‘Our Economic Policy will be predicated on our agriculture which is the mainstay…’ said Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa in his inaugural speech in November 2017, setting a new tone for agricultural development in the country. While reiterating that the principles that led to land reform cannot be “challenged” or “reversed,” he called for a “commitment to the utilization of the land for national food security and for the recovery of our economy.”
For five years now, the global community has been observing the International Day of Forests on March 21. It is an occasion to celebrate the wide range of economic and social benefits that forests and trees bring to humankind. Since joining the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) as its president in July 2016, I have been paying lots of attention to forests in West Africa, which is the world’s leading source of cocoa. These tropical forests, and others like them around the world, play an indispensable role in fighting global climate change by storing carbon. They also meet vital local needs, by cooling temperatures, helping generate rainfall, and purifying the air and water. Healthy forests help rural communities thrive. The paradox is that, over the last 10 years, life-giving forests in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana were felled at an alarming rate as cocoa farmers, faced with challenges such as low prices, climate change, and low productivity, have expanded the land area on which they grow cocoa. The crop, essential for the chocolate and cocoa products that many of us love, is now seen as a major driver of deforestation in these countries.
At least since Aristotle, theorists have believed that political discontent and its consequences—protests, instability, violence, revolution—depend not only on a society’s absolute level of economic well-being, but also on its distribution of wealth. However, many societies also experience low levels of conflict that continue to simmer without tipping over into the kind of outright violence that takes a heavy toll on lives, livelihoods, economic output, and stability for multiple generations.
There is a lot of excitement regarding the new “Civilizations” series on the BBC. Anybody who watched the original 1969 “Civilization” series hosted by Kenneth Clark will find it hard to forget the extraordinary opening scene, in which a professorial Clark, properly attired in tweed and tie, exclaims: “What is civilization? I don’t know, I can’t define it in abstract terms, but I think I can recognize it when I see it, and I am looking at it now.” He then turns back and the camera focuses on Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral in all its splendor.
The new BBC series is no longer just about European civilization as seen through its artistic achievements since the Renaissance, but expands into civilizations more broadly defined, thus the additional “s.” It is hosted by legendary art historian Simon Schama, as well as Mary Beard and David Olusoga. It covers civilizations around the world including the ancient ones of China, Egypt, and Mexico. Like the original series, it uses art as a defining and unifying principle that not only accompanies it but more properly, defines and characterizes human civilization.
Why is this so? Once again, turning back to Clark, he quotes John Ruskin as saying, “Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts—the book of their deeds, the book of their words, and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others; but of the three, the only quite trustworthy one is the last.”
Is artificial intelligence the future for economic development? Earlier this month, a group of World Bank staff, academic researchers, and technology company representatives convened at a conference in San Francisco to discuss new advances in artificial intelligence. One of the takeaways for Bank staff was how AI technologies might be useful for Bank operations and clients. Below you’ll find a full round-up of all the papers and research-in-progress that was presented. All slides that were shared publicly are linked here, as well as papers or other relevant sites.
Consider some figures: In 2016, the world spent almost US$1.7 trillion on military expenditures, a number that included not only weapons, but also pensions and salaries of personnel. By contrast, data from the OECD show that net official development assistance for the same year peaked at US$142 billion. In other words, countries spend over ten times more on war than aid in an era when about 2 billion people still live in places where violence is a threat to life.
Photo: ItNeverEnds | Pixabay Creative Commons
The digital economy has emerged as a key driver of growth and development across the world. According to Huawei and Oxford Economics, it accounted for 15.5% of global GDP in 2016 and this share is expected to increase to 24.3% by the year 2020—growing 2.5 times higher than the overall growth of the global economy.
However, along with rapidly increasing digitization, we are witnessing an exponential increase in cyber risks. These have potentially huge financial impacts that could place entire economies and societies in jeopardy. Such threats now typically include privacy breaches, cyber fraud, denial-of-service attacks, and cyber extortion. There are many examples just within the last few years. For instance, a cyber attack on Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 caused serious power outages, and in 2016, the Central Bank of Bangladesh lost $81 million in a cyber heist. That same year, more than 3.1 billion records were leaked globally.
While traditional approaches such as establishing computer emergency response teams and national cyber security agencies are important, there is a need to engage more actively with both public and private entities through new institutional structures, new technologies, and new business models. Cyber risk insurance is one tool that can help address these challenges.
One of the arguments in favor of more gender diversity in the economics profession is that men and women bring distinct perspectives to research and are interested in answering different research questions. We focus in on development economics in this post and examine how the research topics studied by men and women differ.
In most rural communities in Papua New Guinea (PNG), a daily routine for women and girls involves collecting clean drinking water for their families. Whether it means a strenuous walk down a steep hill in the highlands or walking for hours during the dry season to the nearest water source, this daily task is familiar to a lot of us.
A few months ago, I travelled to Bialla, a small district town in West New Britain Province, in the north-eastern end of PNG after the launch of the new Water & Sanitation Development Project.
Driving into the township, it’s obvious why access to clean tapped water is so important: the main road was filled with women, and children of school age, carrying huge water containers heading to the nearest river.
I met 13-year-old Rendela, who told me about Tiraua river that it was about an hour out of town. Like most young girls in Bialla, Rendela is responsible for collecting water for her family.
Millions of children around the world are prevented from reaching their full developmental potential because of poor environment and nutrition. In the more extreme cases, these children face stunting — a condition that arises when children grow much less than is expected for their age.
In 2016, an estimated 155 million kids – about one quarter of all young children worldwide – were affected by stunting. Sadly, undernutrition claims about 3 million young lives every year – representing almost half of all deaths of children under the age of five.
Young children who lack access to pre-primary education also lack access to essential services that support a healthy childhood. Kids who are poorly nourished, who are stunted, and who do not receive adequate stimulation before their fifth birthday are likely to learn less at school and earn less as adults. They are also less ready to compete as adults in an increasingly digital economy.
In Central Asia, I am glad to say that we are starting to see progress on the path toward eliminating childhood stunting. In every country in the region, the share of children who are stunted is on the decrease. This is a remarkable achievement, due in large part to the commitment of governments and communities to address malnutrition. We must remain determined to ensure this progress continues.