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Business training programs are a popular policy option to try to improve the performance of enterprises around the world. The last few years have seen rapid growth in the number of evaluations of these programs in developing countries. We undertake a critical review of these studies with the goal of synthesizing the emerging lessons and understanding the limitations of the existing research and the areas in which more work is needed. We find that there is substantial heterogeneity in the length, content, and types of firms participating in the training programs evaluated. Many evaluations suffer from low statistical power, measure impacts only within a year of training, and experience problems with survey attrition and measurement of firm profits and revenues. Over these short time horizons, there are relatively modest impacts of training on survivorship of existing firms, but stronger evidence that training programs help prospective owners launch new businesses more quickly. Most studies find that existing firm owners implement some of the practices taught in training, but the magnitudes of these improvements in practices are often relatively modest. Few studies find significant impacts on profits or sales, although a couple of the studies with more statistical power have done so. Some studies have also found benefits to microfinance organizations of offering training. To date there is little evidence to help guide policymakers as to whether any impacts found come from trained firms competing away sales from other businesses versus through productivity improvements, and little evidence to guide the development of the provision of training at market prices. We conclude by summarizing some directions and key questions for future studies.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.
Recently CGD hosted the Second Annual Birdsall House Conference on Women, which focused on beyond-aid approaches for women’s economic empowerment, with particular emphasis on private sector engagement. CGD experts have written about how international organizations and national agencies should examine and correct gender biases in the design and delivery of their strategies for financial inclusion. But while public sector interventions are crucial for promoting women’s economic empowerment, the panelists pointed out that the private sector is in many ways better equipped to provide opportunities for women to grow their businesses, investments, and incomes. Here’s our takeaway.
On Monday, Grant Shapps, the UK's Minister of State at the Department for International Development, kicked off DFID’s Energy Africa campaign at an event hosted by the Shell Foundation designed to help his team figure out how the UK government can invest its political clout and an initial £30 million ($46 million) to tackle rural energy poverty in Africa. Given solar’s limitations and these risks, how can we make sure that Energy Africa fulfils Minister Shapps’s ambitious brief?