“I am always hungry, as oftentimes my family and I skip meals. I want to go to school like my friends, but my parents always say it is too expensive. If I go to school, then I can’t work to help them buy food, and then I am hungry again. I am helpless when it comes to changing my situation, I have no voice and there are few people that see things the way I do.”
En tant qu’économiste, spécialisé dans le secteur de l’éducation à la Banque mondiale, je passe souvent en revue de nombreuses stratégies pays ou sectorielles dissertant sur la meilleure façon de développer l’Afrique et d’y atteindre une croissance économique élevée.
Et à chaque fois je me demande: mais qui le fera ? Qui apportera de la valeur ajoutée aux exportations africaines ? Qui construira ? Qui inventera ? Qui soignera ?
La réponse est évidente : ce sont les jeunes fraîchement diplômés des universités africaines et des instituts de formation. Certes, mais dans ce cas nous avons un problème : il n’y a tout simplement pas assez de diplômés en sciences, en technologie, en ingénierie et en mathématiques (STIM) à l’heure actuelle sur le continent et la qualité des formations est très inégale.
From my seat as an Education economist at the World Bank, I go through a number of strategies from countries and sectors in Africa outlining how best to achieve economic growth and development. I am repeatedly struck by a key question: Who will do it? Who will add value to African exports? Who will build? Who will invent? Who will cure? The answer is, of course, that graduates from African universities and training institutions should do it. But the problem is one of numbers and quality—there are simply not enough graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and programs are of uneven quality.
Imagine that you are in an elevator. It stops to pick up the next passenger going up. It turns out to be H.E. Jayaka Mrisho Kikwete, yes, the President of Tanzania himself, accompanied by a group of high ranking officials. The President turns and asks you what you think is the most important thing that he could do for his country. You have less than three minutes to convince him. What would you tell him?
I know what I would say, loud and clear: “Your Excellency, that would have to be improving the performance of the port of Dar es Salaam.”
No doubt there are plenty of issues that matter for Tanzania’s prosperity: rural development, education, energy, water, food security, roads, you name it. They are all competing for urgent attention and effort; yet it is also true that each of them involves complex solutions that would take time to produce impact on the ground, and it is hard to know where to begin and to focus priority attention.
This is not the case for the Dar es Salaam port, as most experts know what to do.
So why the port of Dar es Salaam?
The port represents a wonderful opportunity for his country. The port handles about 90% of Tanzania’s international trade and is the potential gateway of six landlocked countries. I would tell him that almost all citizen and firms operating in Tanzania are currently affected, directly and indirectly, by the performance of this port.
With an estimated 10 million malaria cases in 2010, the World Health Organization considers Tanzania to be one of the four countries with the highest malaria prevalence in Africa, along with Nigeria, DRC and Uganda. And yet there are signs that efforts to fight the disease are bearing fruit:
- Data from Rapid Diagnostic Tests shows that malaria prevalence in children aged 6 months to 5 years fell by half from 18 per cent in 2007/08 to 9 per cent in 2011/12.
- Reported malaria deaths declined from around 20,000 per year in 2004-06 to below 12,000 in 2011. While there is a possibility that the malaria deaths are underreported, the trend signals substantial improvement.
Co-authored with Luc Christiaensen and Aly Sanoh
For a decade and a half now, Africa has been growing robustly, and the region’s economic prospects remain good. In per capita terms, GDP has expanded at 2.4 percent per year, good for an average increase in GDP per capita of 50 percent since 1996.
But the averages also hide a substantial degree of variation. For example, GDP per capita in resource-rich countries grew 2.2 times faster during 1996-2011 than in resource-poor countries (Figure 1). Though not the only factor explaining improved performance—fast growth has also been recorded in a number of resource-poor countries such as Rwanda, Ethiopia and Mozambique (before its resource discoveries)—buoyant commodity prices and the expansion of mineral resource exploitation have undoubtedly played an important role in spurring growth in several of Africa’s countries. Even more, with only an expected 4 or 5 countries on the African continent without mineral exploitation by 2020, they will continue to do so in the future. Yet, despite the better growth performance, poverty declined substantially less in resource-rich countries.
What will the world look like in 2030? Clearly, it will be very different from today and some of these changes can already be anticipated. Most of us can remember the year 1996 which is as far back in the past as 2030 is forward in the future. Today’s emerging trends will shape the world over the next two decades.
Every five years, the US’s National Intelligence Council publishes its analysis of “Global Trends”. This time, the analysis looks forward to 2030 and highlights four “megatrends” all of which will probably feel quite intuitive to people living in Africa.
If user fees for health have been so vilified (including in comments on this blog), why are we bringing the subject up again? Because new evidence calls into question the prevailing view, namely that removing user fees leads to: (i) increased use of health services and hence to (ii) improved health outcomes. Confirming (i), the recent literature shows that (ii) does not always follow.
Raising the price of a good or service has two effects: it reduces demand and increases supply. In the case of user fees for health, it was thought that paying for a service also makes people use it more appropriately (you don’t go to the doctor for minor ailments) and value it more than if they obtained it for free.
“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.