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Resilience vs. Vulnerability in African Drylands

Paul Brenton's picture
Woman carries wood in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Source- Guillaume Colin & Pauline Penot

It’s 38°C (99°F) in Ouagadougou, the capitol city of Burkina Faso, today—and it’s been this hot all week. The end of the warm season is near, but in places like Ouaga (pronounced WAH-ga, as its better known), temperatures stay high year-round. These are the African drylands: hot, arid, and vulnerable.

Over 40 percent of the African continent is classified as drylands, and it is home to over 325 million people. For millennia, the people of these regions have adapted to conditions of permanent water scarcity, erratic precipitation patterns, and the constant threat of drought. But while urban centers like Cairo and Johannesburg have managed to thrive under these harsh conditions, others have remained mired in low productivity and widespread poverty. 

The World Bank has been partnering with a team of regional and international agencies to prepare a major study on policies, programs, and projects to reduce the vulnerability and enhance the resilience of populations living in drylands regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Digital Libraries for the Poor

Parmesh Shah's picture

Facilitating Bottom-Up Innovation through Video-based Learning Platform


Local villagers being trained to shoot videos

American Idol, a television show in the United States, has inspired thousands of people to make videos for stardom in music, dance, cooking and more. Can this phenomenon be applied in development? Digital Green, a non-profit, is doing exactly that by using a similar approach to improve agriculture development in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. It uses participatory video as a medium to create star farmers and facilitates a rural library of digital videos providing decentralized and localized agriculture solutions to farmers, using the thrill of appearing "on video" to amplify the organization’s reach within their social networks.
 
Digital Green’s mission is to solve one of the intractable problems of the agriculture sector – lack of localized knowledge and extension services. For instance, in India alone, the agriculture extension system employs more than 100,000 people but very few access it (less than 6 percent), and only 40 percent get information from other sources. Tackling this information gap is critical to enhancing the livelihoods of small and marginal farmers in India, who have low productivity and constitute over 80 percent of India’s farmers. Digital Green is offering an innovative solution, and initial results are promising.

How Social Connections and Business Ties Can Boost Trade: An Application of Social Network Analysis

Anasuya Raj's picture

The Nigerien city of Gaya is booming. Sitting on the banks of the Niger River not far from the borders of Benin and Nigeria, Gaya has grown from a quiet village to a hopping new hub. Its population is five times what it was just a few decades ago. So what has Gaya on the go? 

To some extent, it's a trade story. Price differences across its nearby borders, helped by a ban on imports of second-hand clothes in Nigeria, and an avoidance of tax collection by customs officials have all been important factors in explaining the boom of trade in the region. Yet, combining these with an analysis of the development of transnational networks gives a more complete picture.

This is where Social Network Analysis sheds new light on the story of Gaya, by looking at these interactions to help improve our understanding of the dynamics involved.
 

Sharing Experiences and Insights to Enhance Gender Equality in Sub-Saharan Africa

Paula Tavares's picture



On February 27, a high-level regional workshop kicked off in Lomé, Togo, with the participation of Ministers of gender affairs and officials from 11 economies from West and Central Africa focusing on the World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law 2014: Removing Restrictions to Enhance Gender Equality report. A welcome dinner prior to the official opening of the event revealed the dynamic nature of gender affairs Ministers – all women – and the common realities and issues facing their nations. Most were meeting for the first time in a unique experience that enabled sharing stories and views about laws, cultural norms and traditional roles within the family in prelude to the official discussions.
 
The opening remarks at the workshop reflected well the importance of gender equality for the region. In welcoming the event, Mr. Hervé Assah, the World Bank's Country Manager for Togo, noted that “underinvesting in the human capital of women is a real obstacle to reducing poverty and considerably limits the prospects for economic and social development.” Those concerns were echoed by the Minister of Social Action and Women and Literacy Promotion in Togo, Mrs. Dédé Ahoéfa Ekoué, who highlighted the importance of women’s participation in society and the economy, both in Togo and worldwide. The tone was thus set for this two-day event, which aimed at both highlighting recent reforms enacted by countries in the region and promoting the sharing of experiences, challenges and good practices among the participants in promoting women’s economic inclusion.

There is certainly much to highlight and share over these two days and beyond. Over the past two years, several Sub-Saharan African economies passed reforms promoting gender parity and encouraging women’s economic participation. For example, Togo reformed its Family Code in 2012, now allowing both spouses to choose the family domicile and object to each other’s careers if deemed not to be the family’s interests. Côte d’Ivoire equalized the same rights for women and men, and also eliminated provisions granting tax benefits only to men for being the head of household. Furthermore, Mali enacted a law allowing both spouses to pursue their business and professional activities and a succession law equalizing inheritance between husbands and wives. While the pace of reform has been accelerating in the region, it is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region that has reformed the most over the past 50 years: Restrictions on women’s property rights and their ability to make legal decisions were reduced by more than half from 1960 to 2010.

The King Baudouin African Development Prize

Kristina Nwazota's picture
The King Baudouin Foundation has just announced that it is accepting nominations for its 2014-2015 African Development Prize. The Prize awards innovative initiatives that help local communities take development into their own hands and that improve quality of life. The Prize is worth 150.000 Euros and is awarded every other year. Previous winners include women's rights advocate Bogaletch Gebre of Ethiopia and Dr.

