Why We Work in Development


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A visual reminder of why many of us work in development:

The schoolchildren in this picture are first- and second-graders in the Democratic Republic of Congo. They're holding their new textbooks, given to them as part of a project that distributed some 14 million free textbooks to private and public schools across the country. 

After the photo was taken, the teachers tried to take the books back to put them in the classrooms for safekeeping.  The kids refused. For many of them, this was the first time they had held a book in their hands--and they weren't about to let go of them. The Minister of Education (seen in the photo with my colleague Marie-Francoise Mary-Nelly), wanting to give the kids a chance to enjoy their new textbooks, let them keep them.


Shanta Devarajan

Senior Director, DEC and Acting World Bank Group Chief Economist

Join the Conversation

Charles Gundy
October 14, 2009

An inspiring story. This story should be copied to the textbook publishers in Western countries. I'm sure more than a few will be touched and may be moved to provide their books to sub-Saharan African countries.

October 09, 2009

Lesson Learned: Never take a book out of a child's hands.
Lovely picture.

Alphonsus C. Nwoye
October 10, 2009

African Poverty Reduction Road map
Poverty classification depends on the poverty line and the level of per capital income in a country. Using the $1 per day and $2 per day international poverty lines to identify the proportion of the population which are poor, it is clear that the key feature of poverty in Africa is that there is a generalized or mass poverty.
The majority of African population lives at or below income levels which are not sufficient to meet their basic needs
(UNCTAD, Report, 2004: The Least Developed Countries).
Some 300 million Africans – almost half the population – live on barely $0.65 a day (in purchasing power parity terms), (The World Bank, 2000: Can Africa Claim the 21st Century) and in fact, this number is growing unabated.
However, poverty in Africa could be attributed to internal factors such as bad governance, lack of capabilities/public services, unbridled corruption and external variables like debt burden, unfair trade and unfavourable climate change. This write-up preferred solutions on how to alleviate poverty in Africa.
Poverty Issues and Solutions
A Internal Factors:
i. Bad governance – For governments to work for the poor – the people should have a say in the things that affect their lives. Governance should focus on demand delivery, not supply delivery.
- Choose their leaders – and change them if necessary.
- To be governed well and treated fairly.
- Create opportunities for self-reliance – sustainable livelihood, entrepreneurship/vocational training openings and shared prosperity.
There is need for good governance – the deal between government and citizens (The practice of social contract theory). For the deal to work, governments must get things done. They must listen, and respond to what people need. And people must be able to make sure their politicians and public servants answer for their actions.
This is about politics. It is about how elected representatives, ordinary people, local communities, trade unionists, farmers, journalists, business people, and people in many other walks of life work together. It is about how decisions get made. Good politics makes for good governance. Without it fight against poverty can not be won (DFID, 2006: Eliminating World Poverty).
ii. Lack of capabilities/public services: The “dynasty of poverty: could be traced to this factor because the descendants of the poor also remain poor. In Africa, the rural poor account for 80 percent, urban poverty is substantial and appears to be growing.
Vast inequality in incomes, in assets (including education and health status), in control over public resources, and in access to essential services, as well as pervasive insecurity widen the poverty gap.
Primary school enrollment is declining. General health of the population is deteriorating, particularly among the poor and children occasioned mainly by HIV/AIDS and child-related diseases which are rising at geometrical progression in Africa.
- building of stronger economics that would create more jobs and more income for governments to spend on public services including businesses, and investment in infrastructure, agriculture and trade.
- helping poor countries get children into school, improve healthcare, provide clean water, and offer social benefits like pensions for the poorest people.
- avoid conflicts and violence that keep people poor. The UN and the International community should promote peace and security more through peace building, conflict prevention and management in Africa than peacekeeping forces.
- Investing in technology that would better drugs and cleaner energy, help farmers with new techniques and manage the dangers of climate damage. Also, revolutionizing ICT in Africa would foster poverty alleviation through world sourcing, back office, online service trade and job opportunities etc.
iii. Unbridled Corruption:
Corruption is a world-wide social phenomenon which hits the poorest Africa hardest because public corruption in Africa is a systemic problem as a result of government control of Africa’s rich natural resources. Corruption prevails when people:
- steal public and natural resources (like mineral or oil);
- demand bribes for public services; and
- abuse power, for example by interfering with the election’s, neglecting due process, accountability and transparency in government transactions.
- no form of corruption should be accepted. Poor people should not suffer because of the actions of their corrupt leader.
- The UN and international community should help to reduce international corruption by cracking down on international bribery, money laundering, and setting standards for international business and public contracts;
- help countries fight corruption, through the courts, in parliaments, with campaigners and in the media;
- Channeling aids to achieve results by working with governments where the conditions are right and working with charities and communities where they are not.
B. External Factors:
i. Debt burden:
The debt burden for Africa which borrowed heavily form the 1970s and 1980s is now unmanageable. The situation is worsened by natural disasters, civil wars, and corruption.
- Debt cancellation will benefit Africa. It will help get millions of children into school and anti-retroviral drugs to people with AIDS, including free basic health care.
ii. Unfair Trade:
The Doha Trade Development agenda is aimed at balancing the multilateral trading system in favour of the poor countries in Africa. Major contending issues in the agenda are farm subsides – government subsides to cotton farmers in US make cotton so cheap that most African farmers cannot compete; and trade restrictions – especially in EU, where Ghana can export cocoa beans but not chocolate. Since 1985, trade has lifted China’s 200 million people out of poverty (DFID, 2006). In the global trading system, Africa has import dependent economy; buy at the sellers’ price and sell at the buyers’ price, hence unequal trade relationship with other regions of the world.
For effective participation in the global trade; African countries need to develop their infrastructure – roads, electricity and water supply and where necessary, adopt public-private partnership as well as enhance investment, and reduce excessive trade regulation.
Pro-poor fiscal reform that would give financial access at a very low interest rate to the poor should be adopted and cooperative society development should be revolutionalized.
World Trade Organization (WTO) should ensure that trade talks give African countries a chance to trade their way out of poverty. The emerging trade democracy is a pointer in this direction. Economic justice/fair trade practices should be adopted.
iii. Unfvaourbale climate change:
Excessive industrialization by industrialized countries occasioned ozone dilapidation, atmospheric pollution causing flood and droughts that affect water supplies and hitting farmer in Africa adversely.
- There is need for an international agreement to stabilize green house gases in the atmosphere, but should leave room for Africa to grow and be part of the negotiation.
- Promote cleaner energy in Africa.
- Help Africa to adopt with the effects of climate change.
While addressing the culture of poverty variables, there is need for a bottom-top approach to revolutionalize agriculture to absorb the poor and unemployed, promote the culture of entrepreneurship, vocational and technical training, cooperative enterprises to enhance self-reliance and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to promote private-sector involvement in Africa.
This vision is imperative because over the years African countries have been fighting poverty without eradicating the environment (culture) of poverty.

