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March 2013

Poor but happy?

Tom Bundervoet's picture

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.

Non-traditional private equity financing can be a win-win solution for SMEs

(Credit: Elis Alves, Flickr Creative Commons)

The difficulties faced by Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in getting finance, especially in the developing world, have been well documented. The causes are equally well known. First, traditional bank financing (secured or cash-flow based) is often not available due to the lack of adequate collateral or the opaque modus operandi of many SMEs. Also, financial markets may not be sufficiently well developed to facilitate traditional private equity (PE) financing of SMEs. A typical private equity (PE) firm or fund requires controlling positions in a company it invests. But in Sub-Sahara Africa, most small businesspeople are both owner and operator of lifestyle businesses and have little interest in letting go of control of their company. Another constraint to the traditional PE financing model is the lack of exit channels such as a well-functioning initial public offering (IPO) or merger and acquisition (M&A) market. 

High Food Prices and the Global Epidemic of Obesity

José Cuesta's picture

Available in Español, Français, عربي

Today, we know that being overweight or obese are major risk factors for diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and premature death. We are constantly reminded that personal behaviors, influenced by culture and lifestyle, and our metabolic development contribute to being overweight or obese. In the March 2013 Food Price Watch, we wonder how another factor could potentially influence the world’s obesity epidemic: high food prices.

But first, let’s run a quick quiz. Many of us watch our weight routinely and may even have figured out our Body Mass Index—the ratio of body weight in kilograms by the square of body height in meters—to determine whether or not we are overweight. Yet there are some stunning facts about being overweight that you may not know.

Can you answer the questions about being overweight or obese below?  

Questions about being overweight or obese

Mongolia needs better roads, schools and hospitals: so why all this talk about saving for the future?

Gregory Smith's picture

Mongolia’s mining revenues are set to soar in the coming years, but here people talk about the need to save for the future.

Surely building infrastructure, educating young Mongolians, improving healthcare and creating jobs is important? Surely by achieving these development goals Mongolia is providing for the next generation? These are great questions. Mongolia must do these things. But they in turn depend on efforts to prevent boom and bust and provide financial assets for future generations. Saving some of the revenues in good times is part of effective natural resource management.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Linda Raftree
Mobile technology and workforce development programs with girls and young women

“The March NYC Technology Salon offered an opportunity to discuss how mobile technology can transform workforce development and to hear how mobile is improving the reach and impact of existing initiatives working with girls and young women. Attendees also raised some of the acute, practical challenges and the deeper underlying issues that need to be overcome in order for girls and women to access and use mobile devices and to participate in workforce development programs and the labor market.”  READ MORE

Think Big, Start Small

Ismail Radwan's picture

In 2006, I was working in Aceh, Indonesia (with the Red Cross), a region devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Amongst other post-disaster recovery activities, we were working with 20 coastal communities, helping them with community-managed small grants and encouraging them to invest in disaster resilience within their communities.
 
To my delight, all 20 communities, independently, chose to invest in the restoration of their mangroves that had been completely or partially destroyed by the tsunami. To them, losing their mangroves was like losing their ancestors: Mangroves defended them, provided them with food and a livelihood, and made their coastline beautiful. The mangroves were their pride, and reclaiming the mangroves was of the highest priority for them as a community.

Why should we care about mangroves? Here are a few important reasons:

Will Rising Temperatures Derail Africa’s Rise?

Tom Bundervoet's picture

Africa is on the move. After two decades of decline, fortunes reversed by the end of the 1990s, resulting in a decade of strong economic growth and sizable improvements in sanitation, education and health. Real incomes per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa grew by more than 30 percent over the last ten years, and six countries from the continent made it on the list of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world. Big men, although still around in some parts of the continent, have become less common, elections have become more frequent, and many civil wars have finally ended. All this has produced a narrative of “Africa Rising” and a widespread optimism that Africa is finally on the right track. Indeed, the 21st century may well turn out to be Africa’s century.

Or not. Ted Miguel’s keynote address at the annual conference of the Center for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) in Oxford highlighted a potentially important concern. Applying a common statistical framework to a large number of studies on the link between temperatures and human violence, Miguel and his co-authors find a remarkably consistent and strong correlation between exceptionally high temperatures and manifestations of violence. Drawing on detailed data from a variety of countries and studies, they show that exceptionally high temperatures are correlated with significant increases in witch killings (Tanzania), rapes (USA), murders (USA), aggressive behavior of baseball players (USA) and more frequent and more aggressive horn-honking.

Creating an Ecosystem for Sustainable Financial Inclusion through Community Institutions

Parmesh Shah's picture

Photo: Inova BH

In English, “Belo Horizonte” means “beautiful horizon,” and this is an apt description of the long-term possibilities for educating the children of Belo Horizonte, the sixth largest city in Brazil and capital of the state of Minas Gerais. As a Brazilian who went through the national school curriculum, I believe that this system should be accessible to all citizens, and so I took a particular interest in the goals of this public-private partnership (PPP).

Greater access to education was a widely-shared ambition among the government team as well. The Municipality of Belo Horizonte already believed that a competitive workforce – and a functioning society – depends on good schools. That’s why it made early education a top priority and sought out advisory services from our Brazil-based team to find out if PPPs could help government make the grade. It seemed like this was a proposal the community could stand behind: Demand for better education was already strong, with over 11,000 children, many underprivileged, on a waiting list to enroll in school.


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