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Rio +20: A Global Stage

Rachel Kyte's picture

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Earth Summit 1992. UN Photo/Michos Tzovaras
Photo: The scene at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, where the conference adopted the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and the Agenda 21 programme of action, among other actions. UN Photo/Michos Tzovaras.


This week, the city of Rio de Janeiro will become a global stage, home to tens of thousands of people attending the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

Rio+ 20 is an important global stage upon which those committed to action from government, the private sector, and society can show how they plan to demonstrate that we can accelerate progress, if we change the way we grow.

We need a different kind of growth, a greener and more inclusive growth. We think it is affordable with help to those for whom upfront costs may be prohibitive. We think we should be able to value natural resources differently within our economic model. We think that with the right data and evidence we can avoid the irreversible costs of making wrong decisions now. And we can have economic systems that are much more efficient.

Sewing Success: How Textile Jobs Help Reduce Poverty

Otaviano Canuto's picture

Photo: John Isaac / World BankWhenever we think of textile workers nowadays, we tend to think about cheap labor—particularly women sewing in overcrowded factories. In fact, the textile industry nurtures the narrative of how maquiladoras in the south have robbed manufacturing jobs from countries like the U.S., or how China has inundated the global market with cheap goods.

Do small countries do it better?

Apurva Sanghi's picture

In development circles, people talk about “countries that are too big to fail and too small to succeed”.  The jury may be out on the former but a new book by Shahid Yusuf and Kaoru Nabeshima, “Some Small Countries Do It Better” dispels the notion that countries can be too small to succeed.

Three small countries studied in the book - SIFIRE (SIngapore, FInland, IREland) – not only grew at high rates but were able to sustain them.

The book – which concludes with a section on implications for African countries – contends that growth recipes for SIFIRE were not tightly bound to the East Asian model of extremely high rates of savings and investment (although arguably, Singapore was in many ways the epitome of that model, thanks to its mandatory savings scheme which led to gross national savings in the neighborhood of 50 percent for decades).

The larger point is that these three countries augmented physical investment with healthy doses human capital and knowledge; by “opening their windows and letting it [knowledge in various forms, for example, that embodied in FDI] stream in”. And even though the book does not explicitly discuss it, they did so without massive infusions of foreign aid. Or perhaps it was the lack of aid that forced them to be nimble, agile, and forward-looking?

What precisely did SIFIRE get right? 

Why Does Cargo Spend Weeks in African Ports?

Gael Raballand's picture

Port NamibiaContainers spend, on average, several weeks in ports in Africa. In fact, over 50% of total land transport time from port to hinterland cities in landlocked countries is spent in ports.

Our recent study demonstrates that, excluding Durban and Mombasa, average cargo dwell time in most ports in SSA is close to 20 days whereas it is close to 4 days in most large ports in East Asia or in Europe. In this setting, the main response has been to push for: (a) concession of terminal operators to the private sector, (b) investments in infrastructure (such as quays and container yards) and (c) investments in super-structures such as cranes and handling equipment.

What has been the result on cargo dwell time? Not much. On average, it is extremely difficult to reduce cargo dwell time. In Douala (Cameroon), for example, planners set an objective of 7 days at the end of the 1990s, but the dwell time remains over 18 days (despite real improvements for some shippers). 

Can Kenya replicate Indonesia’s turnaround?

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

JakartaRecently, a friend from Indonesia visited me in Nairobi. He is one of the world’s leading experts on social development and a long-term Jakarta resident. One of his observations stuck in my mind: “Kenya is just like Indonesia ten years ago”, he said. 

Comparing Kenya with Indonesia is counterintuitive—except perhaps when it comes to traffic jams—because of the many differences between the two countries. Indonesia is the world largest island state with more than 17.000 islands and a demographic heavyweight with 240 million people (six times more than Kenya). It is also 85 percent Muslim, while Kenya is about 85 percent Christian. Indonesia has massive natural resources – coal and gas (and some oil) – that it exports to other Asian countries, especially China, while Kenya’s economy is fuelled by a strong service sector.

There are many more reasons to challenge a comparison between these two countries but when one digs below the surface, there are also some similarities. Economically my friend was spot on: in GDP per capita terms, Kenya is roughly at the level of Indonesia a decade ago (about US$800 per capita). Today Indonesia is far ahead, but I don’t see any reason why Kenya couldn’t follow suit. Indeed, Indonesia is a good benchmark case for Kenya because it was never a “star reformer”, but instead a consistently strong performer.

Your thoughts on Brazil-Africa partnerships

Susana Carrillo's picture

Brazil and Sub Saharan Africa: Partnering for GrowthOn June 5, the World Bank will host an event focused on the ongoing relationship between Brazil and countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The event will be web streamed. Panelists will discuss Brazil’s experiences in the areas of agriculture, social protection and vocational training, and ways in which African countries can benefit.

Ahead of the event, we’re seeking your questions and comments. Please read the recently launched report Bridging the Atlantic: Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa Partnering for Growth. The report highlights these key points:

Prospects Weekly: The up-tick in market tensions have caused CDS rates to rise sharply

Global Macroeconomics Team's picture
The up-tick in market  tensions following recent bank downgrades, partial nationalizations and elections have caused CDS rates to rise sharply, although in most countries they remain below their fall 2011 highs. Stock markets have also tumbled, exchange rates depreciated and the turmoil has contributed to falling commodity prices.

Distorted Prices in Commodity Markets

Otaviano Canuto's picture

The volatility in commodity prices continues. Sure, they have come down in the last few days on Eurozone crisis fears but, all in all, they remain volatile, and in the case of food, very high. One of the reasons for this is that world commodity markets–particularly those for agricultural commodities—have become highly distorted.

“So what?” you may ask. Well, distorted price levels and excess price volatility are detrimental to producers and consumers alike.

Where is our Road? Taking the Politics out of Regional Transport Infrastructure Planning

Charles Kunaka's picture

A road between the DR Congo and Zambia. Source: World Bank.Africa’s infrastructure deficit is no secret. Several recent studies by the World Bank and others have confirmed that across the continent, roads are inadequate, railways in poor condition and waterways limited. While the problems are most obvious at the national level, they are more acute along routes connecting countries. Lack of resources contributes to the patchy state of infrastructure connectivity between African countries. But it is not the only hurdle. A key question is: given limited resources, how should infrastructure be planned, prioritized and financed?

Sixteen countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are landlocked. To trade goods in overseas markets, they must cooperate with their coastal neighbors, working together to plan roads, transport goods to port and keep borders open. This is harder than it sounds. While numerous regional organizations exist to coordinate infrastructure planning in Africa, in practice they are made up of representatives with interests rooted in their own countries. Decisions by these bodies are often political and driven by members’ desire to see projects in their home territories.

Connected to Compete? Not as Much as We Could Be

Otaviano Canuto's picture

Trade logistics, or the capacity of countries and companies to ship goods to international markets, is a key ingredient for economic competitiveness, growth, and poverty reduction. Poor logistics performance creates a deadweight loss for producers and consumers alike, and results in a net waste of resources. Improved trade logistics, on the other hand, would give a welcome boost to the economy at a time of fragile recovery from the global recession.


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