Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

What Gets Measured Gets Done: Benchmarking for a Better Enabling Environment

A business maxim holds that what gets measured gets done — and for good reason. As budget realities compel us to achieve more with less, how do we justify investing precious resources on something intangible, like changing a law, rather than supporting a new agricultural technology? How can we demonstrate performance in legal, regulatory, or policy change when reforms do not often follow a linear process? And how can we establish a common framework for comparing enabling environment performance across countries and over time to facilitate an effective learning process?

In this next post in the series on practical tools and approaches to address enabling environment constraints to food security, we take a closer look at the World Bank’s Enabling the Business of Agriculture Index (EBA) as a data based tool to inform reform efforts. As of 2017, the global dataset scored eight topics related to the enabling environment for agriculture (seed, fertilizer, machinery, finance, markets, transport, water, and information communications technology) across 62 countries. Data was also collected on four new additional topics (gender, land, livestock, and environmental sustainability), which is available publicly but not yet scored. This data can help identify key challenges, generate momentum for reform, and serve as a source of transparency and accountability for results. Strategies and programming should use the EBA scores as meaningful inputs into a locally-owned, stakeholder-driven reform process that is complemented by a range of data types and sources. The data have strong potential to contribute to systemic reforms that can generate food security gains.

The following Q&A discusses a few common questions and “good to know” features of the methodology as you explore EBA data. You can also check out the “EBA Data Snapshots” recently created by the Feed the Future Enabling Environment for Food Security project to highlight 2017 EBA results for each of the following countries: Cambodia, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Senegal, Mali, Kenya, Malawi, Liberia, Tanzania, Uganda, Haiti, Tajikistan, BangladeshNepal, Guatemala, and Niger. These two-page snapshots highlight areas in which each country is performing well, and areas where the country is underperforming relative to others in the region and relative to a “best performer” in that area.

What is the Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) dataset?

EBA creates a benchmark, i.e., a set of data points against which progress can be measured over time. It provides quantitative scoring of the strength of a country’s enabling environment for agriculture. EBA measures both the quality of the regulatory framework and the efficiency with which it is implemented. The EBA methodology generates cross-country comparable data that can be used to track progress in enabling environment reforms over time. EBA serves as one of the best available means of benchmarking a national agricultural sector’s business enabling environment.  

What does and doesn’t EBA measure?

As of 2017, EBA scored eight topic areas of agricultural regulation and assigned a set of indicators to each topic. EBA employs two types of indicators: (1) legal indicators compare the types of regulations in a country against a list of global good practices; (2) efficiency indicators examine the time, cost, and number of procedures or documents required for full compliance with the regulations. Both legal indicators and efficiency indicators are scored according to their performance against a global ideal or “distance to the frontier” (DTF) on a scale of 0-100, with a larger DTF score indicating better performance in that area. The topic score is a simple average of the DTF score for each of the topic’s 1-5 indicators. It’s also important to remember that the data reflect only what is measured, which, while important, is also rarely the whole story. EBA does not measure informal economic activity or extralegal behavior, such as bribes, nor does it shed light on the broader political, economic, and social context in which agribusinesses operate.

What is “Distance to the Frontier” (DTF), and why is it useful for benchmarking?

What is “Distance to the Frontier” (DTF), and why is it useful for benchmarking?

While EBA scores can be presented in relative terms, through a country’s performance ranking relative to other EBA countries, the methodology is built around the country’s performance in absolute terms, using a “Distance to the Frontier” approach. The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index team developed the DTF score to address criticisms that a ranking system fails to reflect a country’s score improvement when all other countries also improve. DTF measures a country’s performance against the best possible score for each indicator. By establishing an absolute score, the DTF approach ensures that a country is truly competing against itself rather than other countries scored by EBA.

Is there an overall EBA Index score?

EBA does not calculate an overall index score. Each country’s score snapshot is a listing of the country’s individual topic DTF scores. However, an overall EBA index score can be easily calculated by averaging the topic DTF scores into a single composite DTF score. Additional information on the EBA scoring system and the indicators for each topic area can be found at the EBA website here.

Stay tuned for our next post that will explore key factors to consider when looking at building a supportive enabling environment for contract farming that meets the needs of smallholders and others in the market.