Open Economies Review

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 87–117 | Cite as

Importing, Productivity and Absorptive Capacity in Sub-Saharan African Manufacturing and Services Firms

  • Neil Foster-McGregor
  • Anders Isaksson
  • Florian KaulichEmail author
Research Article


This paper examines the relationship between importing and firm-level productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using a recent firm-level survey for 19 Sub-Saharan African countries, the paper shows that there is a positive and significant relationship between importing and productivity for both manufacturing and services firms. Using a series of robustness tests, the paper finds that the importer-productivity relationship is robust in the case of manufacturing firms, but the results for services appear sensitive to the presence of extreme values. Finally, the paper shows that manufacturing firms with the highest levels of human capital show the strongest relationship between importing and productivity, a result consistent with a role for absorptive capacity in maximising the benefits of importing.


Importing Productivity Sub-Saharan Africa Absorptive capacity Human capital 

JEL Classification

D24 F10 M20 L10 



The dataset used in this paper is an output of the project EERAF08043 “Survey of Enterprises in Selected ACP Countries”, funded by the European Commission. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. The authors are thankful for comments from the editor and three anonymous referees.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Neil Foster-McGregor
    • 1
  • Anders Isaksson
    • 2
  • Florian Kaulich
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.UNU-MERITMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.United Nations Industrial Development OrganizationWienAustria
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsVienna University of Economics and BusinessWienAustria

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