Second Best? Investment Climate and Performance in Africa's Special Economic Zones

39 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

Date Written: October 1, 2010


As an instrument of trade and investment policy, special economic zones have played a catalytic role in processes of industrialization, diversification, and trade integration in many countries, particularly in East Asia. However, in the African context, anecdotal evidence suggests the experience has been disappointing on the whole. Among the reasons why many zones underperform may be that they fail to establish a high quality investment environment -- this is, after all, one of the main promises that economic zones hold for investors. Drawing on original survey research, this paper presents a systematic analysis of the outcomes and the investment climate of economic zones programs in six African countries and four developing countries outside the region. The analysis finds that although performance across zones is mixed -- with Ghana and Lesotho in particular performing well on some measures -- African zones programs on the whole are underperforming in terms of attracting investment, facilitating exports, and creating jobs. Economic zones in Africa offer an improved business environment relative to what is available to firms based outside the zones; however, in comparison with the non-African countries in the survey, both absolute investment climate performance and relative improvements fall well short.

Keywords: Environmental Economics & Policies, Emerging Markets, Debt Markets, Investment and Investment Climate, ICT Policy and Strategies

Suggested Citation

Farole, Thomas, Second Best? Investment Climate and Performance in Africa's Special Economic Zones (October 1, 2010). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 5447, Available at SSRN:

Thomas Farole (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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