This will be my last post on Africa Can. Having recently started a new adventure as Chief Economist of the World Bank’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, I will be blogging on that region’s issues in the MENA blog as well as starting a more general blog (tentatively titled “Economics to end poverty”) with some of my fellow bloggers. It has been a privilege to moderate Africa Can, and I want to thank our readers for the stimulating, lively and frank discussions, as well as for having made this the most popular blog at the Bank.
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.
Easy access to markets, public services, and jobs is indispensable for citizens to take advantage of economic opportunities and achieve progress. In Tanzania, as in most other countries in the region, roads are the predominant mode of transport for people and goods. However, insufficient transportation facilities and limited mobility are an everyday reality:
- In 2010, only 1.8 per cent of Tanzanian households owned a car; significantly less than in Kenya (5.6 per cent in 2008/09) or Uganda (3.2 per cent in 2011).
- Motorbike ownership is also not common – only 2.9 per cent of households on Mainland claimed ownership of this vehicle in 2010. The situation in Zanzibar though was different with one in ten households owning a motorcycle or scooter.
- Affordable public transport remains elusive for many Tanzanians: In 2010, more than 40 per cent of women who recently gave birth at home cited distance and lack of transport as the factors that prevented them from delivering at a health facility.
Tanzania has been growing steadily over the past ten years and 2012 was no different. The economy expanded by 6.9 percent, which is close to the historical average. A look at national accounts reveals that five sectors contributed to almost 60 per cent of Tanzania’s economic growth between 2008 and 2012:
- Communication GDP almost doubled in less than four years, growing on average by over 20 per cent per year.
- Banking and financial services have expanded by 11 per cent per year since 2008.
- Retail trade increased by almost 40 percent between 2008 and 2012.
- Construction surged by an average of 9 percent per year over the same period.
- Manufacturing grew annually by 8.4 percent during the last four years.
Most of the literature about Africa’s growth, “Africa Rising”, “Lions on the Move”, etc., refer to the present or the future. An oft-quoted World Bank report said, “Africa could be on the brink of an economic takeoff, much like China was 30 years ago and India 20 years ago.”
Meanwhile, Alwyn Young has recently published a paper that claims that per-capita consumption on the continent has been growing at 3.4-3.7 percent a year for the last two decades—about three to four times the growth rates documented in other studies. Instead of using national accounts data (which, as we know, suffer from several deficiencies), Alwyn adopts the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), which calculate the households’ ownership of assets and other indicators of well-being (ownership of a car or bicycle; material of the house floor; birth, death or illness of a child, etc.).
In 1884, the General Act of Berlin Conference established borders of African colonies. Many of these “exogenous” borders brought about by Scramble of Africa could be still found on modern maps, now separating sovereign states. About one third of all countries of Sub-Saharan Africa – much larger portion compared to other parts of the world – are landlocked.
Since trade with other countries is important for economic development, and since transportation by sea is much cheaper than any other type of transportation, the evolutionary process of “endogenous” formation of the nation states in other regions left few countries without access to sea. It was not impossible, but certainly more difficult, to develop as a nation without such.
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.
Energy fuels economic development and the evidence is before our eyes every day. Businesses require a steady supply of energy to produce goods and services. Electricity allows school children to study after sunset and hospitals need it to save lives Insufficient or irregular energy supply is associated with significant economic cost for businesses and households. Lack of access to clean energy also creates a myriad of health and environmental hazards, such as indoor pollution from cooking on traditional open-fire stoves and deforestation.
Unfortunately, affordable access to clean energy remains an elusive dream for most Tanzanians, especially those living outside of urban centers and the poor:
Ever wonder how a World Bank flagship report gets written? A team of experts drafts an outline and shares it with stakeholders for their comments, suggestions and inputs. Based on this feedback, the team drafts the report and shares the draft for further comment, before publishing the final draft.
Today, we are proposing to write our flagship report on youth employment in Africa differently. We are launching a wiki platform and inviting the world to participate in the writing of the report. The wiki contains the preliminary outline which you can revise and rewrite. I emphasize that the outline is preliminary; it contains assertions that may not be borne out by further analysis (I know because I wrote some of them). So please add to, subtract from and edit the outline.
Why are we doing this? First, the topic of youth employment in Africa is so important that we need to engage as many people as possible in finding solutions. And second, young people are so tech-savvy that this may be a way of harnessing that talent and energy.
As you can imagine, the idea of writing a report on a wiki platform raised some questions, even from my teammates ("if you needed brain surgery, would you crowd source that too?"). But we decided that the benefits outweigh the risks.
And if we succeed in collaborating with a large number of people, we could call it the world's development report.
You have embarked on a long train ride in Africa. The train is in bad shape, the ride is bumpy and breakdowns frequent. You wonder when you will arrive at destination or if you ever will. But after a tortuous first half of the trip, the train is starting to gain speed. There are still a number of unnecessary stops but the destination is now in sight and passengers are becoming upbeat. Just as the train is about to enter the station you are overtaken by three trains, which had been accelerating even faster.
This train could be Kenya in East Africa’s race to Middle Income. The country remains the richest in East Africa and with almost US$800 income per capita is the closest to meeting the international Middle Income threshold of US$1000. But its EAC partners Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania are catching up fast.
Throughout the slums of this world, poor children are dreaming of becoming football stars and playing in the World Cup. Some of them from Kibera—Kenya’s largest slum—had a shot last weekend, when the International School of Kenya hosted the third “Mini World Cup”.
The event involved more than sixty teams made-up of Kenyan and international children from all walks of life. Two teams from Kibera made it to the top eight teams of the tournament, keeping their dream alive to win the “Cup” in one of the next years. The great thing about football is that all teams, no matter what their social background, have an equal opportunity to win. They start on a level playing field, and they all play by the same rules. When the final whistle blows, there is no reason why one of the teams from Kibera should not lift the Mini World Cup next time, just as Ghana’s Black Stars overcame Team USA in the 2010 World Cup, despite the huge disparity in wealth between the two nations.
In economic development, the equivalent of having a level playing field is equality of access to basic services.
Today, October 31, 2011 our planet reaches a new milestone: we are 7 billion people on earth.
In the past, when the world’s population was a fraction of what it is today, the expansion of humanity was a source of alarm and many apocalyptic tales. More than 200 years ago, Thomas Malthus, one of the leading scholars and economists at that time predicted that the world would simply run out of food. Then, we were less than one billion people.
Now I want to take you on a journey into the future.