Office of the Chief Economist for Africa Region
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International economics, Industrial organization, Development economics
Office of the Chief Economist for Africa Region
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Last updated January 31, 2023
Kaleb Girma Abreha is an economist in the Office of the Chief Economist for the Africa Region at the World Bank. He was also a World Bank Africa fellow. Before joining the World Bank, he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Economics and Business Economics and Department of Management, Aarhus University (Denmark). In addition to research, he lectured and assisted several undergraduate and graduate courses in economics, international business, and strategic management at universities in Denmark and Ethiopia. He has a PhD in economics from Aarhus University (Denmark), an MSc in agricultural economics from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), and a BA in economics from Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia). Kaleb’s research focuses on industrialization, international trade and investment, global value chains, productivity, exchange rates, and CEOs and firm performance. His research has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the World Bank Economic Review and the World Economy.
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Mobile Access Expansion and Price Information Diffusion: Firm Performance after Ethiopia’s Transition to 3G in 2008(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2021-08) Abreha, Kaleb ; Choi, Jieun ; Kassa, Woubet ; Kim, Hyun Ju ; Kugler, MauriceThis paper investigates whether enhanced access to mobile communications, including internet, primarily through smart phones, increases competition as price information is more widely available to customers—both households and firms. The exogenous shock to identify these impacts is the transition from 2G to the 3G broadband network standard in 2008, and the induced changes in the geographic variation across districts of data plan availability for households. The operational mechanism is that better household and firm telecommunications access can close information asymmetry gaps between buyers and sellers, with increased competition leading to improved firm performance. Lower markups and reduced price dispersion can result from better incentives for firms to preserve and grow market share. And as price competition squeezes profit margins, there are more incentives for firms to reduce costs—inducing higher total factor productivity growth. Improved firm performance can generate jobs and economic transformation. Indeed, faster productivity growth, due to enhanced access for buyers to mobile telecommunications, can translate into higher formal employment and wages. One open question is whether the potential competition, driven by the increased mobile telecommunications access of buyers, which help them have the best alternative prices at their fingertips, will also impact export-oriented companies. The prior is that the firm performance improvement effect would be more salient for firms mostly focused on local markets. The primary data sources are manufacturing firm census data and household expenditure survey data across woredas (districts or counties) in Ethiopia. First, the paper investigates the relation between expanded access with the 3G network to price information through mobile phones (measured at the woreda level as share of households with substantive expenditure to access data through smartphones) and firm performance measures (markups, total factor productivity, labor productivity, wage growth, wage gaps and employment growth.), across districts with different shares of mobile telecommunication and data plan penetration subscription. The paper estimates models with difference-in-differences and triple differences. The evidence is consistent with competition intensification after the improvement in access to mobile communication due to the 3G network rollout. In particular, markups were reduced and there was higher growth in productivity, wages, and employment.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2022-11) Abreha, Kaleb Girma ; Cirera, Xavier ; Fattal Jaef, Roberto N. ; Maemir, Hibret Belete ; Davies, Elwyn ; Maemir, Hibret BeleteThis paper characterizes the firm size distribution by exploiting establishment-level censuses covering both formal and informal firms in Sub-Saharan Africa. The paper finds a "missing middle" in the employment-based size distribution of firms in four Sub-Saharan African countries. This "missing middle" hinges on the inclusion of informal firms, and it is not explained by state- or foreign-owned firms at the top of the size distribution, nor does it emerge from the size distribution of entrants. The paper reconciles these empirical results with a model of firm dynamics with endogenous informality and shows that calibrated values of entry barriers and productivity-dependent idiosyncratic distortions generate a "missing middle" that is consistent with its underlying drivers in the data.