Did you know that the depth of poverty is much worse for rural dwellers? In fact, 75% of poor people live in rural areas, and extreme poverty is more than twice as high in rural areas compared to urban areas in developing countries. The rural-urban income divide is not only large but increasing in most transforming economies.
Outside China, about 80% of the reduction in national poverty rates in the developing world has been due to reducing rural poverty. (With China, the figure is 56%.) The conclusion is pretty obvious: rural development is critical to achieving a world without poverty.
India’s estimated 700,000 hijras, or transgender women, generally get little or no schooling, their families often reject them, and they join marginalized and feudal communities where their employment options are sex work or ritualized begging. They are likely to die young, of violence – like Anil Sadanandan, a transgender activist murdered in Kerala state during my recent visit to India – or AIDS. They are among India’s most destitute women, yet they are ignored by the World Bank, despite its strong focus on the “gender agenda.”
In his hit My Valentine, former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney sings about a Moroccan vacation where foul weather meant he and his love could not enjoy the vacation and planned sightseeing they had envisioned. Sir Paul was frustrated, until his love said the weather mattered little and they should change their mindset and make the most of it. That advice inspired the opening lyrics of his tune -- What if it rained?/ We didn't care/ She said that someday soon/ The sun was gonna shine/ And she was right/ This love of mine,/ My Valentine -- and taught him a valuable lesson: Complaining about the missing ingredients necessary to achieve any goal is a waste. It is far better to focus on what is already available and make the most of things.
Africa’s infrastructure deficit is no secret. Several recent studies by the World Bank and others have confirmed that across the continent, roads are inadequate, railways in poor condition and waterways limited. While the problems are most obvious at the national level, they are more acute along routes connecting countries. Lack of resources contributes to the patchy state of infrastructure connectivity between African countries. But it is not the only hurdle. A key question is: given limited resources, how should infrastructure be planned, prioritized and financed?
Sixteen countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are landlocked. To trade goods in overseas markets, they must cooperate with their coastal neighbors, working together to plan roads, transport goods to port and keep borders open. This is harder than it sounds. While numerous regional organizations exist to coordinate infrastructure planning in Africa, in practice they are made up of representatives with interests rooted in their own countries. Decisions by these bodies are often political and driven by members’ desire to see projects in their home territories.
Earlier this week I asked you to send us your questions about the link between jobs and skills --which should I acquire to make it in the current job environment? Thanks for all the replies --there were so many and so interesting that Lars Sondergaard, our expert, will address in a separate blog post next week the ones that couldn't make it into the video interview. Stay tuned!
Although the world produces a surplus of food, we have yet to achieve the right balance between the production of food and achievement of good nutrition. A new World Bank-hosted knowledge platform will generate better understanding of the links between agriculture, food security and nutrition, to help countries reach the Millennium Development Goal on hunger (MDG 1). Read more on the SecureNutrition blog.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
“As the desire to utilize mobile phones in international health projects has increased in the last few years, organizations continually ask a similar question, “We want to use mobile phones. Now what?” But the decision to introduce or start a mhealth project needs to come after answering many questions before “now what?” especially when dealing with behavior change communication projects. Enter Abt Associates, FrontlineSMS, and Text to Change. Two guides have recently been released to help organizations assess whether or not mobiles are the right tool, and if they are, the process moving forward. One is from Abt Associates and is entitled mBCC Field Guide: A Resource for Developing Mobile Behavior Change Communication Programs. The other one was created in collaboration between FrontlineSMS and Text to Change and is entitled Communications for change: How to use text messaging as an effective behavior change campaigning tool.” READ MORE
I recently gave a talk about ICT and Development at the annual Re:Campaign conference in Berlin, organized by Oxfam Germany. Anyone who knows me will realize that this is a bit odd – despite being a blogaholic, I am actually Rubbish At Technology. In front of 300 trendy, young (sigh) i-thingy wielding activists, I felt like a Neanderthal at a cocktail party. Still, at least the fear of being shamed up finally got me tweeting two weeks before the conference.
I decided to make a virtue of necessity and set out some core processes in development, and then reflected on what ICT does/doesn’t contribute. Why take this approach (apart from being a techno-caveman, that is)? Because there’s too much magic bulletism in development –microfinance, GM crops and now ‘cyber utopianism’. What all of these have in common is that they are too often presented as ‘get out of jail free’ cards, delivering development without all the messy business of politics and struggle. At best, new technologies shift power balances, sometimes favourably, sometimes not, but they don’t replace the process of struggle in development.
The Kenyan parliament just passed a new finance bill and there is one important good news: interest rates will not be capped. Prior to this, there was a risk that Kenya would embrace unconventional economic policies, and there were heated debates regarding price controls over the last months.
Many policy makers and Kenyans think that interest rates ought to be capped at a certain level, especially following their sharp rise since the end of 2011. People are affected by high prices, and inflation has only started to come down over the last few months. Borrowers want cheaper loans.
The Kenyan debate around price controls reminded me of Germany in the 1980s, as I was growing up. At that time, my country was still split in two. While West Germany followed a “social market economy”, East Germany opted for a state-led model in line with Soviet and communist philosophies.