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South Africa

The Death of an Elder

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

An Elder has died. With Nelson Mandela’s death, “the world has lost a visionary leader, a courageous voice for justice, and a clear moral compass … an inspiration to us all,” said Kofi Annan in a message last week.

Nelson Mandela was the founder of a network of world leaders, called the Elders. The Elders are former holders of public office, former heads of state, activists, visionaries. They are independent, and their mission is to build peace. Mandela, as founder, was an Honorary Elder in this organization, but he was also an Elder to all of us. The global public’s strong emotional reaction to Mandela’s death indicates how deeply rooted the role of an Elder is even in today’s society, which seems to have gone a long way since the days of tribal culture, in which elders were formally acknowledged as leaders and advisors.

A Tale of Two Impacts: Minimum Wage Outcomes in South Africa

Haroon Bhorat's picture

Worker pruning fruit trees Economist and Nobel Prize laureate James M. Buchanan remarked to the Wall Street Journal in 1996 that "Just as no physicist would claim that "water runs uphill”, no self-respecting economist would claim that increases in the minimum wage increase employment."  Of course this statement remains broadly true today, but the advent of better data, improved statistical techniques and the proliferation of country studies – have made economists far more careful about pre-judging the impact of minimum wages on employment and wages.  Indeed, in a now famous study of fast food restaurants in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, David Card and Alan Krueger showed how the imposition of a minimum wage had no significant disemployment effects, and in some cases increased employment, arising out of a large enough increase in demand for the firms’ products.
 
The evidence for South Africa, some twenty years after the demise of apartheid, is equally compelling.  In a two-part study, my co-authors and I find an intriguing set of contrasting economic outcomes, from the imposition of a series of sectoral minimum wage laws.  In South Africa, the minimum wage setting body, known as the Employment Conditions Commission (ECC), advises the Minister of Labour on appropriate and feasible minimum wages for different sectors or sub-sectors in the economy.  Currently, the economy has in place 11 such sectoral minimum wage laws in sectors ranging from Agriculture and Domestic Work, to Retail and Private Security.

The Good News and Bad News on Agriculture and Climate Change

Rachel Kyte's picture
 CGIAR Climate.I have recently returned from the United Nations climate talks that were held in Warsaw, Poland, and I have both good and bad news.
 
The bad news is that delegates opted to delay again discussions of agriculture. This decision, given agriculture’s substantial and well-documented contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, reveals the discomfort negotiators still feel around the science and priorities of what we consider “climate-smart agriculture”.
 
The decision to postpone is short-sighted when we consider the potential agriculture has to become part of the global solution. Agriculture is the only sector that can not only mitigate, but also take carbon out of the atmosphere. It has the potential to substantially sequester global carbon dioxide emissions in the soils of croplands, grazing lands and rangelands.
 
The good news is that there are steps we can take to make agriculture part of the solution. Importantly the discussions with farmers on how to improve incomes and yields, to serve the nutritional content of the food we grow, are our key focus. But we can at the same time improve resilience of food systems and achieve emissions reductions.

Why Inclusion of Sexual Minorities Is Crucial to Gender Equality

Fabrice Houdart's picture
In previous articles we discussed why inclusion of sexual minorities is instrumental to the World Bank’s goal of shared prosperity and constitutes smart economics. This piece focuses on how sexual minority inclusion is crucial to achieve progress on our gender equality agenda.

One of the background papers to the World Bank’s 2012 Gender World Development Report, “Masculinities, Social Change and Development,” alluded to Raewyn Connell’s theory of “hegemonic masculinity” as well as the strong correlation between heterosexism and gender inequalities.

Hegemonic masculinity is defined as the gender practice that guarantees the dominant social position of men and the subordinate social position of women. As summarized by Schifter and Madrigal (2000), it is the view that “Men, by virtue of their sex, [are] naturally strong, aggressive, assertive, and hardworking, whereas women [are] submissive, passive, vain, and delicate.” Hegemonic masculinity justifies the social, economic, cultural, and legal deprivations of women.

Social Mobility and Education

Servaas van der Berg's picture

In his post on this blog, Augusto Lopez-Claros correctly identifies illiteracy as an important factor in global inequality, and places the blame for much of the illiteracy that exists squarely at the feet of government choices. A perspective from South Africa – a country with extreme inequality – confirms that education may be the key to reducing inequality.

TS36-12 World Bank Not surprisingly, given their history, South Africans are obsessed with inequality. Income distribution features prominently in all political debates, in government policies and in the National Development Plan. Yet there is little understanding that the roots of this inequality lie in the labour market, particularly in the wage distribution, and that changing this distribution requires a dramatic improvement in the weak quality of most of South Africa’s schools.
 

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?

Connected and Healthy: Using ICTs to Improve People’s Health

Samia Melhem's picture

Information and communication technologies (ICTs), including mobile phones, are increasingly seen as critical tools to improve public health and health outcomes in Africa. Several experiments, including some launched almost ten years ago, are starting to show progress:
 
In Rwanda, an mHealth system dubbed TRACnet monitors epidemic diseases. TRACnet has been financed since 2004 by the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and Rwanda's Ministry of Health, and has helped track HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Health workers are equipped with a mobile phone and access TRACnet through SMS menu prompts, requiring them to document and monitor the status of patients in the health clinics under their jurisdiction. The system has helped create a registry of all health workers, their patients, rural clinic locations, staffing, assets, and medical supply inventories.  Key factors in TRACnet’s success include sustained financing, scaling-up to all agents in all villages, and use by health workers in their daily work.

Youth Entrepreneurs Transform Transportation in South Africa

Ravi Kumar's picture

Have you missed an appointment to doctor, school or work due to lack of transportation?

It can take up to two hours to find a taxi in some South African cities. A team of young entrepreneurs launched a new mobile app to help commuters locate taxis and improve the average commute.

Watch how Aftarobot, a mobile app is revolutionizing transportation in South Africa:

 

Why Does Cargo Sit So Long In African Ports? Not Just Poor Infrastructure… Poor Incentives

Gael Raballand's picture

Container ship in Durban. Source - flickr.com/photos/royluck/A major factor holding back African development is the time it takes to transport goods within the continent. Though road conditions are poor in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, research has shown that ports are major contributors to transport delays: Cargo traveling from a port to a city in a landlocked Sub-Saharan African country generally spends more of its time (75 percent) at the port than on the road. Cargo spends nearly three weeks on average in Sub-Saharan African ports, compared to under a week in large ports in Asia, Europe and Latin America. This has hurt the region’s economies and deterred the development of value-added industries that rely on time-sensitive supply chains.

Targeting Youth to Reduce South Africa’s Unemployment

Ingrid Woolard's picture

IT training for kids who live in the surrounding farm areas of Stutterheim outside East London in the Eastern Cape. South Africa. Photo: Trevor Samson / World Bank

Globally youth are, on average, nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than older adults. In South Africa this problem has been exacerbated by the global downturn. When the economy slowed down, youth unemployment began to rise sooner than adult unemployment, suggesting that younger people are more vulnerable to changing economic conditions. The question arises whether interventions should focus on youth among the unemployed. I would argue that interventions should specifically target youth, as they face some significant barriers to entering the labor market.


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