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2021-11-23) Abreha, Kaleb G. ; Kassa, Woubet ; Lartey, Emmanuel K.K. ; Mengistae, Taye A. ; Owusu, Solomon ; Zeufack, Albert G.Industrialization drives the sustained growth in jobs and productivity that marks the developmental take-off of most developed economies. Yet, academics and policy makers have questioned the role of manufacturing in development for late industrializers, especially in view of rapid advancements in technologies and restructuring of international trade. Concurrently, industrialization and structural transformation are integral to the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the development strategies of several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Given this renewed interest in industrialization across the region, a central question is not whether SSA countries should pursue industrialization as a potential path to sustainable growth but how to promote the prospects of industrialization. Industrialization in Sub-Saharan Africa: Seizing Opportunities in Global Value Chains addresses this question by reassessing the prospects for industrialization in SSA countries through integration into global value chains. It also examines the role of policy in enhancing these prospects. The main findings indicate that • SSA has not experienced premature deindustrialization; the region has witnessed substantial growth in manufacturing jobs despite a lack of improvement in the contribution of manufacturing value-added to GDP. • The region’s integration into manufacturing global value chains is reasonably high but it is dominated by exports of primary products and engagement in low-skill tasks. • Global value chain integration has led to job growth, and backward integration is associated with more job creation. The report emphasizes the role of policy in maintaining a competitive market environment, promoting productivity growth, and investing in skills development and enabling sectors such as infrastructure and finance. Policy makers can strengthen the global value chain linkages by (1) increasing the value-added content of current exports, (2) upgrading into high-skill tasks, and (3) creating comparative advantages in knowledge-intensive industries.
Publication(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2022-04-13) Zeufack, Albert G. ; Calderon, Cesar ; Kabundi, Alain ; Kubota, Megumi ; Korman, Vijdan ; Raju, Dhushyanth ; Abreha, Kaleb Girma ; Kassa, Woubet ; Owusu, SolomonSub-Saharan Africa's recovery from the pandemic is expected to decelerate in 2022 amid a slowdown in global economic activity, continued supply constraints, outbreaks of new coronavirus variants, climatic shocks, high inflation, and rising financial risks due to high and increasingly vulnerable debt levels. The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the already existing tensions and vulnerabilities affecting the continent. Given the sources of growth in the region and the nature of the economic linkages with Russia and Ukraine, the war in Ukraine might have a marginal impact on economic growth and on overall poverty—as this shock affects mostly the urban poor and vulnerable people living just above the poverty line. However, its largest impact is on the increasing likelihood of civil strife as a result of food- and energy-fueled inflation amid an environment of heightened political instability. The looming threats of stagflation require a two-pronged strategy that combines short-term measures to contain inflationary pressures and medium-to-long-term policies that accelerate the structural transformation and create more and better jobs. In response to supply shocks, monetary policy in the region may prove ineffective to bring down inflation and other short-run options may be restricted by the lack of fiscal space. Concessional financing might be key to helping countries alleviate the impact of food and fuel inflation. Over the medium term, avoiding stagflation may require a combination of actionable measures that improve the resilience of the economy by shoring up productivity and job creation. Lastly, ongoing actions to enhance social protection—including dynamic delivery systems for rapid scalability and shock-sensitive financing—could be strengthened further to improve economic resilience against shocks and foster investments in productive assets.
Publication(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2020-10) Abreha, Kaleb ; Lartey, Emmanuel ; Mengistae, Taye ; Owusu, Solomon ; Zeufack, AlbertAfrica's linkages in manufacturing global value chains are reasonably high compared with other developing regions. Still, linkage rates have declined steeply in recent years in non-resource rich countries in the region although they have increased sharply in countries that are rich in natural resources. Moreover, the level and dynamics of linkages to manufacturing global value chains vary significantly between countries within each group of natural resource endowments. The current levels, activity structure, and geographic configuration of linkage rates evolved over the past 20 years. In addition, these linkages cut across broad activity categories, including manufacturing textiles and apparel, metal products, transport equipment, and electrical goods. This paper analyzes the sources of the variation in linkage rates in the framework of an estimated gravity and linear probability model. It is shown that the domestic actors in these linkages are typically relatively large establishments (100 or more employees) and have been in operation for five years or longer. These manufacturers are also more likely to have foreign equity holders or foreign technology licenses. These findings should be seen in the light of policies that promote industrialization by facilitating integration into manufacturing global value chains at links that maximize job and productivity gains.