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Shanta Devarajan's blog

Crime and Punishment in Abidjan

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The first-prize winner of the African Public Policy Awards was a paper by Jose Carlos Assi Kimou on the determinants of crime in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. 

Using rigorous statistical methods, the paper shows that crime in Abidjan (i) goes down as enforcement (measured by the number of policemen) goes up; (ii) goes up with negative external shocks, such as the 1994 devaluation of the CFA Franc and the 1999 coup d’état,

A Daughter Deficit in Africa?

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An excellent special issue of the New York Times magazine on Women and Development  had an article on the “daughter deficit”—the phenomenon, observed in India and China, of many fewer girls than boys being born, and surviving to age 5.  Up to now, I had been thinking of this as an Asian phenomenon, associated with cultural values in India and China.  But the finding by my colleagues Jed Friedman and Norbert Schady, reported in this blog , that in Africa the mortality rate from a drop in income is about twice as high for girls as for boys, makes me think that the daughter deficit (or “son preference”) may be coming to Africa. 

Are Fragile States "Too Poor to Grow?"

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Boy plays with tireA recent paper by my colleagues Humberto Lopez and Luis Serven entitled “Too Poor to Grow” asks whether, controlling for other factors, countries with higher poverty rates grow more slowly.  Their answer is “yes”.  The implication is that countries with high poverty may be caught in a poverty trap—they grow more slowly, so poverty rates stay high or even increase, which means they grow even more slowly, and so on. 

The idea echoes the one in Martin Ravallion’s post on this blog about why poverty rates are not converging. 

The two papers got me thinking about the large number (20) of fragile states in Africa.   These states have lower per-capita incomes and growth rates than non-fragile states.  More importantly, many of them have remained fragile states for a long time. 

Could it be that these countries are caught in a low-level equilibrium trap?  And if so, should aid policy—which treats them as worse-performing versions of non-fragile states—be adjusted to take into account the possibility that these countries are “stuck” in low growth, high poverty and poor governance?
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UPDATE: August 27, 2009:

Thanks to all who are taking the time to share their views on this post. Many of you seem to think that education can offer a way out of this vicious cycle. Some don't see hope for Africa until corruption can be successfully tackled. A few others advocate for more individual responsibility.  I was particularly impressed by the story David Kamulegeya shared with us (see the comment titled "it is about the attitude that people have about themselves") in which he describes his own experience navigating out of poverty.

A New Look for the Blog

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Today we launch a new look for the AfricaCan blog.

The enhancements include links that are easier to spot. Also, we have added a list of guest bloggers and a blog roll listing some of the sites I regularly visit. You can find them on the menu on the right.

Over the next few weeks, we will continue to fine-tune the blog to ensure we have the platform necessary to best serve our community of readers. 

In the meantime, let me take this opportunity to thank you all for sharing your views about how Africa can end poverty.

African economic policies and the global crisis: Orthodox responses to a heterodox shock?

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When the global economic crisis hit Africa, I worried (along with others) that the continent’s economic reforms would be stalled or reversed.  Political support for these reforms may be undermined as economic growth slowed.  Furthermore, the response of high-income countries in response to the crisis—large fiscal deficits and greater government participation in the banking sector—was in the opposite direction of the reforms that African countries had been pursuing

Education and Finance in Africa

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At a recent conference that brought together African Finance and Education ministers, the keynote speaker, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, finance minister (and former education minister) of Singapore gave a beautiful speech about Singapore's experience that contained some potentially difficult and controversial messages for Africa.

How have policies and institutions in low-income African countries fared?

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Last Friday, the World Bank released its Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (CPIA) of low-income countries.  While the assessments are mainly used to determine the allocation of concessional IDA resources to poor countries, they can also provide a useful picture of the evolution of policies and institutions in Africa, as a r

Critiques from inside the World Bank

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While my blog posts seemed to elicit a fair number of comments, I had been wondering how many of them, if any, were coming from my World Bank colleagues. Last Friday, I got to find out. Our Internal Communications department ran a story on the Bank’s intranet with the headline “The effects of the global recession on Africa will be permanent, says Africa Chief Economist.” The story then linked to my blog post, “Why aid to A

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