Africa is advancing by leaps and bounds in adoption and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the private and public sectors. A new report, “eTransform Africa”, shows how innovations that began in Africa – like the use of dual SIM card cellular phones or using mobile technologies for remittance payments – are now spreading across the continent and beyond.
The Republic of Moldova is one of the first countries in the region and among the top 16 countries in the world to launch an open data platform. The initiatives of the Republic of Moldova to open its government and public data by capitalizing on Informational Technologies will lead to the improvement of public services, an increase in transparency and the promotion of innovation.
Foreign aid has always been a contentious issue – especially when donor countries are in recession or trying to struggle out of one, while (some) formerly developing countries emerge with a stable and growing economy. From the viewpoint of policy makers in donor countries, the issue certainly has two sides: allocating support to the poorest countries in the world or those plagued by hunger and conflict, or stocking up much needed domestic programs for the poor and disadvantaged at home. Pressure from national interest groups is likely to push policy-makers toward domestic programs.
A couple of weeks ago the Bank released its half-yearly economic assessment of developing countries in the East Asia and Pacific region. The report confirmed the robust recovery of the region's economies overall, but flagged a number of emerging risks, particularly around the return of large capital inflows and appreciating currencies.
At the launch, World Bank Africa Chief Economist Shanta Devarajan explained that, "although Africa was the hardest hit by the crisis, its recovery has been so remarkable that we could be at the beginning of what history will describe as Africa’s decade."
The outlook isn't all rosy, of course. With the global financial crisis halting the steady rate of growth in the region, Africa will now likely miss most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by their 2015 deadline, despite the remarkable progress. n estimated 7-10 million more Africans were driven into poverty and about 30,000-50,000 children died before their first birthday because of the crisis.
Measuring human progress is a messy, complicated effort. The Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, are an effort to bring some standardization to that process, but the 8 globally agreed goals are viewed by some as a construct that handicaps the poorer countries into a race where they started a lap behind many other nations.
It's 10 years since the goals were agreed and 2010 has been designated the 'Year of the MDGs' by the UN and its partners. If all this helps feed hungry families, educate more kids and increase the distribution of antiretroviral drugs, I'm all for it. Good thing I feel that way, since I was working with the team that launched the Global Monitoring Report 2010: The MDGs After the Crisis on April 23.
Yet beyond the goals, targets and exhortations, as well as useful forecasts of extreme poverty rates in 2015, I wonder about the elephant in the room: population growth.
With the global economic crisis in the rearview mirror, Latin American economies are on a fast track to full recovery and will post a solid 4 percent growth for 2010.
This is no small feat, says the Bank’s chief regional economist Augusto de la Torre, in his new report on the region’s economic prospects ‘From Collapse to Recovery’ (pdf). The region’s rebound, he explains, is one of the world’s strongest, second only to Asia’s, which is the main engine pushing global economies towards a full-fledged recovery.
|The International Advisory Group in action at Ban Sop On, one of the resettled villages at Nakai Plateau.|
The winds of change are blowing in Malaysia, as the government is taking on an ambitious agenda of structural reform. The objective is to climb up the income ladder and join the league of high-income economies. This is a difficult challenge – one which not many countries have successfully met in the post-war period.
Against this backdrop, the World Bank’s launch of a new report on the Malaysian economy (full disclosure: I lead the team who authors the report) is timely. The Malaysia Economic Monitor, which will be published twice a year, aims to provide context to the challenges facing Malaysia and serves as a platform for discussion and the sharing of knowledge.
The World Bank’s latest economic assessment of developing countries in the East Asia and Pacific region, released a week ago, came to some interesting conclusions and attempted to answer a lot of questions on a complex subject. Notably, the report’s authors pointed to the major role China has played in the region’s swift rebound from the crisis.
As part of its regular monitoring of the corporate sector in Southeast Asia, the World Bank economic team I am part of in Thailand has been working on a short case study of supply chains of Japanese multinational companies (MNCs) in the electrical and electronics (E&E) industry. We wanted to hear directly from firms about how the crisis affected them, how they were able to adjust so quickly to the drop in demand, what the rebound looked like, and what were the prospects going forward to upgrade along the value chain. I have learned a great deal from these interviews, and have become convinced that supply chains are central to understanding the current crisis in Thailand and East Asia more generally.
Some facts: the crisis had a disproportionate impact on manufacturing. In Thailand, manufacturing represents about 40 percent of GDP, but contractions in manufacturing value added have accounted for about 75 percent of the contraction of headline GDP. Within manufacturing, the auto and E&E industries account for the bulk of the contraction. Most of the output in those industries is exported, and more than three-fourths of the decline in Thai exports during the crisis was due to falls in shipments from the auto and E&E industries. My conclusion is that the magnitude of the crisis in Thailand has been driven primarily by these two industries.
Earlier today, the World Bank released its annual Doing Business report, which tracks business regulation reforms and ranks emerging economies on the “ease of doing business.”
The investment climate is the fundamental socio-economic framework in which firms operate – the macroeconomic and trade policies they face, the labor and financial markets in which they recruit and raise money, the available infrastructure and imposed regulations, as well a
Internet usage in China continues to grow, and the latest figures released by the Chinese government’s Web research organization show that the total number of online users, at 338 million, surpasses the population of the United States. The impressive statistics – which reflect a 13.4 percent jump from 2008 – had a number of blogs and news sites buzzing late last week. The full report is available in Chinese here (pdf), and WSJ’s China Journal blog has a nice roundup of the findings in English here.
The growth in China – and the rest of East Asia and the world for that matter – is nothing new. Last year, we shared 2008 comScore statistics showing Asia’s internet audience growing faster than all other regions worldwide. And according to more recent information from comScore, the Asia-Pacific region has the highest global share of internet users, at 41 percent (although it’s important to note that the penetration rate of the region is only around 17 percent of the population – well below most other regions – according to this web stats site).
We’ve seen that increased connectivity through mobile phones and the internet may lead to improved economic growth, job creation and good governance, as well as other activities like mobile banking. And as more people, particularly in developing countries, get connected, this growth trend clearly seems to be a positive one.