Achieving Scale Collectively

Journal Article
Published on 22 November 2022

This journal article is available here in Econometrica.


Many firms in developing countries could be too small to adopt modern technology embodied in expensive production machines. This paper shows that rental market interactions allow these small firms to increase their effective scale and mechanize production. We conduct a survey of manufacturing firms in Uganda, which uncovers an active rental market for large machines between small firms in informal clusters. We then build an equilibrium model of firm behavior and estimate it with our data. We find that the rental market is quantitatively important for mechanization and productivity since it provides a workaround for other market imperfections that keep firms small. The rental market also shapes the effectiveness of development policies to foster mechanization, such as subsidies to purchase machines. Overall, our results point to the importance of taking into account firm-to-firm interactions within informal clusters to understand technology adoption in low income countries: focusing on the small scale of firms in isolation might be misleading.


Vittorio Bassi

University of Southern California

Raffaela Muoio

BRAC Uganda

Tommaso Porzio

Columbia University

Ritwika Sen

International Growth Centre

Esau Tugume

BRAC Uganda