The Power of Agribusiness Indicators to Prompt Policy Change
Benchmarking yourself against others has proven to be one of the most effective ways to drive improvement. It is a common practice in academics and athletics, in business and industry, and many other areas. It is typically applied to gauge performance but often used to assess conditions. Being able to compare yourself – using actual data – to those who surround you, to those you look up to and those you compete against often provides critical information and inspiration to do better.
Benchmarking in agriculture is a long-standing practice. It has been helpful in identifying best practices and improving performance in agriculture. As early as the 4th century BC, the Greek historian Xenophon said, “You have discovered the reasons why some farmers are so successful that husbandry yields them all they need in abundance, and others are so inefficient that they find farming unprofitable. I should like to hear the reasons in each case, in order that we may do what is good and avoid what is harmful.”
Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) was developed to enable countries to compare their regulatory environment for agribusiness to that of other countries. It does so by measuring and monitoring through a set of indicators key elements of countries’ regulatory framework that affect agribusiness value chains and actors. The image below shows how country regulations and practices related to seeds, fertilizer, machinery, water, transport, markets, ICT and finance shape to varying extents the terrain of agribusiness which allow suppliers, farmers, processors and distributors to thrive. The objective of fostering policy learning and change in the sector. Ultimately, it aims to provide valuable information that can be used for evidence-based policy making that promotes good governance, inclusive value chains, competition, market transparency and private sector development.
Results published in the latest EBA report (2017) are too extensive to report here. Country by country profiles (such as the example for Guatemala below) are available in the report and country comparisons per topic can be easily drawn from the website (eba.worldbank.org). Scorecards and other visuals on findings, if not already available, can be easily put together to offer incisive messages. The wealth of data on an area of critical importance for private sector investment, where little evidence has been collected in the past, is notable.
What can be highlighted here is the attention it has drawn in quite a number of countries, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, pointing to the prospect of its effectiveness as a tool that can be used to prompt and inform regulatory reform. In about two dozen countries covered by the EBA 2017 Report, activity has taken place that has raised the interest of government representatives and policymakers, in almost all cases leading to an impetus to utilize findings for policy dialogue, analysis and/or reform. Government-backed teams or mechanisms have been put in place in several countries, including Malawi, Cambodia, Kenya, Kazakhstan and Zimbabwe, and a few others have incorporated the evidence produced by EBA into their national agricultural strategies. In some of these countries, findings are being or will be used for projects that aim at driving reform. In a smaller number, even at such an early stage of the development of EBA, reforms have started taking place. Further information on related developments and progress in different countries is available upon request.
The EBA team is available to help with use of report results to raise policy discussions which might trigger the sort of change that will strengthen the role of private sector in driving development outcomes. The team has been working with operational staff in different countries – within the World Bank and in other agencies – and is increasingly collaborating with different entities to bring the value of EBA findings to bear on the policy work being done in the field. In no way is EBA exhaustive in the areas it covers and the information it delivers. But it has become quite clear that its incisiveness and conciseness enables it to open doors, kickstart discussions, spark broader analyses and advance evidence-based policy making.