Financing African SMEs: can more of the same help bridge the gap?

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By Rodrigo Deiana, Junior Policy Analyst, and Arthur Minsat, Head of Unit for Europe, Middle East and Africa (acting), OECD Development Centre


The topic discussed here builds on the success of the 2017 Africa Forum


Africa-SMEsAfrican firms don’t have it easy. Among the many constraints faced by formal companies, access to finance consistently ranks as a top issue. Almost 20% of formal African companies cite access to finance as a constraint to their business.1 Overall, African micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) face a financing shortfall of about USD 190 billion from the traditional banking sector.2 African firms are 19% less likely to have a bank loan, compared to other regions of the world. Within Africa, small enterprises are 30% less likely to obtain bank loans than large ones and medium-sized enterprises are 13% less likely.3

To bridge this gap, governments and market players need to strengthen existing credit channels as well as expand new financing mechanisms.

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La promesse du « made in Africa » ne sera tenue qu’en misant sur les entrepreneurs locaux

Par Victor Harison, commissaire aux affaires économiques de la Commission de l’UA. et Mario Pezzini est directeur du Centre de développement de l’OCDE et conseiller spécial auprès du secrétaire général de l’OCDE chargé du développement.


The topic discussed here builds on the success of the 2017 Africa Forum


Les politiques et stratégies industrielles joueront certes un rôle essentiel, mais elles doivent être repensées profondément. D’abord parce que les efforts d’industrialisation après les indépendances n’ont remporté qu’un succès limité, mais aussi parce que les technologies de production ont subi une révolution, qui n’est pas seulement numérique. L’économie mondiale a radicalement changé, et l’Afrique aussi.
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Services, informality and productivity in Africa

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By Tabea Lakemann, Research Fellow, GIGA Institute of African Affairs and University of Göttingen, and Jann Lay, Acting Director, GIGA Institute of African Affairs, and Head of GIGA Research Programme Growth and Development


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
17th International Economic Forum on Africa


Services, informality and productivity in AfricaEconomic development and a sustained, broad-based increase in living standards on the African1 continent are critically connected to the capacity of African economies to create decent jobs at a rate that keeps up with the rapid growth of the workforce. This, in turn, depends on the ability of African governments to develop innovative, tailor-made strategies towards private sector development taking full advantage of countries’ comparative advantages. Private sector development strategies require governments to recognise the significance of informality and to look beyond industrialisation — to the service sector — for private sector growth and job creation.

The potential of informal firms

On average, the informal economy is estimated to make up almost 40% of GPD in Africa.2 Informal firms are typically much smaller than formal ones, but even when controlling for size, they are on average less productive, less likely to access external finance and have less educated managers.3 At the same time, heterogeneity between informal firms is considerable. Some firms exhibit very high marginal returns to capital, and between 28% and 58% of informal entrepreneurs in West Africa are identified as “constrained gazelles” with low capital stocks, but some unrealised growth potential.4 Many informal firms thus have the likely potential to provide an improved livelihood to their self-employed owners and family members engaged in the business.
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Helping entrepreneurs thrive in Africa

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By Rémy Rioux, Director General of Agence Française de Développement


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
17th International Economic Forum on Africa
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Africa-AFDAfrican entrepreneurs are a key driving force for the continent’s emergence. 80% of Africans view entrepreneurship as a good career opportunity. Take African start-ups. They pioneer social innovations. Thanks to the fintech industry, for example, the diaspora can connect with their relatives and directly finance their health expenses, as in the case of Leea. This company benefitted from Digital Africa, an initiative of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) to help African start-ups through financing, coaching and business training. African entrepreneurs and customers show the way forward and accelerate the continent’s leapfrogging in terms of technology innovation in banking, health, agriculture, urban mobility, education, and more.

However, at a macro level, 80% of Africa’s labour force works in the informal sector. Unemployment is high, especially amongst the youth, who are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Development banks can play a role in addressing the macro policy, nurturing job-intensive growth across the continent and financing gaps. How?
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The blurred boundaries of political violence in the Sahel-Sahara

By Olivier Walther, Visiting Associate Professor, Center for African Studies at the University of Florida and Associate Professor, University of Southern Denmark


Explore the OECD West African Papers series for more work on African socio-economic, political and security dynamics.


The Sahel and the Sahara are faced with exceptional political instability involving a combination of rebellions, jihadist insurgencies, coups d’état, protest movements and illegal trafficking. Analysis of the outbreaks of violence reveals that the region is not just the victim of an escalation of wars and conflicts that marked the 20th century. The Sahel-Sahara has also become the setting of a globalised security environment, in which boundaries between what is local and global, domestic and international, military and civilian, politics and identity are blurred.

Local grievances, global reach

A shared characteristic of many conflicts in the Sahel-Sahara is that belligerents often leverage global ideas to pursue local and national claims. Boko Haram, for example, simultaneously exploits the pan-Islamist vision of a unified Muslim world, whose boundaries transcend national borders to embrace all believers, and the historical narrative of the Kanem-Bornu empire that reigned over the Lake Chad region for around 1 000 years. These players also rely on the investment of global resources into struggles that are driven by local and national aspirations. For Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), in particular, the unofficial ransoms paid by foreign governments in exchange for hostages represent amounts estimated at several tens of millions of dollars.
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Building Africa’s entrepreneurial culture

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By Giulia Ajmone Marsan and Jonathan Potter, OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Local Development and Tourism


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
17th International Economic Forum on Africa
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Africa-Idea-[Converted]Over the last decade, Africa has witnessed the emergence of a dynamic start-up scene in some of its countries. The district of Yaba, in Lagos, Nigeria is one example. In Yaba, young educated people are supported by a network of incubators, accelerators and other support facilities. This entrepreneurship cluster has taken advantage of the nearby presence of many Nigerian higher education institutions, such as the Yaba College of Technology, the University of Lagos, or the Federal Science and Technical College for students and facilities.

Another well-known case is the so-called Silicon Savannah in Kenya, a highly entrepreneurial eco-system that has given birth to innovative tech companies like M-Pesa, the worldwide money transfer and financing service operating via mobile phones, and Ushahidi, the well-known crowdsourcing platform. As in Nigeria, some of the universities based in Nairobi, notably the University of Nairobi and Strathmore University, are important actors in this eco-system.
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Management and industrialisation in Africa

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By Daniela Scur and Nicolas Lippolis, University of Oxford


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
17th International Economic Forum on Africa
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Africa-IndustrialisaionThe manufacturing sector has traditionally been seen as an engine for development due to its high propensity for productivity gains. Worryingly, recent evidence suggests that this has not been the case in Africa.1 One important determinant of firm productivity is the quality of management practices, and new data sheds light on the state of management in some African countries.

Management around the world

For over 12 years, the World Management Survey (WMS) has been collecting data on management practices using an interview-based methodology. It defines 18 key management practices and scores them from worst practice (1) to best practice (5). The focus is on such practices as monitoring, target-setting and incentives/people management. Research using this data suggests a strong correlation between management and a series of productivity measures – such as firm size, profitability, sales growth, market value and survival. Experimental evidence further confirms a positive correlation.2 Continue reading