit superior productivity performance but do not expand employment much, and small firms that absorb employment but do not experience any productivity growth. These patterns appear to be related to technological advances in global manufacturing which are making it more capital intensive.

Christopher Blattman, Stefan Dercon, 20 December 2016

African countries are scrambling to bring industrial firms into the continent, and workers face a choice between industrial jobs and self-employment. This column reports the results of a randomised controlled trial of 1,000 job applicants in Ethiopia, which suggests that industrial workers earned no more in a year than those given training as entrepreneurs, and had higher disability rates. Two-thirds of industrial workers chose to quit, suggesting that low wages and poor working conditions are a concern for policymakers who promote industrialisation.

Girum Abebe, Stefano Caria, Marcel Fafchamps, Paolo Falco, Simon Franklin, Simon Quinn, 09 December 2016

Youth unemployment is a growing problem around the world, particularly in urban areas. This column assesses the impact of labour market interventions in Addis Ababa targeting two issues commonly faced by unemployed youth: job search costs and a poor ability to signal their skills. A transport subsidy and a job application workshop were both found to have significant positive effects on youth labour market outcomes, pointing to the important role policymakers can play in helping young people find satisfying employment.

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