Author Archives: Guest

Building a Network of Women Entrepreneurs in Serbia

serbia-business-women

By Olivera Popović

While the global economic crisis in 2008 affected many countries worldwide, the shock to Serbia’s society and economy was magnified due to the ongoing transition processes there. For the past fifty years, women in Serbia were most often employed in the public sector as part of Yugoslavia’s socialist planned economy. In the past two decades, the transition from socialism to liberal capitalism and an open market economy has initiated changes in approaches to work and ultimately led to a greater presence of women in business.

In making this transition, women face an uphill battle – in gaining greater access to capital, technology, networks, and acquiring the knowledge to start and grow their businesses. On top of those challenges, the social and economic landscape is characterized by poor labor market outcomes, a high youth unemployment rate, and large long-term unemployment. According to the Regional Cooperation Council (2013), the country’s per capita GDP is currently only 38 percent of the EU average.

Data from the International Labour Organization (ILO) shows that the overall unemployment rate in Serbia is 23.9 percent, with almost 25 of women unemployed. Youth unemployment is remarkably high (51 percent) and even more astonishing, 57 percent of young women are out of work. Equally important, universities in Serbia do not foster enough entrepreneurial spirit among students. Consequentially, students fail to fully consider entrepreneurship as a viable career option.

Recognizing this need for support to aspiring and established women entrepreneurs in a complex economic situation, the Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW) created “Inspiring Women Entrepreneurship,” a project to strengthen the leadership and entrepreneurial capacity of young women in Serbia.

Read More…

To Benefit from Energy Resources, Lebanon Needs Better Institutions, Not Just Greater Transparency

A map showing the offshore areas being opened to oil and gas exploration. The auctions have been repeatedly delayed.

A map showing the offshore areas being opened to oil and gas exploration. The auctions have been repeatedly delayed. (Photo: Deloitte)

By Sami Atallah

A paradox confronts countries endowed with oil and gas resources. Despite their riches, these countries tend to grow slower in the long term, have higher income inequality, be more corrupt and even become authoritarian. This, of course is not the fate of all such countries — many have managed to turn the oil curse into a blessing. Those that did had two things going for them: a high level of human capital and good institutions that upheld checks and balances on power.

Although Lebanon is well endowed with human capital, its institutions are generally weak. The Taef agreement redistributed power more equally across the three key institutions — the presidency, the parliament and the prime ministership — that are associated with the three dominant sects, and in many ways, undermined the political system.

For one, the executive authority became diffused to an extent that it is no longer obvious who is in charge. The members of the parliament seem less interested in legislating and holding executive authority accountable and more interested in providing services to constituents. The political parties have mastered the game of electoral survival by crafting election laws through redistricting and vote counting in ways that get them reelected with little to show for. They have resorted to clientelistic strategies of buying votes and providing services in return for political loyalty. Furthermore, the judiciary and the oversight agencies whose job it is to hold the government accountable were at best sidelined but most often intentionally weakened through political interventions or bureaucratic understaffing.

In sum, the political elite govern the country largely by the logic of dividing the spoils among themselves through illegal subcontracting of projects, violating tendering requirements, as well as contracting companies despite conflicts of interest. This has resulted in high levels of corruption, embezzlement, mismanagement and waste benefiting the political elite at the expense of the rest of the population.

It is against this backdrop that the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA), the body entrusted to govern the oil sector, came into being. Between November 2012 and August 2013, the LPA proceeded rather efficiently and with more transparency than most Lebanese institutions in approaching the sector. It held consultative meetings and workshops, and managed to lay the groundwork for the launch of the offshore licensing round. Now it is waiting on the government to pass the last decrees for the process to continue, and has found itself caught up in the Lebanese political mill with no clear way out of the deadlock.

Read More…

Five Lessons from CEOs at the Corporate Citizenship Conference

ccc

By Mark Horoszowski

Earlier this month at the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Conference, CEOs from diverse organizations gathered for a Plenary Panel titled “Lessons From the Top”. The CEOs represented a variety of industries and include the YWCA (non-profit), United Nations Foundation, and two socially-minded for-profits: Starfish Media Group and Reserveage

These are their five lessons:

Read More…

Mongolia Must Improve Its Institutions to Avoid the Resource Curse

mongolia-mine

By Dash Enkhbayar

The West tends to illustrate Mongolia as an “example of a developing country that, despite the odds, managed to accomplish a peaceful transition to democracy.” However, simply achieving an electoral democracy does not complete a country’s democratic transition. Recent years have shed light on the major institutional flaws that still exists in the country’s public and private sectors.

Sandwiched between China and Russia, Mongolia has been attracting significant attention for the past couple of years due to its rapid economic growth and burgeoning mining sector. It recorded the world’s fastest GDP growth rate in 2011 at 17 percent, which put Mongolia in the international spotlight for investment opportunities.

