One of the winning 'startup' teams at Pivot East2013 (Credit: PivotEast)
Innovation competitions of all sorts have become prevalent throughout Africa, from hackathons to ideation challenges, demo days, code jams, bootcamps, roadshows, and pitch fests, the list is endless. This development is almost parallel to the rise of tech hubs (BongoHive counts about 100 African hubs) that have sprung up from Dakar to Dar Es Salaam.
While it’s evident that events and competitions are valuable opportunities—especially for young innovators looking to leave their mark—more advanced ecosystems, like Nairobi’s, have already begun to show signs of competition fatigue and competition hopping.
During the past few years, interest in high-frequency price data has grown steadily. Recent major economic events - including the food crisis and the energy price surge – have increased the need for timely high-frequency data, openly available to all users. Standard survey methods lag behind in meeting this demand, due to the high cost of collecting detailed sub-national data, the time delay usually associated with publishing the results, and the limitations to publishing detailed data. For example, although national consumer price indices (CPIs) are published on a monthly basis in most countries, national statistical offices do not release the underlying price data.
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The flooding of New Orleans, caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, illustrates the vulnerability of cities that are highly dependent on coastal defenses. Photo: NOAA [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Katrina-new-orleans-flooding3-2005.jpg]
Increasing flood risks create a major political and institutional challenge for the world’s coastal cities, as ambitious and proactive action at the local level over the next decades will be needed to avoid large-scale flood disasters. However, the implementation of flood risk management policies meets many obstacles.
In a recent study written with colleagues Colin Green, Robert Nicholls and Jan Corfee-Morlot as part of an OECD project on urban vulnerability, we estimate how flood risks could change in the future in 136 coastal cities, in response to increasing population and wealth, local environmental change, and climate change. We find that because current flood defenses and urbanization patterns have been designed for past environmental conditions, even a moderate change in sea level is sufficient to make them inadequate, thus magnifying flood losses to catastrophic levels. If no action is taken to reduce flood vulnerability, most coastal cities would become inhospitable and dangerous places to live, with annual losses in excess of US$1 trillion dollars.
What can be done?
Our analysis suggests that upgrading defenses could mitigate these losses and the impacts of rising sea levels. However, these upgrades need to include a package of risk management policies. First, coastal defenses should make use of the protection the environment can offer for free: Marshes, seagrass beds, coastal and kelp forests, and coral reefs provide natural buffers that absorb the energy from waves and storms, making it easier and cheaper to protect urban development. In addition artificial constructions are also required to provide full protection. We are not only talking about dykes: a city surrounded by dykes will need pumping systems to drain rainfall water, and a harbor will need moving barriers to let ships in and out of the port.
During my recent business development trip to Spain to represent MIGA at a forum on Latin American port infrastructure organized by Tecniberia, I had an opportunity to see with my own eyes and appreciate the great achievements made by many Iberoamerican nations.
One remarkable point in the still-young economic history of the 21st century is the “decade of sustainable prosperity” in Latin America. The region benefits from one of the longest growth periods in its modern history, with only Chinese and other emerging Asian powers jeopardizing its first position at the imaginary podium of the 21st-century economic empires.
It seems that Iberoamerica has finally managed to break its peculiar Malthusian trap (short periods of booming growth followed by deep recession) in which it fell again and again throughout the 20th century, and has seriously taken a sustained path of progress.
However, there are no grounds for complacency and passive contemplation of what has been achieved in this prodigious decade. Iberoamerican leaders and governments have to continue consolidating their economies, eradicate any poor past practices, and acquire new human resources and technical infrastructure. This will help them position their countries among the most advanced nations of the world and diminish the immediate risks of a slowdown in global growth.
The region is still facing evident challenges: the strengthening of the middle class, reduction of income inequality, exploitation of vast natural resources, and the engagement of minority groups or aboriginal majority in political and social life. Enrique Iglesias, head of the Iberoamerican General Secretariat (SEGIB) and former president of the Inter-American Development Bank, recently pointed out that "Iberoamerica is not going to have it easy going forward. We are no longer sailing with a favorable wind and we will have to use our own engines—sometimes the wind will even be against us...We have to start thinking in these new terms."
The Middle East and North Africa region is home to about 70 million of the world’s poor (living on less than two dollars per day) and 20 million of the world’s extremely poor (living on less than US$1.25 per day). According to a recent Gallup survey, 95 percent of the adults residing in MENA define themselves as religiously observant. The combination of these two facts has produced a growing interest in Islamic finance as a possible tool for reducing poverty through financial inclusion among the region’s religiously conscious Muslim population.
In several developing countries, military generals remain a big factor in politics. They may rule directly. They may rule thinly disguised as civilians. Or they may constitute the class of players --sometimes known as the Deep State -- able to affect what passes for democratic politics in the specific country should a vital interest of theirs be threatened. In such political communities, while the international community may want ‘free and fair’ elections (right now!), and good, accountable governance, structural factors impose their own realities; those factors define the jagged boundaries of the possible.
Because military generals control the ultimate instruments of coercive violence in a political community, it is tempting, and all too common, to think about them as rough beasts invading our perfumed salons. What we often forget is that in societies seeking to transition to modernity, and attempting the grounding of liberal constitutional democracy, the process often boils down to a tussle for power between civilian politicians and politicians in military uniform. In addition, it is wrong, in my view, to believe that military generals only ever want direct military or authoritarian rule. Sometimes, as happened in my own country, Nigeria, they can decide as a class that constitutional democracy is in their broad interest, but they want it to happen on their terms, in ways that protect their liberties, their fortunes and those of their friends, families and partners.
Official poverty statistics rely on costly household expenditure surveys collected several years apart. As a result, policy makers often don’t have up-to-date poverty estimates.