In the Africa Chief Economist’s Office, we seek to generate knowledge on key development issues around the continent. We also host the Gender Innovation Lab, which – as the name suggests – specifically generates evidence on how to close the gender gap in Africa. Over the course of 2018, we’ve produced a range of products (regional reports and updates), but we also produce academic articles and book chapters seeking to answer key, specific development questions.
Last month, I attended the International Family Planning Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, where policymakers from across the world gathered to strategize about ways to achieve a demographic dividend—the increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita that comes from having a young and productive labor force driving economic growth that is faster than population growth. I was heartened to be joined by ministers of finance and representatives of the highest levels of government, all of whom agreed that women’s empowerment–which centrally includes access to reproductive health services–-is essential for inclusive, sustainable growth.
The Ghana government’s new Coordinated Program strives to create opportunities for all Ghanaians; safeguard the natural environment and ensure that it is resilient; deepen governance to fight corruption and enhance public accountability to maintain a stable, unified, and peaceful Ghana; and create a competitive business environment to build a strong and resilient economy.
The impact of growth on poverty in Ghana has slowed substantially over the years. Ghana’s largest fall in poverty, 2% a year, was experienced during 1991–1998. Between 2012 and 2016, the poverty rate declined by only 0.2% per year. The growth elasticity of poverty (percentage reduction in poverty for each percentage point in economic growth) has decreased, from −1.18 between 1992 and 1998 to −0.07 between 2012 and 2016. This may reflect the declining contribution of agriculture, in which the majority of poor households are engaged, the limited job opportunities for higher productivity in the services sector, and a largely capital-intensive industrial development.
Ghana is a politically, economically, ethnically and demographically diverse country. The origins of economic and social inequality between the north and south of Ghana are largely due to geography and historical legacies of inequality established in colonial times. Still, the country had and has been successful in preventing tensions and conflicts, in part because Ghanaian government has maintained ethno-regional balances in representation.
Expanding the coverage of safety net programs in Africa represents a serious fiscal challenge. While there is substantial variation across countries, on average governments in Africa spend about 1.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) on social safety nets (see figure). This is lower than the spending on other sectors such as energy, health care, education, and, in some cases, the military. Crucially, this level of spending is inadequate to face the high chronic poverty rates and vulnerability to shocks households face in Africa.
The design of the safety net program is perfect; it is based on the latest data and evidence; it enjoys political support at the highest levels, and it has sufficient financing.
So why can this safety net program not even get started after a year?
Maybe the answer has something to do with institutions. Accounting for the formal and informal “rules of the game” for social safety nets is key to the success of any program or system. In our chapter “Anchoring in Strong Institutions to Expand and Sustain Social Safety Nets” in the recently-released regional study on safety nets, we discuss some critical aspects of institutions that can make (or break) a social safety net program and how these evolve as programs grow in Africa.
The Triple Threat, as it is referred to in South African policy circles, remains a key policy priority for the government; namely, inequality, poverty and unemployment. The latter – unemployment – was 27.2% in the second quarter of 2018 and at such high rates, it is a critical development issue in contemporary South Africa.
Ethiopia has been suffering from multiple refugee crises – some more protracted, some more recent – that put a strain on coping capacity of national and local authorities. A new World Bank survey and report inform policies on durable solutions for the displaced populations through an evidence-based approach.
Displacement situations in Ethiopia resulted from a combination of protracted conflicts in neighboring countries (Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan), more recent crises (South Sudan, Yemen), and endemic internal ethnic unrest in some peripheral regions (Oromia, Somali/Ogaden, Afar). As a result of these regional and domestic conflicts, Ethiopia has been one of the most important refugee hosting countries for decades.
There are four main Ethiopian regions that host refugees, each of whom hosts a specific group and has a unique ethnic composition: Tigray and Afar (hosting Eritreans), Gambella (hosting South Sudanese), Benishangul Gumuz (hosting mostly Sudanese, but also South Sudanese), and Somali (Somalis). Thus, the displacement contexts are remarkably diverse: the regions hosting refugees are all peripheral and relatively underserved. Eritreans, Somalis, South Sudanese and Sudanese were displaced due to different drivers related to conflict and fragility, and each group is integrated to different degrees within Ethiopian economy and host communities.
While traveling from the Ndjili Airport to the city center of Kinshasa, you will be introduced to a unique urban experience. The ambient chaos, high traffic congestion and crowded streets may remind you of other African cities, but in Kinshasa—Kin as locals fondly refer to her—everything is larger, faster and louder than life.
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital is a festival of the senses; a dynamic amalgam of people and places that mix the rich and poor, blending the activities of people with opportunities and people fighting for survival, where fancy multi-story buildings are erected just miles away from massive slums. Although poverty is apparent, the lust for life, the vibrancy of local cultures, and the vivid manifestation of cultural expressions thrive among the Kinois.