Much of the media coverage of children during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic has been focused on orphans. Repeatedly, we have read heartbreaking stories of children who have lost parents to the disease and even been rejected by their communities. These children deserve our attention: We know that losing a parent has both short-term and long-term impacts. Evidence from Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and across Africa demonstrates significant reductions in educational outcomes for orphans in the short run. Evidence from Tanzania shows that adverse education and health effects persist into adulthood.
You could be forgiven if you found deworming to be something of an enigma. Some have hailed it as one of the most cost effective interventions for improving school participation in developing countries. Yet two recent review papers, drawing together the lessons from many studies, find insignificant effects of deworming on learning specifically and only uncertain evidence on cognition more generally. How could this be?
The short answer is that, until a few months ago, both views could be right. I explain why in this 7-minute talk highlighting my recent research.
But if you prefer to read rather than watch the video, allow me to explain.
From my seat as an Education economist at the World Bank, I go through a number of strategies from countries and sectors in Africa outlining how best to achieve economic growth and development. I am repeatedly struck by a key question: Who will do it? Who will add value to African exports? Who will build? Who will invent? Who will cure? The answer is, of course, that graduates from African universities and training institutions should do it. But the problem is one of numbers and quality—there are simply not enough graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and programs are of uneven quality.
Imagine that you are in an elevator. It stops to pick up the next passenger going up. It turns out to be H.E. Jayaka Mrisho Kikwete, yes, the President of Tanzania himself, accompanied by a group of high ranking officials. The President turns and asks you what you think is the most important thing that he could do for his country. You have less than three minutes to convince him. What would you tell him?
I know what I would say, loud and clear: “Your Excellency, that would have to be improving the performance of the port of Dar es Salaam.”
No doubt there are plenty of issues that matter for Tanzania’s prosperity: rural development, education, energy, water, food security, roads, you name it. They are all competing for urgent attention and effort; yet it is also true that each of them involves complex solutions that would take time to produce impact on the ground, and it is hard to know where to begin and to focus priority attention.
This is not the case for the Dar es Salaam port, as most experts know what to do.
So why the port of Dar es Salaam?
The port represents a wonderful opportunity for his country. The port handles about 90% of Tanzania’s international trade and is the potential gateway of six landlocked countries. I would tell him that almost all citizen and firms operating in Tanzania are currently affected, directly and indirectly, by the performance of this port.
With an estimated 10 million malaria cases in 2010, the World Health Organization considers Tanzania to be one of the four countries with the highest malaria prevalence in Africa, along with Nigeria, DRC and Uganda. And yet there are signs that efforts to fight the disease are bearing fruit:
- Data from Rapid Diagnostic Tests shows that malaria prevalence in children aged 6 months to 5 years fell by half from 18 per cent in 2007/08 to 9 per cent in 2011/12.
- Reported malaria deaths declined from around 20,000 per year in 2004-06 to below 12,000 in 2011. While there is a possibility that the malaria deaths are underreported, the trend signals substantial improvement.
Co-authored with Luc Christiaensen and Aly Sanoh
For a decade and a half now, Africa has been growing robustly, and the region’s economic prospects remain good. In per capita terms, GDP has expanded at 2.4 percent per year, good for an average increase in GDP per capita of 50 percent since 1996.
But the averages also hide a substantial degree of variation. For example, GDP per capita in resource-rich countries grew 2.2 times faster during 1996-2011 than in resource-poor countries (Figure 1). Though not the only factor explaining improved performance—fast growth has also been recorded in a number of resource-poor countries such as Rwanda, Ethiopia and Mozambique (before its resource discoveries)—buoyant commodity prices and the expansion of mineral resource exploitation have undoubtedly played an important role in spurring growth in several of Africa’s countries. Even more, with only an expected 4 or 5 countries on the African continent without mineral exploitation by 2020, they will continue to do so in the future. Yet, despite the better growth performance, poverty declined substantially less in resource-rich countries.
What will the world look like in 2030? Clearly, it will be very different from today and some of these changes can already be anticipated. Most of us can remember the year 1996 which is as far back in the past as 2030 is forward in the future. Today’s emerging trends will shape the world over the next two decades.
Every five years, the US’s National Intelligence Council publishes its analysis of “Global Trends”. This time, the analysis looks forward to 2030 and highlights four “megatrends” all of which will probably feel quite intuitive to people living in Africa.
If user fees for health have been so vilified (including in comments on this blog), why are we bringing the subject up again? Because new evidence calls into question the prevailing view, namely that removing user fees leads to: (i) increased use of health services and hence to (ii) improved health outcomes. Confirming (i), the recent literature shows that (ii) does not always follow.
Raising the price of a good or service has two effects: it reduces demand and increases supply. In the case of user fees for health, it was thought that paying for a service also makes people use it more appropriately (you don’t go to the doctor for minor ailments) and value it more than if they obtained it for free.
A common belief in rich countries is that people in Africa are poor but happy. This image is time and again confirmed by popular reality shows on Western television, in which the rich-and-famous visit little-known tribes in the most remote villages of rural Africa, only to concede, in front of a dozen cameras, that despite all their hardship, the people they visited really seemed happier than the average burnt-out desk-warrior in their home countries.
Are the poor in Africa really happier? In recent years economists started focusing on happiness and its measurement, a field long considered too trivial to pay much attention to. Recent research on the topic gives conflicting, and sometimes surprising, results. In 2012, an Ipsos poll measuring the degree of happiness in 24 countries found that self-reported levels of happiness were higher in poor and middle-income countries than in rich ones, seemingly confirming popular beliefs. In contrast, the first World Happiness Report, also published in 2012, finds that the rich countries in Scandinavia are the happiest on earth, while four poor Sub-Saharan African countries are at the bottom of the list. The Gross National Happiness (GNH) index, pioneered by the Kingdom of Bhutan, comes up with a number of surprises of its own: the GNH is highest among the young and the unemployed (and also-perhaps less surprising-among the unmarried), which seems at odds with today’s television images of the streets of Madrid and Athens.
Let's think together: Every Sunday the World Bank in Tanzania in collaboration with The Citizen wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a few questions.
Tanzania is ranked the second lowest in terms of access to improved sanitation worldwide out of 171 countries that reported statistics for 2010. The details read as follows:
- Only 1 in 10 Tanzanians has access to an improved sanitation facility, such as a flush toilet connected to a sewage system or septic tank or a covered pit latrine not shared with other households.
- The above access to improved sanitation for Tanzania is well below the average for sub-Saharan Africa (31 percent), and also much lower than in Kenya (32 per cent), Uganda (34 per cent) and Malawi (51 per cent).
- Urban residents are three times more likely to use an improved toilet facility than their rural counterparts (20 per cent vs. 7 per cent).
- A staggering 5.4 million Tanzanians do not have access to any toilet facility, and answer nature’s call in the open. This burden falls most heavily on the poorest quintile.