The recent decline in global commodity prices is proving to be very costly for South Africa. The deterioration of South Africa’s terms of trade since 2012 cost at least four percentage points of gross domestic product (GDP) growth. This estimate does not account for some important indirect effects generated by the commodity price shock, including the heightened volatility of the rand and its impact on investment decisions. Instead of global monetary policy developments, commodity price volatility is now understood as being the main driver of exchange rate and capital account volatility in South Africa, and in emerging markets more generally. And 91% of European investors surveyed in the second half of 2014 identified the volatility of the rand as a major constraint to doing business in South Africa.
Sergio Carmona and Tendesayi Kufa-Chakezha are guest blog contributers from South African National Department of Health: National Health Laboratory Services and South African National Department of Health: National Institute of Communicable Diseases, respectively.
South Africa has the largest HIV treatment program in the world with over 3 million people currently on antiretrovirals. Every year, millions of VL and CD4 count tests are carried out to check treatment eligibility for new HIV cases (CD4 count) and treatment success in those on antiretroviral therapy (ART). A VL test monitors viral suppression, the goal of ART given to a HIV-infected person. The CD4 count checks whether the patient suffers from immune deficiency due to low CD4 counts and tracks recovery of the immune system during ART. In 2014, close to half of all VL tests carried out in lower-middle income countries were done in South Africa. In addition, large numbers of CD4 cell counts have been done routinely to predict patients’ risks for opportunistic infections and provide preventive therapy where indicated. While VL and CD4 testing are essential to monitor individual ART patients, the data is also useful in tracking the impact and performance of the ART program as a whole.
This is the first in our series of posts by Ph.D. students on the job market this year.
One of the key challenges of markets is to assess the quality of goods. A look at online dating websites – a market where information asymmetries loom particularly large - shows different ways in which people try to communicate that they are of “high quality”. A common strategy is to start your introduction with “My friends describe me as…” (to be followed by some glowing testimony “…smart, athletic, high-achieving – yet humble”). Why may this strategy not be effective? It raises questions about whether these friends are truthful and whether they have all the relevant information about your quality as a partner. The really interesting question you never see answered is: “How would your ex-partner describe you?”
My job market paper “The Value of Reference Letters”, coauthored with Rulof Burger (SU) and Patrizio Piraino (UCT), is about the challenges hiring firms face in identifying high-quality applicants. While the literature has largely focused on the role of friends and family members (Topa 2011, Beaman and Magruder 2012) in job referrals, we investigate whether information from ex-employers can facilitate the matching process. Specifically, we test the effect of a standardized reference letter asking previous employers to rate workers on a range of hard skills (e.g. numeracy, literacy) and soft skills (e.g. reliability, team ability).
Photo Credit: Myxi via Flickr Creative Commons License
In our last post, we highlighted a few examples of the innovative organizational structures that institutional investors have created to more efficiently invest in public infrastructure assets, but that is just one side of the equation. We also study programs and policies put in place by governments to more efficiently facilitate investment in the right projects and on the right terms for their constituents. That research encompasses several different topics, including enabling legislation, project risk allocation, stakeholder engagement and management, assessment frameworks for determining whether a Public-Private Partnership (P3) makes sense for a given project and others.
South Sudan provides examples of the importance of ICT. Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative’s Youth Peacemaker Network tells the stories of John from Twic East Country whose life was spared by a phone call warning of an impending attack, and of Gai Awan, Artha Akoo Kaka, and Moga Martin from Numule whose ICT trainings opened employment and education opportunities. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) explains how ICT can help protect refugees: Biometrics enabled Housna Ali Kuku, a single mother of four, to obtain precisely scheduled treatments for her respiratory tract infection and for her children. GPS is used to identify sources of diseases and to track their spread.
A World Bank study by Tim Kelly and David Souter identified five themes in post-conflict recovery and how ICT plays critical roles.
