NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Economic Transformation in Africa from the Bottom Up: Evidence from Tanzania

Xinshen Diao, Josaphat Kweka, Margaret McMillan

NBER Working Paper No. 22889
Issued in December 2016
NBER Program(s):DEV, PR

At roughly 4% per annum, labor productivity in Tanzania has grown more rapidly over the past 12 years than at any other time in recent history. Employment growth has also been strong keeping up with population growth at roughly 2.5 percent per annum; the bulk of employment growth (90%) has been in the non-agricultural sector. However, the vast majority of this non-agricultural employment growth has occurred in the informal sector. Using Tanzania’s first nationally representative survey of micro, small and medium sized enterprises - we show that firms in the informal sector contributed roughly half a percentage point to economy-wide labor productivity growth in Tanzania between 2002 and 2012. However, virtually all of the labor productivity growth contributed by informal firms came from a small subset of firms we call the in-between firms. We consider attributes of the in-between firms that could be used for targeting financial and business services to firms with the potential to grow. We find two salient characteristics of firms in the in-between sector that might lend themselves to targeting – their owners are more likely to keep written accounts and they are more likely to keep their savings in formal bank accounts.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22889

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