Social networks have been a hot topic in the past year, not least because of the buzz around the Oscar-winning film about the founding of Facebook. Even in countries with relatively low internet connectivity, use of social networking sites is on the rise – just ask Timor-Leste’s President José Ramos Horta and his 378 Facebook friends. But even before the internet empowered us to connect and communicate at the speed of a whim, we have all lived fully immersed in social networks. Social networks are the links between family and friends, classmates and teammates, coworkers and colleagues, enemies and ‘frenemies’. They are the relationships – around 150 meaningful ones, according to Dunbar’s number – that feed and bound our choices and actions, provide us with emotional sustenance and sounding boards, and provide structure to our lives. But beyond their intrinsic value, what do these connections mean – for individuals, for communities, and for development?
Semi-constructed skyscrapers dotting the horizon, shoppers, commuters and students flooding the sidewalks and a sea of trucks, cars and buses - all fighting for their own space along Bole road, Addis’ main thoroughfare. The signs of a decade of 10% annual economic growth for Ethiopia were evident in the cab ride to the hotel. The energetic vibe of Addis also reminded me that despite rapid advancements, it was still a country with one of the highest poverty rates in the world, large rural populations without energy access, significant bio-diversity and environmental risks and a nascent private sector to deal with it all.
To engage the private sector was the reason I was in Ethiopia. I was preparing for the business plan development of an Ethiopian Climate Innovation Center (CIC) similar to the Kenyan CIC launching later this year. The $15 million program will invest in and support early-stage companies wanting to become more involved in the booming local and international cleantech markets while becoming profitable and competitive.
However the suite of services developed for each CIC look different in each market and is therefore designed via a rigorous gaps, opportunities and needs analysis with local stakeholders. While in Ethiopia, I met with a few of the 100-plus stakeholders that will take part in the design phase of the Center. Public and private sectors, development partners, NGOs and academia were eager to share their expertise and experience of what was needed for a CIC in Ethiopia. These are my thoughts following those discussions:
Development Marketplace winner Pachamama Coffee Cooperative (PCC) was featured in the New York Times not too long ago. Its newest initiative CoffeeCSA.org found its roots in humble beginnings. Springing from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement which began in the 1960’s in Switzerland, consumers receive their produce directly from the farmer through a household subscription paid for in advance. Then on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, the consumer cum subscriber receives a portion of the overall harvest.
CoffeeCSA.org is a platform that allows consumers to pay in advance for a coffee subscription ranging from one month to one year. There consumers have a direct link to farmers who grew their coffee in Ethiopia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru or Guatemala. And the advance subscription provides a more stable income to farmers. It’s a great adaptation of an old model for coffee farmers who often live on only $2 per day.
I recently returned from Ethiopia where I visited a project that is being covered by MIGA’s political risk insurance. The project involves the privatization and expansion of an existing farm to cultivate and process passion fruit, mango, and papaya for juice exports. The newly formed company, africaJUICE Tibila Share Company, has taken what was essentially an abandoned farm and transformed it into a thriving enterprise.
The project introduced passion fruit to the community which is harvested and processed into juice in a new state-of-the art factory. The juice is then exported to markets in Europe and the Middle East. In addition to creating significant direct employment for a poor rural area (2400 employees), the project is developing a cadre of contract farmers who can earn a significantly higher income for this “in demand” product.
Social protection, disaster risk reduction, and climate change adaptation – how do they relate to one another? Are they still largely separate communities of practice or ‘tribes’ within development or humanitarian contexts? Are there signs that they are beginning to work together to help us deal with the increasingly risky and uncertain world in which we live – one in which life comes at you fast?
The devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan have reminded us just how precarious people’s lives and well-being can be, even in the world’s richest countries. But in the world’s poorest countries and communities, the threat of drought, floods and other climate risks looms large in everyday life, and is a major reason why many people are held back from transforming their livelihoods and permanently escaping poverty.
|Rehabilitating degraded lands by water harvesting in Lemo Woreda, Ethiopia. Picture by Cecilia Costella|
Last week in Addis Ababa, 120 people from 24 countries gathered in UNECA’s historic Africa Hall – an architecturally significant symbol of African independence and optimism – to learn from each other how best to make social protection work for pro-poor disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Ethiopia was the ideal venue for this international workshop. One in three people in Ethiopia lives in poverty, largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture for a living, and is highly susceptible to droughts, floods and other climate vagaries.
As the President of Ethiopia, H.E. Girma W/ Giorgis, remarked in his welcome address, Ethiopia is also proud to be breaking new ground in social protection for climate risk management through the flagship Productive Safety Nets Project (PSNP). In his video message to the workshop, the World Bank’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, Andrew Steer, applauded Ethiopia for its part in being a “pioneer in the revolution that is under way in social protection programs for the poor”. Ethiopia also displays global leadership in the ongoing climate change negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. As Andrew Steer observed, just as the Government of South Africa is determined that the Durban Conference of the Parties (COP) in December this year be seen as “Africa’s COP – just like the World Cup”, the agenda discussed in this workshop was very much “Africa’s agenda, and the agenda of all vulnerable countries everywhere”.
Here at MIGA, I’m responsible for fielding initial investor inquiries about our political risk guarantees, which is an interesting vantage point from which to note trends. Last year I blogged about the rising interest of foreign investors in Sierra Leone. Talking with investors around the world interested in emerging markets and examining MIGA’s Preliminary Application (PA) data, I see a similar trend emerging in Ethiopia. Investor interest has grown dramatically.
MIGA was created to promote foreign direct investment into developing countries by mitigating political risk. The agency offers insurance to private investors against
Against overwhelming odds, the efforts of countries and donors to pursue the Education for All (EFA) goals over the last decade have paid off. The number of out of school children has dropped by the tens of millions, enrollment rates have surged, first grade entry has jumped substantially, completion rates have shot up, gender disparities have diminished, and other types of equity have improved in many countries, including in very large countries like China, Brazil, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. Of course the six EFA goals and Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3 still remain to be achieved so we are anything but complacent. Nonetheless, we have seen substantial progress.
It is really important to recognize that in education we are talking about broad, system-wide outcomes – not just narrowly defined (albeit incredibly important) specific outcomes – for example in the health sector, improved outcomes on a few diseases. Scores of countries around the world have made great leaps forward on education results, despite poverty, despite the fact that many donors did not meet their funding targets, and despite the fact that EFA doesn't have a Bono, a Bill Gates, or an Angelina Jolie to promote its importance.
Climate change poses a serious threat to future food security. Increases in temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns are expected to increase food shortages, especially in Africa. In response, governments and scientists are looking for ways to reduce the negative impacts of climate change on food production.
Ethiopia, which has a strong history of conserving its food crops, has partnered with the CGIAR-supported Bioversity International to implement a World Bank Development Marketplace 2009 winning project called Innovative Pilot Scheme Would Match Seeds to the Needs of Women Farmers. The project works to ensure farmers, particularly women farmers, will have an assured supply of climate-tolerant seeds for food production as climatic conditions change in the future.
Demonstrations this week in Cote d’Ivoire prompt a number of troubling questions, including what it means to be a “state broadcaster” when who heads the state is in dispute. The influence of state-run broadcasters may be diminishing across much of sub-Saharan Africa, but their potential impact on fragile democratic institutions has been highlighted this week in west Africa. Who controls the airwaves may turn out to be instrumental in who shapes public perceptions, and through them, political reality – the protestors in Cote d’Ivoire know this, choosing of all institutions as the focus of their protest, the state-run television station.
In the 1990s, the government of Ethiopia knew that a major expansion of the road network was a sine qua non for its development goals―namely, (a) advance the private sector; (b) upgrade and expand essential infrastructure; and (c) conserve the environment.