But corruption, poor governance, and unstable government regulations threaten Mongolia’s economic potential. In 2013, due to unfriendly investment laws such as the Strategic Entities Foreign Investment Law, foreign direct investment (FDI) in Mongolia plummeted by 48 percent, which effectively scared away many investors interested in the nation. Mongolia is, in fact, not a model democracy that it seeks to invoke. Instead, the last few years have demonstrated that unless Mongolia seriously starts tackling its institutional weakness it may succumb to the “resource curse,” in which a country with an abundance of natural resources experiences poor economic growth and a worsening political climate.

Read More…

Moving Beyond the Bi-Polar View of Doing Business in Africa

New buildings in Gabarone, the capital of Botswana -- one of the most developed and fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Gabarone is the capital of Botswana — one of the most developed and fastest-growing economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

By Naledi Modisaatsone

Economic improvements and a wealth of opportunities for business in Africa have led to an increased focus on the continent. Over the past three years Ernst & Young’s Africa attractiveness reports have highlighted the continent’s steady rise. Their research provides some quantitative substance to the growing perception that African markets offer an exciting growth and investment opportunity.

Africa’s growth prospects differ not only country by country but also sector by sector. For example, agriculture is Africa’s largest economic sector, representing 15 percent of the continent’s total GDP, or more than $100 billion annually. It is highly concentrated, with Egypt and Nigeria alone accounting for one-third of total agricultural output and the top ten countries generating 75 percent.

Africa’s banking sector has also grown rapidly in the last decade. Sub-Saharan Africa has become a substantial player in emerging-market banking, with total 2008 assets of $669 billion, while North Africa’s asset base has grown substantially, to $497 billion. Africa’s banking assets thus compare favorably with those in other emerging markets, such as Russia (with $995 billion).

However, the Ernst & Young reports also highlight a lingering perception gap between companies already doing business on the continent and those with no business presence there. The respondents with an established business presence in Africa are more positive about the continent’s prospects and rank Africa as the most attractive regional investment destination in the world today. They view it as an exciting, dynamic, high-growth market. In stark contrast, respondents that have not yet invested are negative and rank Africa as the least attractive regional investment destination in the world.

The African business community should spend some time on this issue at the US-Africa Business Forum. It is their responsibility to debunk the myths that some external investors have about operating a successful business in Africa. These business leaders are successfully embracing Africa’s uncertainty, complexity and volatility, understanding that these are common challenges across most emerging markets.

They are actively balancing the three tensions that all companies face in doing business in emerging markets: long-term versus short-term focus, profit-taking versus sustainable growth, and managing the whole versus optimizing the parts. Most importantly, their companies are establishing strong competitive positions in key markets and are poised to benefit from the continued growth anticipated over the next decade.

Read More…

U.S. Companies Should Not Overlook Opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa

A growing textile industry is among the drivers of Ghana's rapid economic growth in recent years. (Photo: Wall Street Journal.)

A growing textile industry is among the drivers of Ghana’s rapid economic growth in recent years. (Photo: Wall Street Journal.)

By Chris Braddock

Next week the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit will bring approximately 50 heads of state to Washington, DC, for the purpose of discussing trade and investment in Africa and highlighting America’s commitment to the continent. During a recent trip in the region, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this topic.

Over the past four months I was busy traveling in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), meeting with businesses and academics and researching the business opportunities in five different countries. As part of this trip I had the opportunity to meet with several CIPE partners and consultants who, as representatives of the private sector, were able to speak about the enabling environment and some of the challenges and opportunities of businesses working in SSA.

Most countries in SSA have historically been seen as too unstable, too small a market, or too risky for U.S. companies to explore opportunities, so there are few American companies operating in the region. The perception of SSA for many is based on the plethora of negative stories presented by the media, but this is merely a small and decreasingly significant part of the SSA story. Growth rates are high, people are optimistic with larger disposable incomes, and foreign direct investment is flowing in larger quantities, particularly from Asia. U.S. firms are starting to get left behind.

Read More…

Broadband Internet Access and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean

internet_peru

By Gustavo Guerrero

While broadband internet has become an essential business tool, it has been slow to arrive in the areas that need the benefits of development the most – namely rural regions of developing countries. Though there has been some growth over the years, there is still a long way to go. Recognizing this, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) released a report showing the effect of broadband internet on the economies of Latin American and Caribbean countries, outlining how countries can improve their telecommunications infrastructure.

Nationwide high-speed internet access is something that many in the developed world take for granted. However, in the developing world there is a different story. In Nigeria, low broadband penetration has been cited as hindering the development of e-commerce in Africa’s largest economy. Similar examples are present all across the developing world.  The potential for growth is there, waiting, but it cannot be realized until broadband penetration and speed are improved.

Having a web presence is now almost a prerequisite for becoming a successful business.  The specific type of web presence can range from simply listing basic business contact information and operating hours, to having an online sales portal. Being online offers many benefits with very few, if any drawbacks. While most businesses in the developed world have adapted to this new environment, businesses in many parts of the world lack basic internet access that would allow them to grow and thrive.

The report, Socioeconomic Impact of Broadband in Latin American and Caribbean Countries, consists of two major components which aim to promote broadband internet connection in the region.  The first is an econometric model for LAC countries which helps determine how increases to broadband penetration could affect their GDP.  The second is a set of recommendations designed to help governments best improve their infrastructure.

Read More…