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September 2012

The struggle for survival for Caribbean cleantech SMEs

Eleanor Ereira's picture

They had to do something different, something memorable, which would make people realize just how tough it is for small businesses in the Caribbean to survive, “So we held a funeral”. Rosalea Hamilton, the President of the Jamaica-based MSME Alliance explained that they staged a funeral to mourn for the death of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Jamaica. The objective was to draw attention to a petition presented to the Prime Minister on ways to support the sector. As the poster for the event underscored, if nothing changed to help Caribbean entrepreneurs, their ventures were as good as dead.Life isn't a beach for cleantech SMEs in the Caribbean, which face high energy costs, lack of financing and other challenges. (Credit: Clive Gutteridge, Flickr Creative Commons)

According to Rosalea, one of the top challenges facing businesses in Jamaica is the cripplingly high electricity costs, which can account for 25% of a business’s expenses. Jamaica, along with many other Caribbean countries, is highly dependent on foreign oil. This is in spite of numerous domestic natural resources that could be used to move away from fossil fuels, such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy, biofuels such as bagasse, and waste-to-energy systems. Given the high energy prices, start-ups developing alternative energy solutions should thrive in the Caribbean. But ask regional cleantech entrepreneurs, and a different story emerges.

Better Nutrition Through Information

Markus Goldstein's picture

In honor of Labor Day here in the US, I want to talk about a recent nutrition paper by Emla Fitzsimons, Bansi Malde, Alice Mesnard and Marcos Vera-Hernandez.   This paper, “Household Responses to Information on Child Nutrition,” is one with a twist – they look not only at nutrition outcomes, but they also try and figure out where these might be coming from – and hence also look at labor supply.  

What have we learned about financial literacy around the world?

Bilal Zia's picture

 Financial literacy programs are fast becoming a key ingredient in financial policy reform worldwide. Yet, what is financial literacy exactly and what do we know of its effectiveness? In a new paper, Lisa Xu and I summarize existing evidence on both measurement and impact of financial literacy and provide lessons for policymakers and guidance for researchers on future work in this area.

While the working paper provides a detailed and practitioner-oriented overview of the recent research, drawing on what we’ve learned from surveys, impact evaluations, and other empirical work, I want to use this blog space to focus on lessons for the way forward.

“Death on Wheels” in sub-Saharan Africa: How to prevent it?

Patricio V. Marquez's picture

On the eve of the 2010 World Football Cup, former South Africa President Nelson Mandela experienced a tragedy that is all too common across sub-Saharan Africa: his great-granddaughter was killed in a car crash returning home after a concert in Soweto. The car's driver was arrested and charged with drunk driving.

Thousands of African families have experienced the pain of the Mandela family: according to WHO data, close to 250,000 people die each year on African roads, representing one-fifth of the world's road deaths, and about 500,000 sustain non-fatal injuries.

Severe underreporting hides the real magnitude of the problem; for example, in Mozambique, estimates done in 2011 by a Harvard University team indicated that road deaths and non-fatal injuries were twice as high as those reported in official statistics.

As the map shows, the sub-Saharan African countries, with an estimated death rate of 32.2 people per 100,000 population, have some of the highest road death rates in the world although they possess only 2% of the world’s registered vehicles.  

The University of Felix Houphouet Boigny is now open for classes...again!

Phil Hay's picture

Never mind that it is drizzling throughout the opening ceremony, forcing many people under a undulating roof of red, green, blue, and pink umbrellas. The re-opening of Cote d’Ivoire’s leading university here in Abidjan’s Cocody district, after its closure two years ago because of the long political crisis which culminated in the disputed results of the 2010 presidential election, isn’t going to be deterred by the last fading days of the rainy season. Academics in their green robes sit good naturedly under tents. Student reps wait nervously by the entranceway for Cote d’Ivoire’s President Ouattara to arrive. The music is loud and exuberant. The place is humming with expectation and excitement. It’s a new start for higher education.

The government has been planning for this moment for the last eight months, hiring legions of workmen, builders, and gardeners to refurbish the old University of Cocody, one of Africa’s longest-running and best-known tertiary institutes which opened before the country won its independence in 1960.

Yemen’s future will depend on more than promises

Wael Zakout's picture
       

I am on my way to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for a meeting next week with a diverse range of government representatives and members of global development organizations that will focus on a single subject: a stable and prosperous future for Yemen, and how to achieve it. It will be an opportunity for a broad cross section of the international community to discuss with the transitional government the many challenges the country faces. 


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