Analysis of firm-level panel data from three sub-Saharan African economies shows that exporting manufacturers have a total factor productivity premium of 11-28 percent. The data do not allow testing of whether these premiums are caused by selection of more efficient producers into exporting or by learning-by-exporting. By thinking about the mechanisms behind selectivity and learning, however, our finding of higher premiums for direct exporters and exporters to outside Africa could be interpreted as being consistent with learning-by-exporting effects. However, if learning-by-exporting is indeed present in the data, we cannot disentangle its effect on productivity from those of more traditionally recognized channels of international technology diffusion.
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
Many firm-level studies in developed and developing countries alike have found that exporters, in general, are more productive than nonexporters. But, until recently, the literature in this area had little to report on how productivity varies among different types ofmanufacturing exporters in Africa. Taye Mengistae, a Research Economist at the World Bank, and Catherine Pattillo, a Senior Economist in the IMF’s Research Department, met with the IMF Survey to discuss their Working Paper, Export Orientation and Productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa, which looks at this issue.