Foreign Direct Investment and Knowledge Diffusion in Poor Locations: Evidence from Ethiopia

NBER Working Paper No. 24461
Issued in March 2018, Revised in April 2018
NBER Program(s):International Trade and Investment

Girum Abebe, Margaret S. McMillan, Michel Serafinelli

We quantify foreign direct investment (FDI) spillovers by comparing changes in total factor productivity (TFP) among domestic plants in districts that attracted a large greenfield foreign plant and districts where greenfield FDI was licensed but not yet operational. Treated and untreated districts have similar trends in TFP prior to the opening of the large greenfield foreign plant. Over the four years starting with the year of the opening, TFP of domestic plants is 8% higher in treated districts. Using an alternative identification strategy that exploits the assignment of land for FDI by the Ethiopian Government, we obtain similar results. Foreign plants also attract new economic activity to treated districts. Exposure to foreign firms enhances domestic firms’: (i) production processes; (ii) managerial and organizational practices; (iii) logistics and; (iv) knowledge about exporting. Knowledge transfer is more likely among labor or vertically linked firms but also occurs outside these channels.