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March 2010

Social media as an accountability tool

Shanta Devarajan's picture

From the Africa Progress Panel’s latest bulletin:

At the [Pan Africa Media Summit], Uganda's Minister for Information and National Guidance, Kabakumba Labwoni Masiko, was asked a question about Uganda's proposed media regulations and the moderator did not let the Minister take the question and ensured the session stayed on topic. The discussion immediately shifted online as attendees began to tweet about the incident.

It’s clear that Africans are increasingly using social media as an accountability tool.

Pourquoi le secteur financier est-il aussi peu développé dans la zone CFA?

Raju Jan Singh's picture

Durant les années 1980s et les débuts 1990s, beaucoup de pays africains ont entrepris des réformes afin de développer leur secteur financier. Les secteurs financiers dans les pays africains demeurent toutefois parmi les moins développés de la planète. En Afrique, le développement financier dans la zone CFA  est encore plus limité. Pourquoi ? Dhaneshwar Ghura, Kangni Kpodar et moi-même examinons précisément  cette question.

Why are CFA countries’ financial sectors so shallow?

Raju Jan Singh's picture

During the 1980s and early 1990s, many African countries undertook reforms to deepen their financial sectors. Nevertheless, financial sectors in African countries remain among the shallowest in the world.  Within Africa, financial depth in the CFA franc zone is even more limited.  Why? Dhaneshwar Ghura, Kangni Kpodar and I examine this question.

China’s Miracle Demystified

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

Since beginning its transition 30 years ago, China’s economic development has been miraculous.

The average annual growth rate of GDP reached 9.8 percent, far exceeding the expectations of most people in the 1980s or even early 1990s, including Deng Xiaoping who initiated the reforms. Deng’s goal was to quadruple China’s economy in twenty years, implying an average annual growth rate of 7.2 percent per year.

In 1979, China was inward-looking and its trade as a percentage GDP was only 9.5 percent. Now China is the world’s largest exporter and the third largest importer, with trade contributing around 70 percent of GDP. Over 30 years, more than 600 million people got out of poverty.

China’s miracle raises the following five questions.

  1. What was behind China’s extraordinary performance?
  2. Why Did China Fail before the Transition in 1979?
  3. Why Didn’t Other Transition Economies Perform Equally Well?
  4. What Costs Did China Pay for Its Success?
  5. Can Other Developing Countries Replicate the Miracle?

Lumps of coal or a boost to development?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Driving at night in Cameroon some years ago, I saw schoolchildren sitting under the streetlights doing their homework—because they had no electricity at home.  Today 560 million Africans live without access to electricity.  No country in the world has advanced economically without adequate power supply.

Electricity is essential not just to power factories and offices, but to ensure that milk and drugs are transported safely, and that kids—especially those in rural areas who don’t even have streetlights—get an education.

Is African poverty falling?

Martin Ravallion's picture

Maxim Pinkovskiy and Xavier Sala-i-Martin (PSiM herafter) have confidently claimed that “The conventional wisdom that Africa is not reducing poverty is wrong” and that “African poverty is falling and is falling rapidly.” This sounds like good news. But is it right?

We must first be clear about what we mean when we say “poverty is falling”. What many people mean is falling numbers of poor. However, PSiM refer solely to the poverty rate—the percentage of people who are poor. (There is no mention of this important distinction in their paper.) And it is not falling over their whole period of their analysis, which goes back to 1970. Rather they find that the poverty rate has been falling since the mid-1990s.

Can better roads reduce poverty?

Gael Raballand's picture

This  question  was on my mind when, in the Meme region of Cameroon, I saw motorcycle passengers come to a full stop, dismount, carry the bags of vegetables they were transporting on their backs, and start pushing the vehicle to the side, over a field--to circumvent the huge pool of water interrupting the rural road in front of us. Soon, they were on their way again.
Meme is a remote region with almost four meters of rain per year.  The state of its roads reflects the very limited investment they have seen in the last decade.

The motorcycle story from Meme shows that, even in extreme climatic conditions, the connectivity of roads is maintained.  A road may be impassable for cars, but motorcycles find their way around.  Therefore, most rural populations are somehow connected to markets, whereas connectivity is usually thought of as either 0 or 1.

This means that investments in roads could have a lower-than-expected impact on economic development since most households are already somehow connected.

How to boost Africa’s exports

Caroline Freund's picture

Consider the following description of a trucker’s journey in Cameroon:  “The plan was to carry 1,600 crates of Guinness and other drinks from the factory in Douala where they were brewed to Bertoua.  According to a rather optimistic schedule, it should have taken 20 hours, including an overnight rest. It took four days. When the truck arrived, it was carrying only two-thirds of its original load.”

And this is how a Tanzanian exporter explains why few firms stay in the exporting business: “They discover that it is a miserable experience. Having gone to the effort of getting an export order they then spend weeks pounding through bureaucracy, endlessly waiting in dirty government corridors trying to find a morose civil servant prepared to do his job.”

How do these costs affect Africa’s trade?