Relaunching Africa Can and Sharing Africa’s Growth

Francisco Ferreira's picture

Dear Africa Can readers, we’ve heard from many of you since our former Africa Chief Economist Shanta Devarajan left the region for a new Bank position that you want Africa Can to continue highlighting the economic challenges and amazing successes that face the continent. We agree.

Today, we are re-launching Africa Can as a forum for discussing ideas about economic policy reform in Africa as a useful, if not essential, tool in the quest to end poverty in the region.

You’ll continue to hear from many of the same bloggers who you’ve followed over the past five years, and you’ll hear from many new voices – economists working in African countries and abroad engaging in the evidence-based debate that will help shape reform. On occasion, you’ll hear from me, the new Deputy Chief Economist for the World Bank in Africa.

We invite you to continue to share your ideas and challenge ours in pursuit of development that really works to improve the lives of all people throughout Africa.

Here is my first post. I look forward to your comments.

In 1990, poverty incidence (with respect to a poverty line of $1.25) was almost exactly the same in sub-Saharan Africa and in East Asia: about 57%. Twenty years on, East Asia has shed 44 percentage points (to 13%) whereas Africa has only lost 8 points (to 49%). And this is not only about China: poverty has also fallen much faster in South Asia than in Africa.

These differences in performance are partly explained by differences in growth rates during the 1990s, when emerging Asia was already on the move, and Africa was still in the doldrums. But even in the 2000s, when Africa’s GDP growth picked up to 4.6% or thereabouts, and a number of countries in the region were amongst the fastest-growing nations in the world, still poverty fell more slowly in Africa than in other regions. Why is that?

Benin Shows How Community-Managed Projects Can Build Infrastructure Faster and More Cost-Effectively

Kaori Oshima's picture

Students gather outside a PNDCC school in Benin. World Bank Photo.In community-driven development (CDD) projects, communities that have been given control over planning decisions and investment resources for development often decide to undertake small-scale infrastructure projects, such as rural roads, small bridges or schools. A project in Benin has demonstrated that schools built by communities can be built faster at lower cost than those built by outside contractors.

An assumption behind CDD is that communities with local knowledge of resources and environment are better positioned to figure out the best way to build their own public infrastructure in their interest. Indeed, there is some evidence that community-built infrastructure can be cheaper when compared to infrastructure built by government or outside contractors (for example, Wong (2012) introduces several cases of “CDD’s cost effectiveness as compared to equivalent works built through other government service delivery mechanisms”).  

However, much of the available evidence comes from a comparison between “community-built infrastructure” and “other-entity built similar infrastructure” constructed at a different time. It is difficult to find, or to set up, an experiment where a set of identical infrastructure projects are built by both communities and others at the same time under similar conditions, and in numbers large enough to allow for comparison between outcomes.

In this regard, the recently completed National Community Driven Development Project (“PNDCC” in French) and the Fast Track Initiative (FTI) Education project in Benin present just this type of “natural experiment.”

1 River Basin, 9 Countries, 1 Vision

Amal Talbi's picture

World Water Day 2013 Logo

1 basin, 9 countries, 1 vision was in a brochure of one of the Council of Ministers meeting of the Niger Basin. The first time I saw that brochure I smiled as I right away thought about 9-1-1, the emergency telephone number used to respond to emergency circumstances in North America. It made me think about the numerous challenges that the Niger Basin faces.

This large Basin of 2 million square kilometers with a complex hydrology, running through nine countries, including its central part in the Sahel, has significantly untapped potential (agriculture, energy, etc.) that represents high stakes for large groups of communities, environmental degradation, and frequent water shocks (drought and floods). The Basin territory is also home to numerous political challenges, including instability and terrorism activities as highlighted by the ongoing events in Mali. Quite daunting when you look at it from this perspective, and it does give a sense of urgency.

Do Informed Citizens Receive More, or Pay More?

Philip Keefer's picture

One widely-accepted political economy research finding is that informed citizens receive greater benefits from government transfer programs. The evidence for the impact of information comes from particular contexts—disaster relief in India and welfare payments in the USA during the Great Depression.  Do other contexts yield similar results?  New research on the distribution of anti-malaria bed nets in Benin suggests:  “No.”  Instead, local health officials charged more informed households for bed nets that they could have given them for free.

The Benin context differs in three ways.  First, the policy is not the distribution of cash, but of health benefits.  Households’ access to information then influences not only their knowledge of government programs to distribute such benefits, but also the value they place on them. 

Second, the political context also differs.  In younger democracies, like Benin’s, citizens are more likely to confront additional obstacles, besides a lack of information, in their efforts to extract promised benefits from government.

Democracy isn't dead

Markus Goldstein's picture

At least not in Benin.   This week, I take a look at interesting paper by Leonard Wantchekon documenting an experiment he did in Benin with this year’s presidential election.   In this paper, Leonard compares the results from a deliberative sharing of a candidate’s platform in a local town hall against a one-way communication of the candidate (or his broker) with a big rally.  


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