In a recently released report, World Bank researchers made some interesting discoveries about the business environment in countries around the world. What are the takeaways for associations who are abroad—or might be looking to go abroad?
Earlier this week the World Bank released its Doing Business 2017 report, in which researchers looked at 190 economies throughout the world and ranked them on metrics related to the “ease of doing business.” These metrics—or indicators, as the World Bank refers to them—help gauge a country’s business environment based on factors that include everything from paying taxes to contract enforcement.
New Zealand, Singapore, Denmark, Hong Kong, and South Korea are some of the best places to do business, according to the study, while countries in sub-Saharan Africa are some of the most difficult, though even these are seeing marked improvement over the past few years.
Another interesting tidbit from the study is its focus on women: This year, for the first time, the World Bank researched the differences men and women might face in doing business—and perhaps not surprisingly, researchers found that women faced discrimination.
“In 155 economies women do not have the same legal rights as men, much less the supporting environment that is vital to promote entrepreneurship,” said Paul Romer, the World Bank’s new chief economist, to the Financial Times [subscription required].
So, what can associations glean from this research?
I asked Terrance Barkan, CAE, chief strategist and business architect at Globalstrat, to give us a few thoughts. “Reports like this can be used in many different ways,” he said. “It depends what the focus of the association is and what you’re trying to achieve.”
While some of the research doesn’t apply to associations, Barkan said that the report “helps describe the environment in which their target membership operates.”
For example, Barkan said that if you’re a trade group and you’re targeting a country with a very negative ranking in the report, then that might mean the business is going to be dynamic in that place. In other words, that country might be making great strides toward improving its business environment, and it might be very amenable to a trade association’s expertise.
When it comes to professional societies, Barkan said that “associations are very unique in that they can operate in another country with a very light footprint. For example, membership organizations or professional societies can get a significant mass of members in a country without necessarily having to incorporate in that country.”
And this means that associations can “surf above” some of the challenges or difficulties that businesses might face in trying to operate in another country.
Barkan also addressed the report’s findings related to the discrimination that women face. “You can use the rankings as a guide to find those countries that are in greatest need for advocating on behalf of women,” he said. “It helps you identify where the greatest needs are.”
To sum it all up, Barkan said that reports like these do inform associations and make them think about things that may not typically be top of mind. “These are some environmental factors that either your individual members have to deal with, or if you’re a trade association, your company members have to deal with,” he said.
And information and empathy are always good to stock up on.
How much consideration does your association put into the business environment of a country you’re considering expanding into? Please leave your insights in the comment box below.