A major factor holding back African development is the time it takes to transport goods within the continent. Though road conditions are poor in much of Sub-Saharan Africa, research has shown that ports are major contributors to transport delays: Cargo traveling from a port to a city in a landlocked Sub-Saharan African country generally spends more of its time (75 percent) at the port than on the road. Cargo spends nearly three weeks on average in Sub-Saharan African ports, compared to under a week in large ports in Asia, Europe and Latin America. This has hurt the region’s economies and deterred the development of value-added industries that rely on time-sensitive supply chains.
In many parts of the world, border-crossings are more than just an annoyance for women traders. Women can be subject to physical and sexual abuse from border officials, or charged illegal fees because they cannot read a receipt. Yet women traders are vital to some of the poorest economies in the world.
In addition to – and perhaps related to – the heightened risks women take in cross-border trade, they are underrepresented in the institutions that manage those borders. Men dominate the ranks of customs officials around the globe. One recent count estimated just 45 women in leadership positions in customs administration worldwide.
The World Customs Organization (WCO) is trying to change that statistic. On July 1, the WCO, with support from the World Bank, will hold a conference in Brussels to stimulate a conversation about women in customs - about their empowerment through both trade and public administration. Called the Women in Customs, Trade and Leadership Conference, the day-long agenda will address the hurdles faced by women in a wide range of roles, from informal traders to customs officials.
Consider an image: hubs and spokes sprawling across a map. At the Bank, we work in many fields that could be portrayed this way – finance, trade, transportation, infrastructure or urban and regional development. The position of a country, a city or a bank in its network is vital to explaining its individual economic performance. The property of the network as a whole is also important to understanding the resilience of the system and its parts to shocks or contagion effects.
In May, the Bank’s Trade Department and the IMF’s research department brought together, for the first time, a group of experts on various types of networks. The objective was to find out what the "science of networks" can tell us about the practice of international and development economics. The group included network planners from the private sectors, regulators, economists and physicists.