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September 2012

Got a road? The importance of a good road network

Jacques Morisset's picture

Let's think together:Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate an evidence-based debate by sharing data from recent official surveys and ask you a few questions. These posts are also published in the Tanzanian newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.

Reducing the distance between people, markets, services and knowledge – or simply ‘getting people connected’ – is a great part of what economic growth is all about.

Although virtual connectivity has become increasingly important today with the emergence of new communication avenues, a good and reliable transport network remains vital. There is a very strong positive correlation between a country's economic development and the quality of its road network. Yet, by 2011, Tanzania was still lagging behind Uganda and Kenya in terms of the development of its road network as seen in the following facts:

Country policy and institutional assessment: How well are African countries doing?

Punam Chuhan-Pole's picture

Every year, the World Bank’s country teams and sector experts assess the quality of IDA countries’ policy and institutional framework across 16 dimensions to measure their strenght and track progess.  

The latest country policy and institutional assessment (CPIA) results show that despite difficult global economic conditions, the quality of policies and institutions in a majority of Sub-Saharan African countries remained stable or improved in 2011.

DOWNLOAD the indicators here: www.worldbank.org/Africa/CPIA

For several countries the policy environment is the best in recent years. Of the 38 African countries with CPIA scores, 13 saw an improvement in the 2011 overall score by at least 0.1. Twenty countries saw no change, and five witnessed a decline of 0.1 or more. The overall CPIA score for the region was unchanged at 3.2.  

In short, despite a challenging global economic environment, African countries continued to pursue policies aligned with growth and poverty reduction. 

What will it take to end poverty in Africa?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

My colleague Jim Kim has launched a social media campaign on what it will take to end global poverty (please send your solutions via twitter to #ittakes.) I was reminded of a blog post I did about four years ago entitled “Ending poverty in Africa and elsewhere”. 

My answer then and now is:  Overcome government failure.  By “government failure,” I don’t mean that governments are evil or even that they are incompetent or ill-intentioned.  Analogous to “market failure,” government failure refers to a situation where the particular incentives in government lead to a situation that is worse than what was intended with the intervention.  

For instance, governments finance and provide primary education so that poor children can have access to learning.  But if teachers are paid regardless of whether they show up for work, and politicians rely on teachers to run their political campaigns, the result is absentee teachers and poor children who don’t know how to read or write—precisely the opposite of what was intended.  We see similar government failures in health care, water supply, sanitation, electricity, transport, labor markets and trade policy.

Sweetening Kenya’s future – The challenges of the sugar industry

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Do you ever wonder, looking at the food in your plate, where it has come from and who produced it?

Surely you have thought about what explains its price on the shelf! Kenyans love sugar, which they use liberally in their tea: on average each Kenyan consumes 400 grams of sugar per week, much more than their Tanzanian neighbors who consume approximately 230 grams. In Africa, only the residents of Swaziland and South Africa have a sweeter tooth.

Globally, 70 percent of the sugar that is produced is consumed in the same country and only 30 percent is exported. In principle this is good for customers in sugar-producing countries, as long as the supply is sufficient to keep prices low. In Kenya, this is not the case: there are occasional sugar shortages and, when they can be anticipated, prices rise to extraordinary levels. 

Africa’s Learning Crisis

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Hardly a week goes by without someone pointing out that, despite being enrolled in school, many of Africa’s primary school-age children don’t seem to be learning very much. 

Today’s salvo is from the Brookings Institution’s Center for Universal Education, whose Africa Learning Barometer estimates that 61 million children (half of the primary school-age population) “will reach their adolescent years without being able to read, write or perform basic numeracy tasks.”  

Last week, my colleagues Elizabeth King and Ritva Reinikka called on Africa’s education system to “put learning first for all students.”  We have documented disappointing learning outcomes in Tanzania on this blog.  Despite being a middle-income country and having substantially increased public spending on education, South Africa’s performance in standardized tests is below the average for African countries.

Kenya’s education dividend

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Despite positive news and the talk of an African “renaissance,” many still doubt whether the continent is ready for take-off. Rapid population growth and the resulting “youth bulge” remain major concerns in a context of widespread un(der)employment. How can a country like Kenya create one million jobs each year, just to accommodate new entrants into the labor force? 

 

But young people don’t just need jobs, they also create them. Therefore, what matters most is to make sure that the education system delivers the skills needed in emerging economies, and incubates entrepreneurs. In turn, as people become more educated and healthier, they will have fewer children. This is already happening: As Kenya continues to welcome about a million new citizens each year, family size is slowly declining. 

“Death on Wheels” in sub-Saharan Africa: How to prevent it?

Patricio V. Marquez's picture

On the eve of the 2010 World Football Cup, former South Africa President Nelson Mandela experienced a tragedy that is all too common across sub-Saharan Africa: his great-granddaughter was killed in a car crash returning home after a concert in Soweto. The car's driver was arrested and charged with drunk driving.

Thousands of African families have experienced the pain of the Mandela family: according to WHO data, close to 250,000 people die each year on African roads, representing one-fifth of the world's road deaths, and about 500,000 sustain non-fatal injuries.

Severe underreporting hides the real magnitude of the problem; for example, in Mozambique, estimates done in 2011 by a Harvard University team indicated that road deaths and non-fatal injuries were twice as high as those reported in official statistics.

As the map shows, the sub-Saharan African countries, with an estimated death rate of 32.2 people per 100,000 population, have some of the highest road death rates in the world although they possess only 2% of the world’s registered vehicles.