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Public Sector and Governance

Africa's MICs

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Hardly a week goes by without an African investors’ conference or growth summit. Portuguese professionals are looking for opportunities in Angola. Silicon Valley companies are coming to Kenya to learn about its homegrown ICT revolution. This is not an irrational fad. Since the turn of the century, Africa’s growth has been robust (averaging 5-6 percent GDP growth a year), making important contributions to poverty reduction. The current boom is underpinned by sound macro policies and political stability. Unlike in some rich countries, public debt levels in most of Africa are sustainable.

One way to track Africa’s progress is by charting the number of countries that have achieved “Middle Income status”.

We want jobs, jobs, jobs

Isis Gaddis's picture

Let's think together: Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a couple of questions. This post is also published in the Tanzanian Newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.

Jobs are at the very heart of living. Families escape poverty when their members secure gainful employment, and societies flourish when labor markets offer a wide range of job opportunities to citizens. And there is more to jobs than just monetary benefits. Not having a job or working under unfavorable conditions is often associated with low individual life satisfaction. Youth unemployment, in particular, can undermine the foundations of social cohesion, especially in fragile countries with a legacy of civil unrest and conflict.

Safety nets and poverty reduction: A hand-up not a hand-out

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Do you sometimes wonder if the average person is benefiting when the economy is doing well? Aren’t the poor left behind, even in the most rapidly growing economies? Concerns around rising inequality exist in many countries, rich and poor, East and West. Kenya is among them.

Over the last 10 years, the economy grew at an average of about 4 percent. With population growth of 2.7 percent, every Kenyan would have benefited by a modest 1.3 percent per year, but that assumes the growth was distributed evenly.

Even though many governments around the world want to avoid rising inequality — at least this is what many say — they often don’t achieve it. One challenge is that the already well off tend to benefit more during periods of economic growth. The poor typically also benefit, but their income rises more slowly. Does this mean rising inequality is here to stay?

Improving access to drugs: Fitting the solution to the problem

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Patricio Marquez’s post correctly  identifies lack of access  to quality medicines as one of the  constraints to poor people’s health in Africa.    But the  solutions he recommends—more public money for “essential drugs benefits”, building  resilient institutions,  and providing  physicians  with better  scientific information  and guidelines  about  drug  prescriptions—are   unlikely   by    themselves  to   improve poor   people’s   health  outcomes.

More public money.  Patricio notes that out-of-pocket expenditures are about 40 percent of total health expenditures and most of this is spent on outpatient drugs.  He assumes the reason is that countries have not adopted a program of essential drugs benefits, and the reason for the latter is lack of public resources.  But consider the following facts. 

How can we improve access and get more value from drug expenditures in Africa?

Patricio V. Marquez's picture

Medicines are key inputs for quality medical care and the prevention of disease, and when administered appropriately, as evidence from Sub-Saharan African countries shows, they can contribute significantly to reducing death rates due to conditions such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
 
But it is also obvious that not everybody in these countries, particularly the poor, enjoys this benefit, since limited access to essential drugs remains a key challenge in most health systems.  High out-of-pocket expenditures, typically more than 40% of total health expenditures in some countries (a large portion for outpatient drugs), also place a heavy burden on poor families with chronically ill members who require daily drug intake.

African Debt since Debt Relief: How Clean is the Slate?

Mark Roland Thomas's picture

This blog post was co-authored with Dino Merotto, Tihomir Stucka, and Tau Huang. 

The benefits of debt relief have persisted, although some countries may now be borrowing too quickly.

Remember Jubilee 2000 and the HIPC Initiative? Remember the “Drop the Debt” and “One” movements in 2005? Live 8? Bono on the White House Lawn?  Those white “make poverty history” wristbands?

Seven years on, debt is now making headlines in the rich countries.  In Europe and the US the news is of sovereign debt downgrades amid speculation about capacity to rollover debts, and countries’ long-term fiscal capacity to repay. 

Country policy and institutional assessment: How well are African countries doing?

Punam Chuhan-Pole's picture

Every year, the World Bank’s country teams and sector experts assess the quality of IDA countries’ policy and institutional framework across 16 dimensions to measure their strenght and track progess.  

The latest country policy and institutional assessment (CPIA) results show that despite difficult global economic conditions, the quality of policies and institutions in a majority of Sub-Saharan African countries remained stable or improved in 2011.

DOWNLOAD the indicators here: www.worldbank.org/Africa/CPIA

For several countries the policy environment is the best in recent years. Of the 38 African countries with CPIA scores, 13 saw an improvement in the 2011 overall score by at least 0.1. Twenty countries saw no change, and five witnessed a decline of 0.1 or more. The overall CPIA score for the region was unchanged at 3.2.  

In short, despite a challenging global economic environment, African countries continued to pursue policies aligned with growth and poverty reduction. 

What will it take to end poverty in Africa?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

My colleague Jim Kim has launched a social media campaign on what it will take to end global poverty (please send your solutions via twitter to #ittakes.) I was reminded of a blog post I did about four years ago entitled “Ending poverty in Africa and elsewhere”. 

My answer then and now is:  Overcome government failure.  By “government failure,” I don’t mean that governments are evil or even that they are incompetent or ill-intentioned.  Analogous to “market failure,” government failure refers to a situation where the particular incentives in government lead to a situation that is worse than what was intended with the intervention.  

For instance, governments finance and provide primary education so that poor children can have access to learning.  But if teachers are paid regardless of whether they show up for work, and politicians rely on teachers to run their political campaigns, the result is absentee teachers and poor children who don’t know how to read or write—precisely the opposite of what was intended.  We see similar government failures in health care, water supply, sanitation, electricity, transport, labor markets and trade policy.

Africa’s Learning Crisis

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Hardly a week goes by without someone pointing out that, despite being enrolled in school, many of Africa’s primary school-age children don’t seem to be learning very much. 

Today’s salvo is from the Brookings Institution’s Center for Universal Education, whose Africa Learning Barometer estimates that 61 million children (half of the primary school-age population) “will reach their adolescent years without being able to read, write or perform basic numeracy tasks.”  

Last week, my colleagues Elizabeth King and Ritva Reinikka called on Africa’s education system to “put learning first for all students.”  We have documented disappointing learning outcomes in Tanzania on this blog.  Despite being a middle-income country and having substantially increased public spending on education, South Africa’s performance in standardized tests is below the average for African countries.

If Kenya was a member of the Euro zone – Lessons in managing debt sustainably

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

As European leaders convened in Brussels to find solutions—yet again!—to the debt crisis in the Euro zone, Kenyans are witnessing the old continent’s woes with a mix of surprise and self-satisfaction. 

If only Greece had managed its debt like Kenya, Europe would be in a much better shape today. Greece’s debt would be standing at 45 percent of GDP, less than a third of what it actually is. Recent global economic history would need to be rewritten and Europe’s sick nation would be a macroeconomic success, with the luxury of deciding how to spend its resources well, rather than scrambling to mobilize them. 

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