Foreign direct investment and knowledge diffusion in poor locations

Journal Article
Published on 1 September 2022

The open access version of this article is available here at the Journal of Development Economics.


We use plant level census data to identify spillovers from FDI in Ethiopia’s manufacturing sector. Spillovers are identified by comparing changes in total factor productivity (TFP) among domestic plants in districts where a large greenfield foreign plant produces and districts where FDI in the same industry was licensed but not yet operational. Over the four years starting with the year of the FDI opening, the TFP of domestic plants is 11 percent higher in treated districts, employment in domestic plants increases and more domestic plants open. We describe mechanisms for knowledge diffusion using a plant level technology transfer survey. One third of Ethiopian plants are linked to FDI through labor sharing, supply chains and competition. Technology upgrading is most common as a reaction to competition in output markets and observation and imitation of FDI in the same line of business. Other benefits include enhanced managerial practices and knowledge about exporting.


Girum Abebe

World Bank

Margaret McMillan

Tufts University

Michel Serafinelli

University of Essex