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April 2012

Can mobile phones be used to "bank" the poor?

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

The phenomenal success of Kenya’s M-PESA system, which allows people to store and transfer funds via electronic accounts that they access via mobile phones, has raised hopes that mobile money may provide a way for the poor to access basic banking services. In an earlier post, I presented findings from my recent working paper with Aaron Thegeya, showing that a remarkable 73% of Kenyan adults use mobile money, and nearly a quarter use it every day

We also show that savings with a simple M-PESA account is common, with 2/3 of M-PESA users reporting that they save in some form with M-PESA. We see some mild evidence that M-PESA may increase savings: controlling for various characteristics, those who are registered for M-PESA are 32 percent more likely to report some savings activity.

Why do people save with M-PESA when it doesn’t pay interest?  A possible explanation comes from an experimental study on health savings (not involving M-PESA).  

Why is Only 1 in 5 Firms Managed by a Woman?

Let me start by sharing a telling anecdote:  “At her first job in Tokyo in the 1970s, Ms Yukako Uchinaga hid in the ladies' room every day at 8pm while an inspector made sure all female employees had gone home. Then she came out and put in more hours. "My boss used to say, 'I don't want to be put in jail'," said Ms Uchinaga … referring to a labor law that capped women's overtime at two hours a day. "I complained it was unfair, like being in a 100-metre race with my hands and feet tied while all my male colleagues ran freely.”

According to Bloomberg, women occupy just 1 in 70 management positions at Japanese companies.
And according to the World Bank Group's Enterprise Surveys, which collect firm level data across 125 economies, only every fifth firm has a female as top manager.  Even top tier Fortune 500 companies are not so balanced in gender parity with only 18 out of 500, or 4 % of their top executives being female.


Women don’t have enough time to climb the corporate ladder. 
According to the World Bank Group’s report Women, Business and the Law 2012 the retirement age for women comes earlier than for men in 52 economies (out of 141 covered). But, there is no economy, where the retirement age for men is earlier than for women. Moreover, according to the same report women cannot work the same night hours as men in 44 economies. Meanwhile, the average number of days mandated by law for maternity leave is 106, while the average number of days mandated for paternity leave is only 3.  The Math is self-evident.

Euro 2012: highway contracts in Poland and Ukraine

David Lawrence's picture

The Euro 2012 soccer championships, which are being held in both Poland and Ukraine, have given infrastructure financing fans interesting things to think about. As with any major sports event, roads, stadiums, hotels, airports need to be built or refurbished. How the two governments do this might provide some interesting lessons on best practices.

I was particularly interested in how construction contracts are broken up before they’re bid out, especially if a public-private partnership (PPP) transaction is involved. Some governments prefer to issue one gigantic contract in a winner-take-all scenario. But if the job is too big, it limits competition to very large firms. On the other hand, if the same job is broken into several smaller contracts, then more firms have the resources to compete and costs are generally driven down.

Join our team: Social media job opening

Dale Lautenbach's picture
World Bank | Arne Hoel | 2012In 2011, a new conversation began around the future for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region – and it was driven in large part on social media. Our team here at the World Bank has sought to engage in parts of that dialogue on social media platforms, in live chats and in the blog space. Now we’re in search of a new team member who can help facilitate that social media conversation full time. So who are we looking for? Someone who is passionate about harnessing social media tools to drive a conversation with citizens of the MENA region and establish the World Bank as a trusted voice of development know-how and data in the region.

Prospects Daily: Financial market volatility is at its lowest since 2007

Global Macroeconomics Team's picture

Important developments today:

1. Financial market volatility is at its lowest since 2007

2. US manufacturing activity remains resilient amid contraction in Eurozone

What is a Smart City and How Can a City Boost Its IQ?

Maggie Comstock's picture

Earlier this month, the World Bank hosted a Smart Cities for All workshop in Washington, DC which convened experts from the United Nations, academia, government agencies, non-profits and industry. The purpose of the workshop was to share insights and experiences of equipping cities with the tools for intelligent growth. Additionally, the forum established a public-private partnership for collaboration in pursuit of shared goals for global sustainability. But what does it mean to be a “smart city”? Is this distinction only reserved for cities starting from scratch? Can an established city boost its IQ?

First, we must take a step back to reflect upon what it means to be a “smart city.” While there is no official definition, many have contributed to this debate. Industry leaders, such as Seimens and IBM, believe that stronger use of technology and data will enable government leaders to make better informed decisions. Whereas others, including the Sustainable Cities Blog’s very own Dan Hoornweg, consider the social aspects as a component of what it means to be a smart city. In his blog, “Smart Cities for Dummies,” published last November, Dan contends: “At its core a smart city is a welcoming, inclusive city, an open city. By being forthright with citizens, with clear accountability, integrity, and fair and honest measures of progress, cities get smarter.” Though I agree with both the data-driven and socially-conscious approaches, I’d like to propose my own definition of a smart city.

Bangladeshi Communities Set Development Priorities

Naomi Ahmad's picture

Saleha Begum was determined. Over the last couple of years, a number of children in her village had tragically died, their families left behind shocked and shattered. Memories were all that remained of these young lives cut short, and Begum was now determined to do her bit to stop the untimely deaths and accidents caused by the proximity of a highway to a community school.

We had arrived at Baishakanda Union Parishad in Dhamrai just before the local community meeting started. (Union Parishads are the lowest tier of local government in Bangladesh.) Begum had already taken her place among men and women from her village. A number of women threw anxious looks toward her. That day, Begum was going to play a vital role in advancing their agenda.

Fighting Corruption: The Politically Exposed Persons Factor

Larissa Gray's picture

Last month, the Financial Action Task Force on money laundering (FATF), revised its 40+9 Recommendations on the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) with a new set of 40 Recommendations.
Credit: Flickr, CennyddThese revised recommendations introduce some significant changes, some of them critical for World Bank client countries. One of the main challenges going forward will be for those stakeholders tasked to implement them, whether policy makers and legislative drafters, government agencies (supervisory authorities, financial intelligence units, law enforcement), banks and other financial institutions, and what are referred to as designated non-financial business service providers (DNFBPs) (e.g, casinos, real estate agencies, dealers in precious metals/stones, lawyers and accountants, and trust and company service providers).

Innovate and become a Super Nimer!

Simon Bell's picture
World Bank | Arne Hoel Increased competition is critical to bringing in new ideas, new ways of thinking, new products, new markets, and new approaches, so as to generate new jobs for women, the youth of the region, and for those who live at the bottom of the pyramid.  In other words, greater competition will breed greater innovation, and more of the middle income jobs that the region requires.  Innovation in its simplest form means simply Doing Different Things and Doing Things Differently” (DDT-DTD).

Making Schools Work: Lessons from an Information Campaign in India

Harry A. Patrinos's picture

My last two blogs, Lessons on School-Based Management from a Randomized Experiment and Empowering Parents to Improve Schooling: Powerful Evidence from Rural Mexico, have focused on empowering parents to help increase accountability in schools. However, too often, decentralization programs are designed without adequately conveying the messages about their purpose to the intended audiences; or, it is done in such a way that the program is rendered useless.