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September 2011

African countries are among the fastest growing economies in the world

Punam Chuhan-Pole's picture

Despite a slowdown in the global economic recovery and an increasingly difficult global environment, Sub-Saharan African countries are continuing to post solid growth

Following a 4.6 percent expansion in 2010, the region’s output is expected to grow by 4.8 percent this year (5.8 percent excluding South Africa) and by more than 5 percent in 2012 and 2013. 

Indeed, African countries are amongst the fastest growing countries in the world: Ghana is projected to grow by well over 10 percent this year; and nearly 40 percent of the countries in the region are likely to see 6 percent or higher growth rates.  Growth in Africa remains closely linked to the evolution of international commodity prices—oil, metals, and non-food agricultural commodities—which have remained generally buoyant. 

Not surprisingly, a sharp deterioration in global conditions would weigh down on the region's prospects.  Moreover, this time around African countries will be more constrained in their policy options: because they have less fiscal space than they had in the wake of the 2008 global financial and economic crisis. Read the full analysis on Africa's Pulse.

If it is free, people will queue up…but for how long?

Vijay Pillai's picture

It’s a long ride on a non-motorable road to Pujehun district in the south of Sierra Leone.  We are on a visit to see how the country’s Free Health Care Initiative (FHCI) for pregnant women and young children is working out. 

In the maternity ward of the district hospital, a woman proudly shows us her new born baby – it’s her third child and fourth pregnancy.  But, more importantly, her first child to be delivered in a hospital.  She is among the thousands of women who have delivered in hospitals for the first time since the introduction of free health care. Are we seeing early signs of a change in health seeking behavior among the poor in the country?

Droughts and Famines in East Africa: From man-made problems to man-made solutions

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

How can droughts and famines be avoided? This is the big question many conferences and summits have grappled with in recent weeks. Unfortunately, it will be very difficult to avoid droughts in future because climate change will put more pressure on scarce land and extreme climate events, both rains and floods, will likely occur much more frequently — and even more unpredictably.

The first famine I remember was brought on by the horrible drought in Ethiopia in 1984. At that time, I was a boy in high school and one of Germany’s most famous actors, Karlheinz Boehm, visited our school to mobilize funds to help the suffering Ethiopians. He had previously established the charity, People for People. One of the silver linings of today’s suffering is the outpouring of financial support by ordinary Kenyans who have been moved by the intense suffering of their fellow citizens.

So how can we avoid this same crisis two years down the road? Or as my Kenyan friends say: How do we keep from begging again for money?

Using knowledge to empower poor people

Shanta Devarajan's picture

I felt privileged to speak to the freshman class of Princeton University, my alma mater, at the annual “Reflections on Service”  event organized by the Pace Center.  In my speech, I drew on my work on the 2004 World Development Report, Making Service Work for Poor People and since then in South Asia and Africa, as well as my village immersion experience living and working with a woman in Gujarat, India who earns $1.25 a day. 

Both sets of experiences taught me how government programs—in health, education, water, sanitation, agriculture, infrastructure—that are intended to benefit the poor often fail to do so because they are captured by the non-poor who are politically more powerful.  I suggested to the students that, in addition to getting a good education and undertaking volunteer activities, they consider using their education to inform poor people, so that they can bring pressure to bear on politicians for pro-poor reforms.  The two examples I used to illustrate—citizen report cards in Bangalore and public expenditure tracking surveys in Uganda—were from the 1990s; with the penetration of cell phones in Africa and South Asia, getting knowledge to poor people in 2011 should be easier.

Neglected and poor widows in Mali

Dominique Van De Walle's picture

In common with many readers, I was aware of the discrimination and severe disadvantage faced by widows in many countries. 

Nonetheless, I was completely unprepared for what I found when I looked closely at the data for Mali.  As documented in my recent paper (Lasting Welfare Effects of Widowhood in a Poor Country, 5734), Malian women who have experienced the shock of widowhood, sometimes very young, have lower living standards than other women of the same age.  These detrimental effects persist through remarriage and are passed on to their children ─ possibly more so to daughters ─ suggesting an intergenerational transmission of poverty stemming from widowhood.

Veuves pauvres et négligées au Mali

Dominique Van De Walle's picture

Comme beaucoup de lecteurs, j’étais consciente de la discrimination et du sévère désavantage auxquels les veuves font face dans de nombreux pays. 

Néanmoins, ce que j’ai trouvé en examinant des données maliennes était bien pire encore que ce que j’imaginais.  Comme je le documente dans un récent article (Effets persistants du veuvage sur le bien-être dans un pays pauvre, 5734), les femmes maliennes qui ont connu le choc d’un veuvage ont un bien-être moins élevé que d’autres femmes du même âge.  Par ailleurs, les effets négatifs du veuvage persistent après un remariage et sont transmis aux enfants – probablement plus à leurs filles – ce qui suggère une transmission intergénérationnelle de la pauvreté engendrée par le veuvage.

Tertiary Education: Blind Spot or System Failure?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

A comment I posted on Chris Blattman’s blog on the problems with Africa’s higher education was picked up in a lively discussion on the Roving Bandit blog (“Probably the best economics blog [previously] in Southern Sudan”). 

First, for those who are interested in my paper with Celestin Monga and Tertius Zongo on “Making Higher Education Finance Work for Africa,” here it is

Second, I would like to hear people’s views on the issue raised:  Is the poor state of African higher education the result of neglect (“blind spot”) by donors, who emphasized primary education, or is it because the presumption that higher education should be financed and provided (largely free of charge) by the government led to “government failures”—where only the elite got access to the free university education, and the universities themselves became politicized?