I am often asked whether Kenya's new constitution, approved in a referendum in August 2010, will actually improve governance in Kenya. There are many people who seem to believe that it will not. A prominent journalist was recently quoted in Nairobi's Daily Nation as saying that the constitution is just a piece of paper, and "a piece of paper can't transform society". I disagree.
Stefan Dercon’s wordle based on our data of the countries that economists work on led Chris Blattman and Tyler Cowen to wonder why there are more papers on Latin America relative to Africa in the Journal of Development Economics, a leading journal in the field of development economics. We looked at this issue in our paper onthe Geography of Academic Research; here are four figures to add to the discussion (two of them are in our paper).
Fact 1: “Just” Income: There is a strong correlation between GDP and publications—a doubling of GDP leads to a 37 percent increase in the number of publications on the country. The US is bang on the regression line relating GDP to publications—a lot more is produced on the US because it is big and rich. Surprisingly, most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are also on the regression line! In fact, there is no “SSA penalty” in the production of empirical research—there is very little work on most SSA countries mostly because they are poor and small. That 36,649 papers were written on the US between 1985 and 2004 relative to 4 on Burundi, 5 on Benin or 20 on Niger is largely explained by income and population size. As Bill Easterly puts it “the poor get the worst of everything, including the worst economics”.
The following post was co-authored by Michael and Gabriel.
The Millennium Village Project (MVP) is an important, experimental package of interventions that the United Nations and Columbia University are testing in 14 villages across Africa. The MVP offers a tremendous opportunity to learn whether such interventions can catalyze self-sustaining growth and escape from extreme poverty. But the evaluation approaches currently being used cannot generate convincing evidence of the Project’s impacts. Without such evidence, it will be impossible to generate the billions of dollars needed to scale up the Project approach across Africa, as its proponents hope to do.
We have written a new research paper (summarized here and here) that proposes small and inexpensive modifications to the MVP evaluation approach that would make it possible to evaluate the Project’s impacts.
That paper has generated much discussion, including reports in the Financial Times and in a major newspaper in Kenya. The Project itself has issued a lengthy official response by Pronyk, McArthur, Singh, and Sachs. We welcome this public debate as a way to improve learning about what works in development. We answer below the main questions posed in the Project’s response, much of which rests on a basic misunderstanding.
I've written before about floods in Niger and Abidjan, but these experiences left me poorly prepared for what I saw in Benin a few days ago.
Half the country is under water, and it's still raining.
We recently received a request from the President of Benin to assist with recent flooding. I was asked to go take a look, get a feel for the scale of the problem, find out what Government and donors were doing about it, and make some recommendations for Bank action.
After booking my flight, I did a Google search which revealed no details, even from OCHA, the UN's humanitarian branch. So I was sceptical about finding the type of damage I had seen elsewhere in the region over the past two months. If there was a big problem, the international press didn't seem to know about it. If they did, perhaps they were too tired of Haiti, Pakistan, or spoiling the euphoria following the rescued miners.
Many people recognize that access to adequate transport services is vital for development. Since 1987, the Sub-Saharan Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP)—a partnership driven by 36 countries—has been working with governments and regional organizations to enhance the policy and regulation environment for transport, both to facilitate growth and to lift people out of poverty. One of the
Alors que j’ai récemment quitté l'Afrique du Sud pour m’installer en Belgique, une question s’impose à moi : l’Union européenne et ses six décennies d'intégration constituent-ils un exemple pertinent pour l'Afrique ? Ou alors est-ce comme comparer des pommes avec des mangues ?
- About 20 percent of the children who had completed seven years of primary school could not read their own language, Kiswahili, at the Grade 2 level;
- Half of them could not read English, which is the medium of instruction in secondary education;
- And about 30 percent could not do a simple (Grade 2) multiplication problem.
Interestingly, Tanzania has seen dramatic increases in primary school enrolments—so much so that the country won a Millennium Development Goals award for achievements in primary education.
To better understand the relationship between these different findings, I interviewed Rakesh Rajani of Twaweza, the NGO that conducted the survey, on the margins of the Open Forum at the recent World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings.
We discussed why and how they did the study, what the results mean, and what to do with them.
Here’s the quick summary of a new working paper I have co-authored with Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development:
When is the rigorous impact evaluation of development projects a luxury, and when a necessity? We study one high-profile case where it is a necessity: the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), an experimental intervention in rural Africa. We compare development trends inside versus outside the villages in three countries, and show that estimates of the project’s effects depend heavily on the evaluation method.
The impact evaluation currently planned by the MVP is unlikely to yield adequate estimates of its effects on Africans in general, for five reasons we explain. But it is not too late to carefully measure the project’s effects, by making small and inexpensive changes to the next wave of the project.
Michael’s own blog post gives more details about the paper. The paper uses publicly-available data from the MVP mid-term evaluation report and Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). Field visits played no role in the study.
But after the study I found myself wanting to learn more about a couple of the places behind the statistics. So after we completed the analysis, during September 26-28, I took a trip with several World Bank colleagues to the western edge of Kenya. We visited two village clusters in Nyanza Province: first the MVP site in Bar-Sauri, and then the town of Uranga, 50 km to the west, which is not an MVP site.
Here’s a picture of me pressing the flesh with the kids at Nyamninia Primary School in Bar-Sauri:
This month Homi Kharas and I published a book titled “Delivering Aid Differently – Lessons from the Field”. We launched the book yesterday at the University of Nairobi. Here is a summary of the main messages:
We live in a new reality of aid. Rich countries delivered US$ 3.2 trillion of aid to poor countries between 1960 and 2008, and it is a US$ 200 billion dollar industry today. Despite disputes and convulsions, the core of the aid industry has changed little over the past few decades. Now the new pressures on the aid systems may be too strong to resist fundamental change.
The recent riots in Maputo were triggered by increases in the cost of living, and they raised concerns of a possible repeat of the 2008 food and fuel price crisis around the world.
But this time the riots were at least as much the result of misguided domestic policies as of international price volatility.