The quest for development effectiveness has been a learning process, both conceptually and empirically. One of the important outcomes of the process has been the emphasis on the notion that sustainable economic growth must be a precondition for poverty reduction. Structural fiscal policies which aim to shape the supply side of the economy to generate growth and structural transformation are critical. They complement private investment through the provision of public goods such as public infrastructure or the education of the workforce. But the question still remains: will public investment in infrastructure be sufficient for unleashing faster economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa?
For only the third time in its 66-year history, the World Health Organization has declared a global public health emergency. This time it is for the Ebola outbreak in the three West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. After their traumatic ordeal in recent months, governments and communities in those three countries are looking desperately for signs that Ebola can be stopped in its tracks.
As medical doctors who understand well both the continent of Africa and infectious disease control, we are confident that the Ebola virus disease response plan, led both by the countries and the World Health Organization, can contain this Ebola outbreak and, in a matter of months, extinguish it. Let's also keep in mind that this is not an African problem, but a humanitarian one that happens to occur in a small part of Africa.
Follow the Money (http://followthemoneyng.org/) is a community action organization that leverages open budget and aid spending data from the Nigerian government and its aid partners. The organization also advocates for specific issues that impact communities, most recently, in the Zamfara State.
Follow the Money activists collect, publish, and visualize data, then connect findings to national and global social media networks in order to bring government attention to crises on the ground that require resources or immediate action. Once visualized, the data become a resource for citizens in affected communities to track government expenditures against actual outcomes.
The team has tackled issues like lead poisoning, flood relief, and most recently, education. They also host partners with other organizations, like Indigo Trust U.K. to offer regular data literacy events for other non-profits, journalists, government officials, legal professionals, and open data activists.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Role reversal as African technology expands in Europe
Africans have long used technology developed abroad, but now a Kenyan cash transfer network which bypasses banks is being adopted in Europe. The M-Pesa mobile money transfer system which allows clients to send cash with their telephones has transformed how business is done in east Africa, and is now spreading to Romania. "From east Africa to eastern Europe, that's quite phenomenal when you think about it," Michael Joseph, who heads Vodafone's Mobile Money business, told AFP in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. "I think that this is something the rest of the world can look at, to say that there are ideas that can emanate out of the developing world, and take it to the developed world."
New Report for Latin America and the Caribbean Freedom of expression and media development: Where are we heading?
Over the past six years, Latin America and the Caribbean continued to comply with the basic conditions that guarantee freedom of expression and media freedom, although the situation has not been homogeneous throughout the 33 countries in the region. Even where strong legislation has existed, implementation has remained a challenge. Several Latin American countries have approved new media laws that have been perceived by some as an opportunity to make the media landscape more pluralistic and less concentrated, and by others as an opportunity for the governments to act against media outlets that have been critical of their administrations. The same debate has applied to steps to revise out-of-date media laws, including those left over from military dictatorships.
The literature on growth convergence and divergence is vast and deep. Some have argued that divergence is persistent. Lant Pritchett in his paper, “Divergence, Big Time” has argued that backwardness appeared to carry severe disadvantages that generated long-term divergence between growth in per capita incomes of developing countries compared to rich countries. Others have found evidence in favor of convergence. Arvind Subramanian, in his paper, “The hyperglobalization of Trade and its Future”, has argued in favor of convergence, since the number of developing countries experiencing catch-up has more than trebled (from 21 to 75 countries) and the rate of average catch-up has doubled from 1.5 percent per year to over 3 percent. However, what has been overlooked in this debate is the role that agriculture, manufacturing and services have played in growth convergence/divergence. Which of these sectors have played a bigger role in growth convergence?
Or, have you ever wanted to become a farmer? I would not be surprised if you said no.
In the wake of the current Ebola crisis, the 2011 movie Contagion (See the trailer here) directed by Steven Soderbergh has repeatedly been cited as one of the best examples of a movie taking on the subject of pandemic disease and managing to educate while providing gripping entertainment. This is no coincidence. Contagion was produced with both A-list stars (Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, and others) and support from leading public health experts such as Dr. Ian Lipkin who is the inspiration for one of the scientists portrayed in the film, and award-winning writer Laurie Garrett, author of several books including The Coming Plague. Participant Media, founded by Jeff Skoll to inspire social change through entertainment, was a producer, with the Skoll Global Threats Fund, World Health Organization (WHO), and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) providing input as well.
The tagline from the film is “No One is Immune…to Fear.” While one of the early scenes is of a woman dying of a flu-like illness (played by Paltrow) the movie elicits fear not from gruesome symptoms but instead from plot lines and messages that focus on how human responses to these types of public health crises make matters worse. It also showcases the valuable work done by epidemiologists and other public health workers who are the heroes of this film. Contagion communicates these and other lessons effectively using the power of story, a subject recently discussed on this blog.
At a high-level meeting at the World Bank on Monday, African ministers and delegations representing 51 countries had a pressing concern: the renewal and modernization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). A preferential program that enhances the access of qualifying African countries to the US market, the law is due to expire in September 2015.
Remittances to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) have increased steadily in recent decades and are estimated to have reached about $32 billion in 2013. Though studies have shown that remittances can affect aggregate financial development in SSA — as measured by the share of deposits or M2 to GDP (Gupta et al. 2009), to my knowledge there is no evidence for this region on the impact of remittances on household financial inclusion defined as the use of financial services. This question is important because there is growing evidence that financial inclusion can have significant beneficial effects for households and individuals. In particular, the literature has found that providing individuals access to savings instruments increases savings, female empowerment, productive investment, and consumption. Furthermore, the topic of financial inclusion has gained importance among international bodies. In May 2013, the UN High-Level Panel presented the recommendations for post-2015 UN Development Goals, which included universal access to financial services as a critical enabler for job creation and equitable growth. In September 2013, the G20 reaffirmed its commitment to financial inclusion as part of its development agenda.
Action on reducing child stunting across Africa is imperative for driving economic growth and reducing poverty. That was the message emanating from a roundtable of African heads of state, ministers, CEOs and civil society leaders this morning, on the eve of President Obama’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.