Social networks have been a hot topic in the past year, not least because of the buzz around the Oscar-winning film about the founding of Facebook. Even in countries with relatively low internet connectivity, use of social networking sites is on the rise – just ask Timor-Leste’s President José Ramos Horta and his 378 Facebook friends. But even before the internet empowered us to connect and communicate at the speed of a whim, we have all lived fully immersed in social networks. Social networks are the links between family and friends, classmates and teammates, coworkers and colleagues, enemies and ‘frenemies’. They are the relationships – around 150 meaningful ones, according to Dunbar’s number – that feed and bound our choices and actions, provide us with emotional sustenance and sounding boards, and provide structure to our lives. But beyond their intrinsic value, what do these connections mean – for individuals, for communities, and for development?
At a meeting of the Clean Investment Funds Partnership Forum in Cape Town there was a telling comment in a session I chaired on climate change science when a participant from the Ministry of Energy in Ethiopia got up and said, “I am glad we are talking about the tools that are available for community planning for low-carbon development, but everyone in the rural areas of East Africa sees that the climate is changing. My mother tells me every season the rains and temperatures are different then when she was young.”
So what to do?
Putting more energy in and money towards the manufacturing of innovative green technologies is key: exploiting the wind or sun without solar panels and turbines is like trying to catch fish without a net or rod. Africa is poised to manufacture the ‘nets’ for clean energy.
Opportunities exist at many scales of activity: from village-level programs to manufacturing improved efficiency woodstoves, to building the hardware and knowledge systems to construct local ‘mini-grids’, to national efforts and global partnerships for large-scale manufacturing. The multinational development community can help, and is ramping up activities like the Scaling Up Renewable Energy (SREP) program that was a focus of partnership meeting on the Climate Investment Forum. China is investing heavily in Africa at the moment, and local manufacturing and national capacity building can be part of that equation.
I chaired a session on Scaling up Manufacturing at which the panelists told remarkable stories about these opportunities. Stimulating the green energy industry creates jobs, said Dan Gizaw, a founder of Canton, Michigan-based Danotek, a company that manufactures permanent magnet generators for wind turbines. Gizaw is from Ethiopia, and the company established manufacturing facilities there. “Manufacturing wind turbines and turbine components locally, has a job creating advantage you don’t have when you import them. We have created 475 jobs with our factory.”
I want to thank Catherine, David and some anonymous readers for their responses to last week’s post on who pays for evaluations. Their thoughtful responses led to me think more about objectivity and engagement with project teams, so here it goes:
Given the urgent need for policymakers in Europe and other advanced economies to tackle current debt challenges, there is a frantic scramble for suitable policy tools that will help resolve the Greek conundrum.
One policy tool – a form of debt restructuring known as ‘financial repression’ that focuses on establishing a tighter relationship between government and the financial industry by setting caps on interest rates and regulating cross-border money flows – has largely been overlooked. The Petersen Insitute’s Carmen Reinhart recently delivered a
"If your foreign policy, however sophisticated it might be, doesn’t have a ground in public opinion, then that foreign policy is not sustainable."
-- Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. As quoted in International Herald Tribune, Erudite candidate takes populist route, by Anthony Shadid, Saturday-Sunday, June 11-12, 2011.
The call for ‘Learning for All’ in the Education Strategy 2020 is particularly appropriate for the Middle East and North Africa region, where education quality has been a major concern for more than a decade.
Even if the Arab world has made considerable progress in improving many aspects of education in recent decades, the quality of that education is still far from satisfactory: slightly more than 50% of Arab students who participated in TIMMS 2007 ranked below the “low” mark in mathematics, and employers complain that schools are not producing consistently well-trained graduates, endowed with the knowledge and skills they require.
The challenge becomes even more acute when demographic evidence is considered: school age populations (0-24 years) in the Arab world will grow by about 2 million by 2015 but will surge by 10 more million between 2015 and 2030. If these large cohorts are well served by good quality education, this could be an unprecedented window of opportunity; if neglected, the promise that education should be making to the young will continue to be broken. This leaves about five years to address this question.
That’s one blunt message from my new working paper with Marcel Fafchamps, Simon Quinn and Chris Woodruff, which replicates in Ghana a study that Chris and I had previously done in Sri Lanka with Suresh de Mel. In the new experiment, we take almost 800 microenterprises in urban Ghana, and randomly divide them into treatment and control groups.
IPA's Microsavings and Payments Innovation Initiative (MPIII) has just launched a call for expressions of interest-
We know funding is often a major issue for people with good ideas looking to get started doing impact evaluations, so are happy to advertise new opportunities for funding as they become available - just let us know if you have money you want to give out!
- Financial Sector
- Pulitzer Award winner: My Life as an undocumented immigrant (June 26, 2011)
- South Carolina lawmakers pass anti-illegal (June 22, 2011)
- Bangladesh: remittances biggest role in reducing poverty (June 21, 2011)
- Oman: Expat remittances soar 7.3 per cent in 2010 (June 22, 2011)
- Australia: Immigration numbers plunge by almost half (June 23, 2011)
Important developments today:
1. European Union pledges Greek aid
2. German Business executives remain optimistic