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Impact of the Global Financial Crisis

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Not a day passes without somebody asking me about the impact of the global financial crisis on Africa's poverty reduction efforts. So I thought I would share this interview I recently did for Deutsche Welle radio.

I have also written extensively about what the crisis may mean for Africa on this blog. You can see those entries here.

Some (Possibly Heretical) Thoughts on Agriculture

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Since the publication of the 2008 World Development Report, there has been a vigorous discussion in the development community about agriculture; today’s publication of the World Bank’s Agriculture Action Plan is a milestone in that process.  To stimulate further discussion on the subject, here are some thoughts from a garden-variety economist.

1. The oft-quoted statement, “GDP growth originating in agriculture is about four times more effective in raising incomes of extremely poor people than GDP growth originating from other sectors,” is an arithmetical point, not an economic point.  It simply reflects the fact that 75 percent of the world’s poor depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Why We Work in Development

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A visual reminder of why many of us work in development:

The schoolchildren in this picture are first- and second-graders in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They're holding their new textbooks, given to them as part of a project that distributed some 14 million free textbooks to private and public schools across the country. 

After the photo was taken, the teachers tried to take the books back to put them in the classrooms for safekeeping.  The kids refused. For many of them, this was the first time they had held a book in their hands--and they weren't about to let go of them. The Minister of Education (seen in the photo with my colleague Marie-Francoise Mary-Nelly), wanting to give the kids a chance to enjoy their new textbooks, let them keep them.

Your Comments on Africa's Successes

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The African Successes post has generated a vigorous exchange of ideas.  I appreciate receiving your comments on the study, your suggestions for success stories, and your views on development approaches that have worked and those that have not.  

Les Réussites Africaines

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Ces dernières années, de nombreux pays africains ont commencé à faire preuve d’un dynamisme remarquable.

Le taux de croissance  enregistré au Mozambique est fulgurant, affichant une moyenne annuelle de 8 % sur plus de dix ans. Le Kenya est devenu l'un des plus importants fournisseurs mondiaux de fleurs coupées. Le service M-Pesa, qui permet d’effectuer des transferts d’argent à partir d’un téléphone mobile, rencontre un succès grandissant tandis que le programme KickStart aide les petits agriculteurs à irriguer leurs cultures à moindre coût. Le tourisme rwandais fleurit depuis qu’il s’est axé sur la vie des gorilles et dans la ville de Lagos au Nigéria, les nouvelles infrastructures du BRT (réseau de transport rapide par bus) facilite un développement urbain plus efficace. En deux mots, l’Afrique est en train de vivre une réelle transformation.

Another Reason Why Aid to Africa Must Increase

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Given its massive development deficits and the effects of the global economic crisis, many observers, included me, are calling for increased aid to Africa. Most of these appeals are based on Africa’s need for more resources.  But there is a different argument. 

Aid to Africa is today as productive as it has ever been. 

Craig Burnside and David Dollar identified a group of policies (including fiscal stability and low trade barriers) that strengthened the link between foreign aid and per capita income growth. These are the very policies that African governments have been improving over the past decade. 

 Even after the onset of the global economic crisis, and despite the fears that these

African Successes

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In recent years, a broad swath of African countries has begun to show a remarkable dynamism.  From Mozambique’s impressive growth rate (averaging 8% p.a. for more than a decade) to Kenya’s emergence as a major global supplier of cut flowers, from M-pesa’s mobile phone-based cash transfers to KickStart’s low-cost irrigation technology for small-holder farmers, and from Rwanda’s gorilla tourism to Lagos City’s Bus Rapid Transit system, Africa is seeing a dramatic transformation.  This favorable trend is spurred by, among other things, stronger leadership, better governance, an improving business climate, innovation, market-based solutions, a more involved citizenry, and an increasing reliance on home-grown solutions.  More and more, Africans are driving African development. 

The global economic crisis of 2008-09 threatens to undermine the optimism that Africa can harness this dynamism for long-lasting development.  In light of this, it might be useful to re-visit recent achievements.  The African Successes study aims to do just that.

The study will identify a wide range of development successes (see list), from which around 20 cases will be selected for in-depth study.  The analysis of each successful experience will evaluate the following: (1) the drivers of success—what has worked and why; (2) the sustainability of the successful outcome(s); and (3) the potential for scaling up successful experiences.  African success stories offer valuable insights and practical lessons to other countries in the region. 

I welcome your comments and suggestions for success stories. Click here to see the list of what we have come up with so far.

Rwanda is the world's top reformer in Doing Business

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Based on the impact of reforms implemented between June 2008 and May 2009, Rwanda has been named "world's top reformer" in this year's Doing Business report. This is the first time an African country has received the title.  It now takes a Rwandese entrepreneur just two procedures and three days to start a business.  Transferring property takes less time, thanks to a reorganized registry and statutory time limits. Investors have more protection, insolvency reorganization has been streamlined, and a wider range of assets can be used as collateral to access credit.

Useful Reading on Africa: Links of the week for Sept. 4, 2009

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Here is some good reading on Africa:

- As Africa grows richer, there are reasons to be pessimistic about its ability to capitalize on the benefits of a reduction in population growth, says The Economist. One reason is that one in two Africans is a child, which means that traditional ways of caring for children in extended families are breaking down.

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