Alphonsus C. Nwoye
e-mail: [email protected]
Cell No: 234-8037904529
G.P.O Box 6655,
Onitsha – Nigeria

October 13, 2009


We would gladly work with the bank to make our textbook (Maths) available to large numbers of learners. This book suitable for Adult Learners and Students (12-13) is presently in digital form as part our paid-for online maths course (www.africanvirtualschool.com). I would also like to think that our online school with the chance of the teachers printing and distributing our books locally and on-demand would make economic sense. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.


moges kifle
January 30, 2010

I am from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Addis is the capital of the country. As an expert/senior Officer in the mayor's office, I have the desire to develop some urban governance performance indicator that indicate the progress of poverty reducing programs. The city's Strategic plan based annual plan of 2002 (Ethiopian calender) identifies key sectors that can reduce the cities major problem which is growth in unemployment. The city government take strong action to reduce the urban poverty using strategies like strengthening the Micro and Small Enterprises, delivering civil service program, expanding the Education and Health sector activities, proper land administration and reform that builds the Fiscal capacity of the city government.

Hence, I would like to develop a reporting standard that can deliver relevant performance of the different institutions and the city's three governmental level structure. The first step I was decided to make is to build the capacity for developing knowledge in the area of how developing countries like Ethiopia monitor and evaluate their local government activities. In doing so, I need a free website address that can help me to get research paper done on the area of performance monitoring and evaluation or any other type of working papers. I have also a need a copy of World Bank Development Report 2004,2006 and 2008 freely down loaded in PDF format from the internet.
Thank You

March 15, 2010

Dear Wilfred,
I have a question concerning the textbooks: are they in the native language of the children or the colonizer's language - French. I am not sure what area these books are going to so I am not sure of the native language. Research has certainly proven that education in the mother tongue is essential for these kid's successful educational achievements.


laura morris
April 09, 2010

The International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) are inviting civil society discussion about India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA)policy and South-South cooperation via their discussion forum on www.ideas4development.org. The aim is to create a discussion friendly environment where all voices can be heard with the ultimate objective of getting a tridimensional discussion on the blog including commentators from civil society, academia and power holders. There will be an Academic Forum which is held in the lead up to the IBSA Summit held in Brasilia, Brazil on the 15th of April, 2010. The outputs of the Academic forum will be formally reported at the Summit.

To find out more about the Academic forum you can go to http://www.ipc-undp.org/ipc/HomeIBSA.do. To join the debate you can visit the ID4D website: http://www.ideas4development.org/en/topics.html.