All in the family? The effect of family firm successions on firm organization in Africa and Asia

While the ownership and control structures of firms have long been understood as crucial factors for explaining firm outcomes, research in this area has focused on large firms in rich countries because of a lack of data on firm ownership in developing countries. This project aims to fill the gap in data availability and to formally investigate the effects of firm ownership and control structures on firm organisation and performance. 

Building on a previous data collection project in Latin American countries, we are now gathering data on firm ownership and control structure history from SMEs in several countries of Africa and South Asia, specifically: Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Nigeria, Vietnam and Myanmar. The data is being collected by telephone surveys using a sample of firms in the World Management Survey. After merging the various country datasets, we will then aim to identify the causal effect of ownership and CEO choice on firm management practices, decentralization and performance. In order to identify this effect, we will exploit the fact that in many cases, CEOs are more likely to keep the firm in the family if they have a male heir. 

In developing countries especially, family firms account for a large proportion of firms and employment. Thus, it is important that we understand the possible bottlenecks holding back this important group of firms from greater development and growth. The surveys on ownership and control structure grew out of this need to understand which path of ownership firms choose to take, why they make these choices and with what consequences - with the ultimate goal of encouraging high quality research and informing public policy. To learn more about the Ownership Survey project, please visit the full project website here.


Daniela Scur

Cornell University

Renata Lemos

World Bank