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March 2013

Poor but happy?

Tom Bundervoet's picture

A common belief in rich countries is that people in Africa are poor but happy. This image is time and again confirmed by popular reality shows on Western television, in which the rich-and-famous visit little-known tribes in the most remote villages of rural Africa, only to concede, in front of a dozen cameras, that despite all their hardship, the people they visited really seemed happier than the average burnt-out desk-warrior in their home countries.

Are the poor in Africa really happier? In recent years economists started focusing on happiness and its measurement, a field long considered too trivial to pay much attention to. Recent research on the topic gives conflicting, and sometimes surprising, results. In 2012, an Ipsos poll measuring the degree of happiness in 24 countries found that self-reported levels of happiness were higher in poor and middle-income countries than in rich ones, seemingly confirming popular beliefs.  In contrast, the first World Happiness Report, also published in 2012, finds that the rich countries in Scandinavia are the happiest on earth, while four poor Sub-Saharan African countries are at the bottom of the list. The Gross National Happiness (GNH) index, pioneered by the Kingdom of Bhutan, comes up with a number of surprises of its own: the GNH is highest among the young and the unemployed (and also-perhaps less surprising-among the unmarried), which seems at odds with today’s television images of the streets of Madrid and Athens.

Will Rising Temperatures Derail Africa’s Rise?

Tom Bundervoet's picture

Africa is on the move. After two decades of decline, fortunes reversed by the end of the 1990s, resulting in a decade of strong economic growth and sizable improvements in sanitation, education and health. Real incomes per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa grew by more than 30 percent over the last ten years, and six countries from the continent made it on the list of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world. Big men, although still around in some parts of the continent, have become less common, elections have become more frequent, and many civil wars have finally ended. All this has produced a narrative of “Africa Rising” and a widespread optimism that Africa is finally on the right track. Indeed, the 21st century may well turn out to be Africa’s century.

Or not. Ted Miguel’s keynote address at the annual conference of the Center for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) in Oxford highlighted a potentially important concern. Applying a common statistical framework to a large number of studies on the link between temperatures and human violence, Miguel and his co-authors find a remarkably consistent and strong correlation between exceptionally high temperatures and manifestations of violence. Drawing on detailed data from a variety of countries and studies, they show that exceptionally high temperatures are correlated with significant increases in witch killings (Tanzania), rapes (USA), murders (USA), aggressive behavior of baseball players (USA) and more frequent and more aggressive horn-honking.

Toilets missing in action

Waly Wane's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

Tanzania is ranked the second lowest in terms of access to improved sanitation worldwide out of 171 countries that reported statistics for 2010. The details read as follows:
- Only 1 in 10 Tanzanians has access to an improved sanitation facility, such as a flush toilet connected to a sewage system or septic tank or a covered pit latrine not shared with other households.
- The above access to improved sanitation for Tanzania is well below the average for sub-Saharan Africa (31 percent), and also much lower than in Kenya (32 per cent), Uganda (34 per cent) and Malawi (51 per cent).
- Urban residents are three times more likely to use an improved toilet facility than their rural counterparts (20 per cent vs. 7 per cent).
- A staggering 5.4 million Tanzanians do not have access to any toilet facility, and answer nature’s call in the open. This burden falls most heavily on the poorest quintile.

A bank in your pocket: The mobile money revolution in Tanzania

Isis Gaddis's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

The mobile phone is a truly novel device. It comes in just as handy and as easily when we need to communicate about the serious things as to chat about the simpler things in life.  Mobiles are not only being used as radios and flashlights but they are also delivering banking and financial services to those who urgently need them.

Increasingly, people around the world, especially in Africa, are paying their school fees, healthcare and utility bills using mobile phones today. Businesses use mobile money phones to pay their staff and suppliers. Poor people who have never entered a bank are using mobile services to send or receive remittances and to save their money.

To succeed, Kenya only needs to look within

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

“So how are you enjoying living in paradise?” Michael Geerts, the former German ambassador to Kenya asked me the other day.   He was posted in Nairobi during the difficult years in the end of the 1990s, and continues to stay in touch with a country he loves dearly. Many colleagues, who once worked in Kenya have bought houses in Nairobi, and plan to retire in the “city under the sun”. But not everybody shares their passion and faith in the country’s future. There are many pessimists who feel that the country is moving in the wrong direction. Kenya, they say, will never rid itself from grand corruption, and crime such as drug trafficking will continue to flourish.
 
Are they seeing the same country? Maybe both perspectives are right, because Kenya is a country of extremes.

A well-kept secret: Tanzania’s export performance

Jacques Morisset's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

Outward looking strategies have been used by most countries that have succeeded in their transition toward emergence. East Asian tigers and dragons have witnessed a tremendous and sustained boom in their exports, as have emerging countries like Chile, Tunisia, Botswana, and Mauritius. Even fast-growing ‘big’ countries such as Brazil and China have relied on world markets.

What might surprise some though is that Tanzania’s export performance in fact exceeded that of Brazil, Tunisia, Mauritius, Malaysia, Korea, and Thailand between 2000 and 2012. Among countries that did better were China and Uganda.