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After the holidays, a time to reflect on the state of food in Africa

Ian Gillson's picture

As we gather in kitchens and dining rooms during this season of eating and charity, let us pause for a moment to review the state of food trade in Africa: how does cross-border commerce in key crops fare on a continent with pockets of harsh weather and unpredictable politics? How is the traffic in grains and tubers?

It’s clear that prices are high, following the February 2011 peak worldwide. The price of maize in Nairobi has tripled this year alone, while the price of a 50 kg bag of rice in Dakar has risen from $36 to $43.50. These spikes can be blamed partly on increased demand for food crops – including for biofuel production in Europe and the United States. They are also due to supply-side factors, such as higher energy prices which impact transportation and fertilizer costs, and weak harvests in large exporting countries.

But on a global scale there is no food shortage. In 2010, the world produced 2.2 billion tons of cereals, up from 820 million tons 50 years ago (a 268 percent increase). Over the same period, the world’s population has grown from three billion to seven billion people: an increase of 233 percent. In Africa, food staple production is abundant in some areas even though the continent is a net importer of food. Mali grows enough excess sorghum to supply its neighbors, and Uganda, the bread basket of East Africa, makes regular shipments of maize to Kenya, Southern Sudan and Rwanda. The problem is that the surplus food does not always get to those in need. Often shipments of perishable goods are stopped at the border and excessive inspections frequently cause delays.

Youth Bulge: A Demographic Dividend or a Demographic Bomb in Developing Countries?

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

The youth bulge is a common phenomenon in many developing countries, and in particular, in the least developed countries.   It is often due to a stage of development where a country achieves success in reducing infant mortality but mothers still have a high fertility rate. The result is that a large share of the population is comprised of children and young adults, and today’s children are tomorrow’s young adults. 

Figures 1 (a)-(b) provide some illustrative examples. Dividing the world into more and less developed groupings (by UN definitions) reveals a large difference in the age distribution of the population. The share of the population in the 15 to 29 age bracket is about 7 percentage points higher for the less developed world than the more developed regions. In Africa (both Sub-Saharan and North Africa), we see that about 40 percent of the population is under 15, and nearly 70 percent is under 30 (Figure 1(a)). In a decade, Africa’s share of the population between 15 and 29 years of age may reach 28 percent of its population.  In some countries in “fragile situations” (by World Bank definitions), almost three-quarters of the population is under 30 (examples in Figure 1(b)), and a large share of 15-29 year olds will persist for decades to come (Figures 1(c) and (d)).

Building High-Capacity Partnerships: From Contests to a Lifecycle of Open Data Co-Creation

Jeff Kaplan's picture

 This spring the World Bank will partner with the Government of Moldova and a range of stakeholders to organize a competitive Open Innovation Hackathon focused on the reuse of open data in Moldova. This is more than just another apps competition, which generate both enthusiasm and skepticism for their ability to promote innovative and sustainable reuse of open data.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

ICT Works
Avoiding the Digital Divide Hype in Using Mobile Phones for Development

"To all of you digital divide warriors out there – nice work. With over 483 million mobile phone subscriptions in low-income countries - an estimated 44.9% penetration rate, few will deny the success of your efforts to expand mobile technology in the developing world.

Rapid mobile growth rates further exhibit success in dissemination, and stats such as, “There are more mobile phones than toilets in India,“ and “There are more mobile phones than light bulbs in Uganda,” make us smile and feel all warm and fuzzy inside."  READ MORE

After the Holidays, a Time to Reflect on the State of Food in Africa

Ian Gillson's picture

As we gather in kitchens and dining rooms during this two-month stretch of eating and charity, let us pause for a moment to review the state of food trade in Africa: how fares cross-border commerce in key crops on a continent with pockets of harsh weather and unpredictable politics? How goes the traffic in grains and tubers?

It’s clear that prices are high, following the February 2011 peak worldwide. The price of maize in Nairobi has tripled this year alone, while the price of a 50 kg bag of rice in Dakar has risen from $36 to $43.50. These spikes can be blamed partly on increased demand for food crops – including for biofuel production in Europe and the US. They are also due to supply-side factors, such higher energy prices which impact transportation and fertilizer costs, and weak harvests in large exporting countries.

Q&A with Larry Katz, editor of QJE

Berk Ozler's picture

The peer-reviewed publication process is something many researchers go through, whether as authors or referees. But we are not always sure how to deal with various decisions, especially earlier in our careers. So, we decided to ask Lawrence Katz, editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, his views on a bunch of things, including some advice for prospective authors and referees alike.

Keywords to the Middle East and North Africa: Check for yours here

Inger Andersen's picture

Next week I’ll be in a “live chat” conversation online with anyone who wants to jump in and share a thought about what the Middle East and North Africa needs now to shape a future so deeply challenged by the voices of citizens demanding a better social contract. It has been stunning to see how young people have used social media platforms so creatively to exchange views, to monitor and to hold authorities accountable over the past year. With this same set of tools I believe we at the World Bank can better learn from citizens of the region what their priorities are now. While the World Bank is not a big source of financing to MENA (despite the image some have of us!), we do have global knowledge to share and expertise to offer. But only insofar as countries value that and seek our input.   

Seeing a child like a state: Holding the poor accountable for bad schools -- Guest post by Lant Pritchett

In the early 20th century Helen Todd, a factory inspector in Chicago, interviewed 500 children working in factories, often in dangerous and unpleasant conditions. She asked children the question: “If your father had a good job and you didn’t have to work, which would you rather do—go to school or work in a factory?” 412 said they would choose factory work. One fourteen year old girl, who was interviewed lacquering canes in an attic working with both intense heat and the constant smell of turpentine, said “School is the fiercest thing you can come up against. F

Tahrir Square, batata and a wedding

Khaled Sherif's picture
Fridays in Egypt aren’t what they used to be.  In Fridays past, you typically would sleep in and as the noon hour approached you’d walk to the neighborhood Mosque where you would meet friends and pray gamaa (as a group).  After noon prayers, my friends and I would go to the Maadi Club, play a little soccer, have tea, and then we would agree to do it all over again the next Friday. What fun. But, one thing seems to have been added to the Friday agenda.  You still sleep until noon, you still go to the Mosque and the Club, but now you have to go to Tahrir Square and join the latest “millioneya,” the million man/woman march which seems to be an event on most Fridays. 

Road Accidents in Bangladesh: An Alarming Issue

Tashmina Rahman's picture

At least 46 people were killed and more than 200 injured in 31 road accidents across the country in the last four days including the three-day Eid holiday --- The Daily Star, November 10th 2011.

There has been an alarming rise in road accidents, significantly highway accidents, in Bangladesh over the past few years. According to a study conducted by the Accident Research Centre (ARC) of BUET, road accidents claim on average 12,000 lives annually and lead to about 35,000 injuries. According to World Bank statistics, annual fatality rate from road accidents is found to be 85.6 fatalities per 10,000 vehicles. Hence, the roads in Bangladesh have become deadly!

But these statistics, numerically shocking as they may be, fail to reflect the social tragedy related to each life lost to road accidents. One accident that remains afresh in my memory is the death of 44 school children last July, after the truck they were travelling in skid and fell into a pond. 44 young dreams and hopes lost due to reckless driving. Only a month after this tragedy, Bangladesh lost two brilliant citizens, filmmaker Tareq Masud and journalist Mishuk Munier, to yet another road accident in August.


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