Mtoto mzuri sana. Stella’s face lights up as I admire her baby, but she doesn’t reply. We are in the primary school compound in Chehembe, a village about 50 kilometers from Tanzania’s administrative capital, Dodoma. Stella is waiting to be registered in the country’s social safety net program, which is meant to cushion very poor households against sudden losses of income. And we are waiting to hear Stella’s story, to ask her how many children she has, and how she earns a living.
Getting Somalia right has huge regional and global implications and attracted $2.4 billion in support at a recent development partners meeting in Brussels.
Supporting fragile and conflict-affected countries to get back on a stable, hopeful development path is a key priority for me as Vice President for the World Bank’s Africa region. It is on my mind especially at the moment after being in Brussels several days ago to participate in the EU-hosted New Deal Conference on Somalia, and then visiting Bamako to pledge our support to Mali’s newly formed Government. As stated by the international community and many observers, the recent election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will open a new era of peace and reconstruction for Mali and we will be an active partner in this immense task.
The Brussels conference marks the anniversary of last year’s political transition and culminated in the endorsement of a “Compact” against which the international community pledged $2.4 billion through 2016. The conference, hosted by the EU and the Government of Somalia led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, not only helped consolidate international political support for Somalia but also generated considerable momentum for the country’s development plans and a path to international debt relief.
The Association of African Universities—AAU for short—held its 13th general conference last week in Libreville, Gabon. Representing the World Bank at this conference, I had a great opportunity to engage with this vibrant university community. A community which is expanding fast as demand for higher education is skyrocketing thanks to Africa’s “youth bulge”, that is, as the share of young people in the population is increasing in many countries. Private universities are mushrooming everywhere.
Growing up in India, mosquito nets were an essential part of life. I slept under them as a child in Bangalore, with their ropes tied to bedposts, doors, closets, window grills—anything that would offer support at the right height. It was like pitching a tent every night, and the occasional dramatic collapse would result in much helpless laughter. Later, going to college on the banks of the slow-flowing Koovam river in Madras (now Chennai), I tucked myself under a net in my dormitory at about 6 p.m. to avoid the twilight assault of mosquitos from the water. In fact, particularly after a bad attack of malaria when I was a child, a lot of my life was lived perforce under a mosquito net, until electric repellent gadgets reached the market and nets somewhat lost their popularity.
Recently, sitting in Halima Ibrahim’s house in Majengo, a neighborhood in the coastal city of Mombasa, and talking about the new mosquito nets her family had just received from the Kenyan government, I felt instantly at home in her tiny living room. It was packed from corner to corner with family and friends, all brimming with opinions about nets old and new. Everybody talked about malaria and what a problem the disease was in the community. The nets that had just been distributed to them free of cost would make a huge difference, they said, protecting them from being bitten by mosquitos, and saving them considerable expense. Many of the families on the street simply could not afford to buy durable and effective nets at the prices they commanded in the local market.
Ninety minutes after leaving Nairobi, UN flight 13W banks sharply over the Somali coastline in a series of steep turns that line it up for final approach into Mogadishu airport. The sharp turns are standard security measures to minimize exposure to fire from would-be attackers on the ground. Out of the starboard window, a number of small boats cut a slow, languid path through the ocean, while closer to the airport, large merchant ships sit anchored just off the end of the runway waiting to be unloaded in the nearby port which is the city’s economic lifeline. As we land, the tarmac shimmers in the 100 degree heat that now envelopes the city.
We’ve come to Mogadishu to present the findings of a new Bank study called The Pirates of Somalia: Ending the Threat: Rebuilding a Nation to senior ministers from the Somali government. The report concludes that Somalia cannot ‘buy’ its way out of piracy, and neither can the international community rely solely on its navies and law enforcement agencies to defeat the pirates, whether at sea or on land. The solution to Somali piracy is first and foremost political.
In a fresh look at ending piracy off the Horn of Africa, the Bank suggests that a sustained solution to ending piracy will only come with the recreation of a viable Somali state that can deliver essential health, education, nutrition, and other services throughout the entire country, especially in those areas where piracy flourishes.
Here in Mozambique, the rainy season has brought disaster for as many as 110,000 people living in the Limpopo Valley, as surging water over recent days has flooded their crops, capsized their towns and villages, and forced their evacuation to higher ground. Forty people are believed to have died in the floods so far. It’s expected that as many as 150,000 people may ultimately be affected.
A UN reconnaissance plane that flew over the Valley on Monday took photos of mile after square mile of crops and farm land under brown muddy water, a result of the Limpopo River and others nearby bursting their banks. It's at times like this that you really appreciate the powerful humanitarian role of the UN.
Mozambican President Armando Guebuza quickly went to the scene to see for himself how the flooding had turned communities upside down.
Talking with people from the town of Chokwé and surrounding areas at an emergency shelter, the President said, "we are with you, we weep with you, because we know that you have lost many of your goods including your houses, your goats, your cattle and much that is of great value."
The Ouagadougou-Accra-Tema corridor, a road stretching from Ouagadougou in West Africa’s Burkina Faso through Ghana’s bustling capital city Accra and onto the country’s port city Tema, is one of Africa’s most well-known corridors. In October, we joined Albert, a 50-year-old driver from Burkina Faso, on a 750 kilometer journey to highlight the high economic costs faced by landlocked countries and the cumbersome border crossings that impede trade.
The journey, which should have taken seven hours by car, took us 17 hours, 1 border crossing and 20 checkpoints.
Well before sunrise in the small village of Msangani, Tanzania, Tunu ali Matekenya begins work at five, baking fresh bread. Formerly an agricultural laborer, Tunu’s life has improved thanks to entrepreneurship training she received in using advanced cookstoves.
“The oven I am using is very efficient, it is easy to use and consumes less charcoal, which reduces the cost of baking...all this means more profit” Tunu exclaims proudly.
In many areas of the developing world, women and children spend hours foraging for wood and other fuel sources then prepare meals around open fires or primitive cookstoves in poorly ventilated homes. Not only does this present an obvious fire hazard, but it also means they are inhaling toxic fumes from incomplete combustion of toxins that are responsible for nearly 500,000 premature and preventable deaths annually in Sub-Saharan Africa. The problem is particularly acute because 82 percent of the population depends on charcoal, dung, fuel wood, and forms of biomass for cooking purposes.
In the Kenyan village of Naro Moro in the foothills of Mount Kenya near lush forests, I recently met Josephine Wanjiru and other members of a women’s group she leads. The transformation in their lives in the past two years has been remarkable. By planting trees and collecting previously discarded tree seeds during their vegetable crop low season, they have been able to use the seeds to make commercial products like bio-pesticides, soil conditioners, and moisturizers like the Cape Chestnut oil I brought home from my trip.
Josephine’s village is the home of Kenya’s growing biodiesel business run by the Help Self Help Centre (HSHC), a non-governmental organization supported by the Africa Energy Unit at the World Bank since 2010 as part of their Biomass Energy Initiative for Africa (BEIA). Through this initiative, we hope to demonstrate the feasibility of “social biofuels” – meaning small in scale, and both produced and consumed locally.