Foreign Direct Investment and Structural Transformation in Africa

Working Paper
Published on 23 January 2023


This paper analyzes the relationship between inward FDI and structural transformation of local labour markets in Africa. We combine geolocalized information on the distribution of FDI with a novel database that provides information from 40,665,627 individuals in 2,570 subnational units over the period 1987-2019. Results are suggestive of a positive effect of FDI on structural transformation. FDI contributes to an increase in employment, and shifts of workers towards modern industries and higher-skilled occupations. No effects are found on self-employment. Results are heterogeneous, reflecting the characteristics of the foreign investor and of the business activity undertaken by foreign firms in the local market. Geospatial analysis of changes in performance of domestic firms exposed to nearby FDI projects provides evidence of horizontal spillovers and inter-industry linkages, suggesting a complementary mechanism through which FDI drives structural change.


Bernard Hoekman

European University Institute

Marco Sanfilippo

University of Turin

Margherita Tambussi

University of Turin