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Rich Countries, Poor People: Will Africa’s commodity boom benefit the poor?

Anand Rajaram's picture

Travelling across Africa these days you are likely to run into increasing numbers of mining, oil, and gas industry personnel engaged in exploration, drilling, and extraction across the continent. Although commodity prices are moderating, the discoveries being made in Africa offer the real prospect of significant revenue to many cash-poor, aid-dependent governments in the decade ahead. If you care about development, the question is whether these revenues will catalyze broad economic development and whether they will benefit the poor in Africa.

Mobile Innovation from the field: We can now talk directly with students, teachers and parents in Uganda

Kidus Asfaw's picture

This blog on a new user case of U-Report for targeted beneficiery feedback in Uganda was authored by Kidus Fisaha Asfaw with contributions from Merrick Schaeffer and Lyudmila Bujoreanu

Inspired by the success of using U-report to map and mitigate the spread of Banana Bacterial Wilt disease in Uganda’s banana crops, the World Bank team from the ICT unit (TWICT) decided take U-report’s functionality a step further by establishing an on-going dialogue with students, parents and teachers, who are direct beneficiaries of the Uganda Post Primary Education and Training Project (UPPET) project.

By tapping into Uganda’s network of over 236,000 U-reporters built by UNICEF, a joint ICT/UPPET team was able to identify and poll over 5,000 teachers, students, and parents associated with school supported by UPPET.  Throughout the summer, we have engaged these “special school reporters” in a series of mobile based SMS polls structured around their experiences with the use of the new textbooks and science kits supplied by the project. The responses from beneficiaries are providing useful insights from the field that are expected to improve the ongoing UPPET operation and provide useful inputs to the client in improving the utilization of learning resources in 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?

Rethinking Social Accountability in Africa

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

Mwanachi, a Swahili word that means ordinary citizen, is the name of a governance and transparency program that was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development for five years in six African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leonne, Uganda, and Zambia. This program is the focus of a new report entitled Rethinking Social Accountability in Africa by Fletcher Tembo, who served as Director of the Mwanachi program since its launch in 2008. The report acknowledges the important role of several actors in in strengthening citizen demand for good governance, including civil society, media, elected representatives, and traditional leaders. At the same time, it challenges common notions of effective citizen-state relations that focus on a preoccupation with actors and actor categories. Instead, it argues that effective social accountability programs should focus on relationships and contextual realties that are driven by 'interlocution processes.' In other words, processes that address the complex web of incentives and actions through actors that are selected for their game changing abilities.

Helping Africa win better deals for its minerals

Makhtar Diop's picture

Helping Africa win better deals for its minerals © jbdodane
With oil in Niger and Uganda, natural gas in Mozambique and Tanzania, iron ore in Guinea and Sierra Leone―African countries are increasingly finding rich new deposits of oil, gas, or minerals and just as quickly, attracting the courtship of international companies that are drawn to Africa’s new bonanza in extractives wealth.

Jobs: Can Uganda secure the future for its youth?

Rachel K. Sebudde's picture



When Mukisa joined the 62nd Makerere University graduating class in January 2012, he had already made up his mind to walk a very different path from those who graduated from the same Kampala university 30 years ago. Back then, jobs were waiting for graduates, who joined formal employment that afforded them a decent living. Today, only 20% of new entrants onto the Ugandan labor market find formal jobs, leaving the rest to self-employment and other informal activities. So Mukisa started a business in plant nurseries to tap into the demand for gardening materials for the booming construction industry in the city. He has gradually acquired the technical and entrepreneur skills for his business, but wishes for better access to capital and land, and less harassment by local authorities, to expand his business.

The evolution of startup competitions: The case of Pivot East

Nicolas Friederici's picture


One of the winning 'startup' teams at Pivot East2013 (Credit: PivotEast)

Innovation competitions of all sorts have become prevalent throughout Africa, from hackathons to ideation challenges, demo days, code jams, bootcamps, roadshows, and pitch fests, the list is endless. This development is almost parallel to the rise of tech hubs (BongoHive counts about 100 African hubs) that have sprung up from Dakar to Dar Es Salaam.

While it’s evident that events and competitions are valuable opportunities—especially for young innovators looking to leave their mark—more advanced ecosystems, like Nairobi’s,  have already begun to show signs of competition fatigue and competition hopping.

Panels of the Poor: What would Poor People Do if They were in Charge of the Post-2015 Process?

Duncan Green's picture

Many of the attempts to introduce an element of consultation/participation into the post-2015 discussion have been pretty perfunctory ‘clicktivism’. So thanks to Liz Stuart, another Exfamer-gone-to-Save-the-Kids, for sending me something a bit more substantial: 5 day in-depth participatory discussions with small (10-14 people) ‘ground level panels’ in Egypt, Brazil, Uganda and India, culminating in a communiqué to compare with that of the great and good on the ‘High Level Panel’.

Here’s a summary from a post by Catherine Setchell on the Participate website (which links to the four country communiqués, also worth a skim):

The GLP in Egypt (right) proposes a vision of “self-sufficiency” at the country and community level, where Egyptians own the resources needed for development and can secure enough local production of food and other basic items such as water and fuel. They also highlight the importance of “paying more attention to having a high caliber of leaders who can effectively implement our Vision on the ground, which requires good governance.”

Grassroots Leaders: Empowering Communities is Resilience Building

Margaret Arnold's picture

 Margaret Arnold/World Bank
Participants at the first Community Practitioners Academy meeting, which was held ahead of the Fourth Global Platform for Disaster Reduction in Generva. - Photos: Margaret Arnold/World Bank

Communities are organized and want to be recognized as partners with expertise and experience in building resilience rather than as clients and beneficiaries of projects. This was the common theme that emerged from the key messages delivered by grassroots leaders at the Fourth Global Platform for Disaster Reduction taking place in Geneva this week, organized by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR). The Global Platform is a biennial forum for information exchange and partnership building across sectors to reduce disaster risk.

Ahead of the Global Platform, 45 community practitioners from 17 countries - Bangladesh, Chile, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, Uganda, Venezuela, and the United States - met for a day and a half to share their practices and experiences in responding to disasters and building long-term resilience to climate change, and to strategize their engagement in around the Global Platform. I had the privilege to participate in this first Community Practitioners Academy, which was convened by GROOTS International, Huairou Commission, UNISDR, the World Bank, Global Facility for Disaster Risk and Reduction (GFDRR), Act Alliance, Action Aid, Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (JANIC), Cordaid, and Oxfam, and was planned in partnership with the community practitioners from their respective networks.

World Press Freedom Day: Freedom for African Journalists

Mohamed Keita's picture

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In Sub-Saharan Africa, many local journalists suffer attacks, imprisonment or even death for reporting on corruption, public spending or the mismanagement of natural resources. In Africa, at least 41 journalists are spending this World Press Freedom Day behind bars. 

While there is a clear recognition by international institutions that corruption and good governance are key to poverty alleviation, there seems to be much less understanding of the importance of an enabling environment, as a complement to training and capacity building, in order for the press to meaningfully contribute to greater accountability and transparency, such as natural resources exploitation.

For example, new oil discoveries in East Africa have the potential to lift millions out of poverty if the profits actually benefit the citizens in that region. The optimism is dashed by the proverbial “resource curse,” that’s plagued the likes of Nigeria, Angola and Equatorial Guinea, where poor governance, wealth disparity and poverty persist. The fog of secrecy and opacity surrounding oil exploitation deals has also caused concern.


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