- fragile and conflict situations
- fragile states
- fragile and conflict affected states
- Conflict and Fragility
- Enabling Environment
- ICT policy
- ICT Regulation
- business environment
- business regulation
- Information and Communication Technologies
- South Africa
- South Sudan
- Sustainable Communities
Many urban residents these days will find it hard to imagine a life without mobile apps that help us locate a restaurant, hail a cab, or find a subway station—usually in a matter of seconds. for example, geospatial data on land-use change and built-up land expansion can provide for more responsive urban planning, while information on traffic conditions, road networks, and solid waste sites can help optimize management and enhance the quality of urban living.
The “urban geo-data gap”
However, information and data that provide the latest big picture on urban land and services often fail to keep up with rapid population growth and land expansion. This is especially the case for cities in developing countries—home to the fastest growing urban and vulnerable populations.
This was reinforced by more than 100 countries worldwide, which highlighted cities as a critical element of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction strategies in their national climate plans (aka INDCs) submitted to the UNFCCC in 2015.
Since the ensuing signing of the Paris Agreement, these countries have shifted gear to focus on turning their climate plans into actions. What if, as many of us may wonder, we could find a cost-effective and efficient way to help put cities—in developing and developed countries alike—onto a low-carbon path of growth?
CURB: Climate Action for Urban Sustainability, launched this Climate Week, is an attempt to do just that. A free, data-driven scenario planning tool, improve overall efficiency, and boost jobs and livelihoods.
A joint vision for effective city planning
What CURB can do for cities owes very much to the inspiration and stories we have taken from them in developing the tool. It was a fortuitous few hours in early 2014 at the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa that really got the ball rolling on the development of CURB.
There has been an increase in attention on Africa’s changing population. Academics, development organizations and the media (among others, BBC, The Guardian, Financial Times, The Economist) have highlighted Africa’s late demographic transition – the population is young and will remain so for a long time, as fertility rates are not falling there at the same rate as they have fallen in the rest of the world.
The investment of pension fund assets has moved from an obscure topic for actuaries, to an issue which raises political attention at the highest level.
This is for the simple reason that it directly touches the social and economic livelihoods of people.
Since the 2008 global financial crisis, developed economies have been looking for additional sources of long-term capital to fill the gaps which bank and government balance sheets can’t fill. This is a search that has engulfed the developing world for much longer if not for as long as they exist. Younger developing economies are starting to see their pension funds grow, side by side with an increasing awareness of the impact which productively invested assets can have on economic growth both today and tomorrow. If invested for the aligned intensions of social impact and financial return, pension funds can improve people’s lives today and secure their income in future. However, this isn’t a general phenomenon – applying only to larger funds which have invested in the intellectual capacity of their Trustees, and in countries which have understood and embraced the strong relationship between the macroeconomic performance and asset performance.
Redirecting pension investments from short-term assets (government paper, bank deposits) to investments with a long-term impact is key to delivering, not only improved, but sustained returns. Private equity (PE) - equity capital not quoted on a public exchange – is one such asset class. PE investment is increasingly in vogue as such capital is the foundation of all economies, and indeed leads to the development of robust stock markets. If structured with pension investors’ risk-return consideration in mind, it can deliver the diversification benefits which these investors need. If properly targeted, such investments will be vital in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals, considering that 15 of the 17 SDGs have a focus on growth, development and sustainability (the last two being on implementation and capital resource origination). Active participation in investee companies by shareholders such as pension funds will be vital for ensuring a future sustainable and shared economy. In turn, for this to work optimally, requires conscientious and capable Trustees.
South Africa’s social assistance system – through a comprehensive set of cash transfers -- covers nearly 16 million people. This is a big improvement from 1994, when cash transfers reached fewer than three million beneficiaries and suffered from discrimination and weak administration.
Estimates suggest that cash transfers in South Africa raise market incomes of the poor by a factor of 10, far greater than in other middle-income countries, including Brazil - often celebrated for its successful social assistance. Access to safety nets contributed to reducing poverty and inequality and had positive development impacts on health, schooling, and labor supply.