How can Rwanda, which currently has one of the lowest levels of income and exports per capita in the world, grow and diversify its economy in presence of significant constraints? We analyze Rwanda's historical growth and trade performance and find that Rwanda's high transportation costs and limited productive knowledge have held back greater export development and have resulted in excessive rural density. Three basic commodities – coffee, tea, and tin – made up more than 80 percent of the country's exports through its history and still drive the bulk of export growth today. Given Rwanda’s high population density and associated land scarcity, these traditional exports cannot create enough jobs for its growing population, or sustainably drive future growth. Rwanda needs new, scalable activities in urban areas. In this report, we identify a strategy for greater diversification of exports in Rwanda that circumvents the key constraints and is separately tailored for regional and global export destinations. Our results identify more than 100 tradable products that lie at Rwanda's knowledge frontier, are not intensive in Rwanda's scarce resources, and economize on transportation costs. Our analysis produces a vision of a more diversified Rwanda, which can be used as a guide for investment promotion decisions. We illustrate an approach that can be applied to other settings in order to identify opportunities for export diversification that take seriously local constraints and external market opportunities.
Who introduces structural change in regional economies: Entrepreneurs or existing firms? And do local or non‐local founders of establishments create most novelty in a region? Using matched employer/employee data for the whole Swedish workforce, we determine how unrelated and therefore how novel the activities of different establishments are to a region’s industry mix. Up‐ and downsizing establishments cause large shifts in the local industry structure, but these shifts only occasionally require an expansion of local capabilities because the new activities are often related to existing local activities. Indeed, these incumbents tend to align their production with the local economy, deepening the region’s specialization. In contrast, structural change mostly originates via new establishments, especially those with non‐local roots. Moreover, although entrepreneurs start businesses more often in activities unrelated to the existing regional economy, new establishments founded by existing firms survive in such activities more often, inducing longer‐lasting changes in the region.
It has been two years since we published the first edition of The Atlas of Economic Complexity. "The Atlas," as we have come to refer to it, has helped extend the availability of tools and methods that can be used to study the productive structure of countries and its evolution.
Many things have happened since the first edition of The Atlas was released at CID's Global Empowerment Meeting, on October 27, 2011. The new edition has sharpened the theory and empirical evidence of how knowhow affects income and growth and how knowhow itself grows over time. In this edition, we also update our numbers to 2010, thus adding two more years of data and extending our projections. We also undertook a major overhaul of the data. Sebastián Bustos and Muhammed Yildirim went back to the original sources and created a new dataset that significantly improves on the one used for the 2011 edition. They developed a new technique to clean the data, reducing inconsistencies and the problems caused by misreporting. The new dataset provides a more accurate estimate of the complexity of each country and each product. With this improved dataset, our results are even stronger.
The online sister site of this publication, The Atlas online, has been significantly enhanced with the use of an updated dataset which now covers up to 2013; the addition of bilateral trade data; and the inclusion of trade information classified according to the Harmonized System, a recently developed dataset which goes back to 1995, as well as the more traditional Standard International Trade Classification (SITC-4) dating back to 1962. Also, The Atlas online now includes multilingual support, country profiles, bulk data downloads, and a large number of design features, including dynamic text for the Tree Map visualizations and an improved design of the Product Space visualizations.
The Atlas online was originally launched as The Observatory and was developed by Alex Simoes with the assistance of Crystal Noel. The Atlas online is currently managed by Romain Vuillemot at the Center for International Development at Harvard University.
All in all, the new version of The Atlas provides a more accurate picture of each country’s economy, its "adjacent possible" and its future growth potential.
Over the past two centuries, mankind has accomplished what used to be unthinkable. When we look back at our long list of achievements, it is easy to focus on the most audacious of them, such as our conquest of the skies and the moon. Our lives, however, have been made easier and more prosperous by a large number of more modest, yet crucially important feats. Think of electric bulbs, telephones, cars, personal computers, antibiotics, TVs, refrigerators, watches and water heaters. Think of the many innovations that benefit us despite our minimal awareness of them, such as advances in port management, electric power distribution, agrochemicals and water purification. This progress was possible because we got smarter. During the past two centuries, the amount of productive knowledge we hold expanded dramatically. This was not, however, an individual phenomenon. It was a collective phenomenon. As individuals we are not much more capable than our ancestors, but as societies we have developed the ability to make all that we have mentioned – and much, much more.
Countries differ markedly in the diversification of their exports. Products differ in the number of countries that export them, which we define as their ubiquity. We document a new stylized fact in the global pattern of exports: there is a systematic relationship between the diversification of a country’s exports and the ubiquity of its products. We argue that this fact is not implied by current theories of international trade and show that it is not a trivial consequence of the heterogeneity in the level of diversification of countries or of the heterogeneity in the ubiquity of products. We account for this stylized fact by constructing a simple model that assumes that each product requires a potentially large number of non-tradable inputs, which we call capabilities, and that a country can only make the products for which it has all the requisite capabilities. Products differ in the number and specific nature of the capabilities they require, as countries differ in the number/nature of capabilities they have. Products that require more capabilities will be accessible to fewer countries (i.e., will be less ubiquitous), while countries that have more capabilities will have what is required to make more products (i.e., will be more diversified). Our model implies that the return to the accumulation of new capabilities increases exponentially with the number of capabilities already available in a country. Moreover, we find that the convexity of the increase in diversification associated with the accumulation of a new capability increases when either the total number of capabilities that exist in the world increases or the average complexity of products, defined as the number of capabilities products require, increases. This convexity defines what we term as aquiescence trap, or a trap of economic stasis: countries with few capabilities will have negligible or no return to the accumulation of more capabilities, while at the same time countries with many capabilities will experience large returns - in terms of increased diversification - to the accumulation of additional capabilities. We calibrate the model to three different sets of empirical data and show that the derived functional forms reproduce the empirically observed distributions of product ubiquity, the relationship between the diversification of countries and the average ubiquity of the products they export, and the distribution of the probability that two products are co-exported. This calibration suggests that the global economy is composed of a relatively large number of capabilities – between 23 and 80, depending on the level of disaggregation of the data – and that products require on average a relatively large fraction of these capabilities in order to be produced. The conclusion of this calibration is that the world exists in a regime where the quiescence trap is strong.
In this paper we examine the product space and its consequences for the process of structural transformation. We argue that the assets and capabilities needed to produce one good are imperfect substitutes for those needed to produce other goods, but the degree of asset specificity varies widely. Given this, the speed of structural transformation will depend on the density of the product space near the area where each country has developed its comparative advantage. While this space is traditionally assumed to be smooth and continuous, we find that in fact it is very heterogeneous, with some areas being very dense and others quite sparse. We develop a measure of revealed proximity between products using comparative advantage in order to map this space, and then show that its heterogeneity is not without consequence. The speed at which countries can transform their productive structure and upgrade their exports depends on having a path to nearby goods that are increasingly of higher value.