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Poverty

Poor but happy?

Tom Bundervoet's picture

A common belief in rich countries is that people in Africa are poor but happy. This image is time and again confirmed by popular reality shows on Western television, in which the rich-and-famous visit little-known tribes in the most remote villages of rural Africa, only to concede, in front of a dozen cameras, that despite all their hardship, the people they visited really seemed happier than the average burnt-out desk-warrior in their home countries.

Are the poor in Africa really happier? In recent years economists started focusing on happiness and its measurement, a field long considered too trivial to pay much attention to. Recent research on the topic gives conflicting, and sometimes surprising, results. In 2012, an Ipsos poll measuring the degree of happiness in 24 countries found that self-reported levels of happiness were higher in poor and middle-income countries than in rich ones, seemingly confirming popular beliefs.  In contrast, the first World Happiness Report, also published in 2012, finds that the rich countries in Scandinavia are the happiest on earth, while four poor Sub-Saharan African countries are at the bottom of the list. The Gross National Happiness (GNH) index, pioneered by the Kingdom of Bhutan, comes up with a number of surprises of its own: the GNH is highest among the young and the unemployed (and also-perhaps less surprising-among the unmarried), which seems at odds with today’s television images of the streets of Madrid and Athens.

Will Rising Temperatures Derail Africa’s Rise?

Tom Bundervoet's picture

Africa is on the move. After two decades of decline, fortunes reversed by the end of the 1990s, resulting in a decade of strong economic growth and sizable improvements in sanitation, education and health. Real incomes per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa grew by more than 30 percent over the last ten years, and six countries from the continent made it on the list of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world. Big men, although still around in some parts of the continent, have become less common, elections have become more frequent, and many civil wars have finally ended. All this has produced a narrative of “Africa Rising” and a widespread optimism that Africa is finally on the right track. Indeed, the 21st century may well turn out to be Africa’s century.

Or not. Ted Miguel’s keynote address at the annual conference of the Center for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) in Oxford highlighted a potentially important concern. Applying a common statistical framework to a large number of studies on the link between temperatures and human violence, Miguel and his co-authors find a remarkably consistent and strong correlation between exceptionally high temperatures and manifestations of violence. Drawing on detailed data from a variety of countries and studies, they show that exceptionally high temperatures are correlated with significant increases in witch killings (Tanzania), rapes (USA), murders (USA), aggressive behavior of baseball players (USA) and more frequent and more aggressive horn-honking.

Toilets missing in action

Waly Wane's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

Tanzania is ranked the second lowest in terms of access to improved sanitation worldwide out of 171 countries that reported statistics for 2010. The details read as follows:
- Only 1 in 10 Tanzanians has access to an improved sanitation facility, such as a flush toilet connected to a sewage system or septic tank or a covered pit latrine not shared with other households.
- The above access to improved sanitation for Tanzania is well below the average for sub-Saharan Africa (31 percent), and also much lower than in Kenya (32 per cent), Uganda (34 per cent) and Malawi (51 per cent).
- Urban residents are three times more likely to use an improved toilet facility than their rural counterparts (20 per cent vs. 7 per cent).
- A staggering 5.4 million Tanzanians do not have access to any toilet facility, and answer nature’s call in the open. This burden falls most heavily on the poorest quintile.

To succeed, Kenya only needs to look within

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

“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.

A well-kept secret: Tanzania’s export performance

Jacques Morisset's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

Outward looking strategies have been used by most countries that have succeeded in their transition toward emergence. East Asian tigers and dragons have witnessed a tremendous and sustained boom in their exports, as have emerging countries like Chile, Tunisia, Botswana, and Mauritius. Even fast-growing ‘big’ countries such as Brazil and China have relied on world markets.

What might surprise some though is that Tanzania’s export performance in fact exceeded that of Brazil, Tunisia, Mauritius, Malaysia, Korea, and Thailand between 2000 and 2012. Among countries that did better were China and Uganda.

Uganda: Invest at home to promote a deeper regional market

Rachel K. Sebudde's picture

“Uganda might lose the market in South Sudan, if deliberate efforts aren’t put in place to sustain it”, said Uganda Investment Authority Chairman, Patrick Bitature during a hard-talk discussion at the February 14th launch of the Uganda Economic Update – Bridges across Borders: Unleashing Uganda’s Regional Trade Potential.
Bitature argued that Uganda’s supplying of South Sudan was more circumstantial than strategic.
 
“Food items like rice, matooke [green bananas], maize and sorghum that Uganda is exporting to South Sudan will soon be grown there, once stability returns. Uganda instead needs to add value to these exports”, he said.

Please use -but don't abuse- Tanzania’s forests

Waly Wane's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

Globally, forests are disappearing at an increasing rate. Since 1990 alone, half of the world’s rainforests have vanished. Tanzania also has been severely affected by deforestation as illustrated by the following statistics:

- Forest area as a share of total land area declined from 50 per cent to 43 per cent to 37 per cent from 1938, to 1987 and 2010 respectively.

Punished twice: Kenya’s dual health burden

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

The data are un-ambiguous: Kenya’s economy is starting to catch up with the rest of the world. But many of you probably wonder if that is really true, especially when observing the streets of Nairobi or the daily life in rural areas. In other words, is economic catch-up translating into social progress?  Will today’s children live a better life than their parents? Will everyone enjoy decent social and infrastructure services in the new Kenya? Let’s zoom in on the case of health.

How healthy is Kenya today? Simply said, it could do better. This is important from an economic standpoint, because a population’s health is a key foundation for development. Healthy populations are more productive; they also save and invest more. On average and all other things equal, one extra year of life-expectancy is associated with an increase in a country’s GDP by 4 percent.

Land of opportunity: Should Tanzania encourage more large-scale farming?

Isis Gaddis's picture

Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.

Like most developing countries, more than 80 percent of the poor in Tanzania are to be found in rural areas. Nearly all of them are active in the agriculture sector as laborers or owners of a small piece of land that they cultivate for a living. In this context, land is a vital asset for food security and survival. In parallel, global population growth, rapid urbanization, and increases in incomes have resulted in a sharp increase in demand for agricultural products worldwide, leading to an expansion of cultivated area and leading investors to go out in search of new farmland.  The global search for farmland has intensified in sub-Saharan Africa, including Tanzania. 

Is Rwanda Set to Reap the Demographic Dividend?

Tom Bundervoet's picture

From almost every point of view, Rwanda’s performance over the past decade has been an unambiguous success story.

Between 2001 and 2011, Rwanda’s economy grew by 8.2 percent per annum, earning the country a spot on the list of the ten fastest growing countries in the world. Poverty rates fell by 14 percentage points, effectively lifting more than one million Rwandans out of poverty. Social indicators followed the general trend: Net enrolment in primary school increased to almost 100 percent, completion rates tripled, and child mortality decreased more than threefold, hitting the mark oftwo-thirds reduction as targeted by the Millennium Development Goals.

Yet buried under all this good news lays another maybe even more important evolution.  After a decade-and-a-half stall, total fertility rates in Rwanda dropped from 6.1 in 2005 to 4.6 in 2010. This means that during a period of five years, the average number of children a woman of childbearing age can expect to have, has declined by 1.5.

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