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Kenya's quiet revolution

Johannes Zutt's picture

Kenya is in the midst of a quiet revolution—but many people, even in Kenya, seem to be unaware of it, or the enormous governance improvements that it is likely to bring.

We saw a new Kenya emerging last Friday when President Kibaki presided over an historic event that was hard to imagine in the old Kenya:   the launch of a government website, , that makes enormous volumes of government data available to the public in user-friendly formats. 

For the first time in Kenya’s history, core government data on population, the budget, education, health care and other public services are available to policy-makers, researchers, ICT developers, and citizens in an easily-accessible format.  This portal is one of the first and largest government portals with reusable data in sub-Saharan Africa, making Kenya one of the world’s leading exemplars of open data (see Time magazine's "Silicon Savanna").

But many observers of Kenya are unimpressed.  Why is that? 

I was there when the Republic of South Sudan was born!

Obiageli Ezekwesili's picture

Obiageli Ezekwesili (c) with South Sudan President Salva Kiir (r). Photo: Laura Kullenberg, The World Bank

4:00 AM: I wake up this morning in Nairobi unusually excited and think to myself, “today is actually the Independence Day of South Sudan. Wow! This day has finally come!” I say a word of prayer for the day and get myself ready for the 5:30 a.m. trip to the airport to board our flight to Juba.

South Sudan: “Juba-lant” as dreams turn into reality

Manka Angwafo's picture

 Photo: A line of “boda bodas” queuing for fuel along the main road in Juba town

For the past three weeks I have been working in Juba, South Sudan. In a meeting with the government last week, an official said to me, “…we are dreaming, but come July 9th everything will change and our dreams will become reality.”

On July 9th South Sudan will become an independent country, following the longest civil war in African history.

Driving through Juba, one cannot fail to notice the preparations taking place; from the exceptionally clean streets and banners spread across public buildings to the soon-to-be national anthem on repeat on the radio. There is a sense of excitement, longing and hope.

However, tension surrounding the conflict in South Kordofan casts a cloud on celebrations and underscores the risks ahead. 

Human Rights and Human Development

Shanta Devarajan's picture

“Shanta, are you against human rights?” a colleague asked when she saw that I was arguing for the negative in a debate on “Is a concern for human rights needed to achieve human development outcomes?” 

Needless to say, my debate partner, Varun Gauri and I are not against human rights (Varun has written extensively on the subject), but we did argue—based on the evidence—that a concern for human rights was neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve health and education outcomes. 

Africa on the brink of a take off

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Dear friends,

Today we are trying something new.

I wanted to share with you the reasons why I think we can be optimistic about Africa's development prospects, but rather than writing something up, I thought of using video.

Please, share your feedback, not only on whether you agree that Africa is on the right track, but on the video itself. If you like it, I would like to do more of this short video "Development Talks" with the readers of this blog.

Let me know what you think.


Seven steps to structural transformation

Shanta Devarajan's picture














My colleagues Justin Lin and Celestin Monga have proposed a six-step plan for identifying industries that could help developing countries industrialize. 

The first step in the plan is to find countries that have a per-capita income that is roughly double yours and have a similar endowment, and observe what they are producing.  These industries would then serve as the basis for possible government intervention to either protect or create, depending on the country’s situation.

However, the six-step plan seems to gloss over the fact that countries, even seemingly successful ones, produce certain goods for political rather than economic reasons.