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Empowering Women by Making Legal Rights Work -- A Winning Idea

Mary Hallward-Driemeier's picture

Madame Ngetsi wanted to start a business in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  What was her first step was in making her dreams a reality? Did she go to a bank for a loan, a notary to formalize her documentation, or the company registry to register her company? In fact, her first stop was to go to her husband to get legal permission to start her business. By law, Madame Ngetsi has to have written legal permission to register a business, formalize a document, open a bank account, and register land—a requirement that doesn’t apply to her husband.

Fragments from an Africa Diary: Johannesburg, Pretoria and Diepsloot

Kaushik Basu's picture

I never thought I would descend to being the kind of person who read budget speeches for pleasure. I was therefore alarmed when, en route from Washington to Johannesburg, via Dakar last month, I found myself reaching out to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's Budget Speech that he had just delivered to the South African parliament. Worse, I soon found myself reading it with pleasure. The pleasure came from two sources: the eminent sensibility of the speech, and comfort from the realization that the problems we contend with, wherever we are, are fundamentally similar. South Africa is wrestling with keeping its fiscal deficit under control, its flagging growth rate up and yawning inequities in check. Musing about these problems I dozed off. When I woke up the cabin was dark. Curious about who was going to Dakar I looked around. Of the passengers in my cabin, around 30 percent were Black, 70 percent were White, and 80 percent were watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Law and Development from the Ground Up: Bridging Health Care by the Sewa River

Margaux Hall's picture

In Sierra Leone's rainy season, the Sewa River, feared by many locals for its powerful currents, floods over its banks separating entire villages from basic services.  Konta health clinic in Kenema district operates near the shores of the Sewa, and during the six-month rainy season, five of Konta’s 17 dependent villages cannot access the clinic.  If women in those villages give birth during the rains, they entrust care to traditional birth attendants; if children fall ill, they turn to traditional medicine, stockpiled drugs, and, often, prayer.  As one woman explained during a recent community meeting in Konta, these are the only options, even if the all-too-frequent consequence is death.  Hearing her account, it’s difficult not to feel a strong sense of injustice, even in an incredibly resource-constrained country like Sierra Leone.  But is there a role for the law in remedying this situation?

Service with a smile: A new growth engine for poor countries

Ejaz Ghani's picture

This post was originally published in

Services have long been the main source of growth in rich countries. We argue that services are now the main source of growth in poor countries as well. We present evidence that services may provide the easiest and fastest route out of poverty for many poor countries.

For more than 200 years, it was argued that economic development and growth was associated with growth of the labour-intensive manufacturing sector (Baumol 1967, Kaldor 1966, UNIDO 2009). Services were considered as menial, low-skilled, and low-innovation (McCredie and Bubner 2010). But today, services can be among the most dynamic sectors in an economy. The policy question is whether this is true even in poor countries.

Friday Roundup: Economically shrinking G7, Africa's youth, Chinese labor, Sandy's costs, and Industrial Policy

LTD Editors's picture

This week a new forecast and analysis from the OECD highlights how, by around 2025, China's and india's combined GDP will likely exceed that of all the current Group of 7 rich economies. Read it here.

Mo Ibrahim, entrepreneur and billionaire, talks in a video clip about how the promise and risks inherent Africa's demographic bulge require bringing youth to the table when discussing not just jobs, training and places in top schools, but they should also be in on governance discussions.

Market Access: A Key Determinant of Economic Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Harry Garretsen's picture

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is home to the world’s poorest countries. The region’s geographical disadvantages are often viewed as an important deterrent to its economic development. A country’s geography directly affects economic development through its effect on disease burden, agricultural productivity or the availability of natural resources. However, the new economic geography (NEG) literature, initiated by Krugman (1991), highlights another mechanism through which geography affects prosperity.

Africa means never saying goodbye

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

I visited three African countries – Ethiopia, Rwanda, and South Africa– during my first week as Chief Economist at the World Bank in June 2008. Many visits to other African countries followed, but Ethiopia holds for me a special interest. I’ve just visited again, for a fourth time. While I am sure I will go back again after I depart the Bank on June 1 this year, this was my final visit to Africa as Chief Economist.

Over four years, I’ve seen Ethiopia gradually embrace structural transformation and its practical application. Leaders there are acutely aware that, if they are to maintain a robust growth rate (GDP growth has been around 10.5% on average over the past few years), they must move away from agriculture, the dominant sector, toward industrial upgrading and technological innovation, often by imitating economies just a few rungs up the economic ladder.  Ethiopia’s agriculture sector is important and should not be neglected, but that alone won’t get the country onto a path toward middle income and finally to high income status.

Do Informed Citizens Receive More, or Pay More?

Philip Keefer's picture

One widely-accepted political economy research finding is that informed citizens receive greater benefits from government transfer programs. The evidence for the impact of information comes from particular contexts—disaster relief in India and welfare payments in the USA during the Great Depression.  Do other contexts yield similar results?  New research on the distribution of anti-malaria bed nets in Benin suggests:  “No.”  Instead, local health officials charged more informed households for bed nets that they could have given them for free.

The Benin context differs in three ways.  First, the policy is not the distribution of cash, but of health benefits.  Households’ access to information then influences not only their knowledge of government programs to distribute such benefits, but also the value they place on them. 

Second, the political context also differs.  In younger democracies, like Benin’s, citizens are more likely to confront additional obstacles, besides a lack of information, in their efforts to extract promised benefits from government.

Is 2012 Africa’s Year of the Dragon?

John Wilson's picture

At the 2012 World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos last week, a record 2,600 global leaders discussed a frenetic mix of economic and social issues facing the global community. A number of panels (some of which were overlooked with all the talk of the unfolding Eurocrisis) focused on the important transition Africa is making from an underdeveloped continent to one characterized by sustained growth -- backed by strong trade and investment flows. 

Leaders discussed the need for greater market integration to increase intra-African trade and better cooperation on infrastructure to facilitate investment and trade. Alpha Condé, President of Guinea, called for the establishment of Pan-African ministries to drive greater integration and coordination on the continent. “At the next African union meeting, we must consider establishing three of four ministers for all of Africa,” he said. “These new posts should at least cover energy, infrastructure, and trade in Africa.”

The Nuts and Bolts of Trade: Stepping up to Manufacturing in the Development Ladder

John Wilson's picture

With the global recovery slow to pick up speed, the latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) isn’t exactly an uplifting read. However, for those of us with an eye on the developing world there are some bright spots: the low-income-countries (LICs) in Africa, for example, have returned to their pre-crisis growth rates and their economies are expected to expand by a respectable 6.5 percent in 2012. 

Despite this seemingly good news, there are some dark clouds on the horizon. The WEO attributes the quick rebound to the fact that the African LICs were, “largely shielded from the global financial crisis owing to their limited integration into global manufacturing and financial networks.”  Although limited international exposure is a boon in the short-term, it also signals trouble down the road.