Despite hundreds of millions spent on more and better household surveys across Africa in recent decades, we only have a very rough idea about the levels and trends in income poverty and inequality in sub-Saharan Africa. Many reasons contribute to this unfortunate state of affairs.
Under-investment in infrastructure can cripple lives. Across the world, 1.3 billion people have no access to electricity, 2.5 billion do not have adequate sanitation, and a further 2.5 billion rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking. Building adequate infrastructure is a vital tool of social development. But it is also a crucial underpinning of economic growth. McKinsey estimates that the world needs to invest $57 trillion in infrastructure between 2013 and 2030 simply to keep up with projected global GDP growth. That’s more than the total estimated value of the infrastructure already on the ground today.
In the seven years between 2000 and 2007, the world undertook a massive push to increase enrollments for all children in primary school. This organized effort was successful in reducing the worldwide number of out-of-school children by 40%. Surely, for many, the hope (and even the expectation) at that time was for a fast-approaching elimination of this global dilemma.
So, what of our progress in the last seven years?
As the dust settles from the U.S. "Great Recession" and the ensuing global recession, many theories circulate about both the nature of the recessions and the success or failure of government economic policies to reinvigorate economies. A welcome perspective in part 2 of 2 in this debate is Adriana Kugler, a Full Professor at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy and the Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Labor in 2011-2012.
As the saying goes, in a crisis, we need to be aware of the danger, but also recognize the opportunity. So, while the global media is nowadays full of dispatches about the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa, perhaps is time to pause and think about another public health risk that has the potential to wreak similar havoc in our globalized world.
It was getting dark and the mist engulfing the jungle made the challenge of spotting the stripes even harder. My guide, a trained local tribal youth, was excited and kept telling stories about the sights and sounds of the jungle. In all fairness, I had enjoyed the trek. Every turn or straight path presented a beautiful landscape, majestic trees, bamboo thickets, gurgling streams, colorful birds, distant animal calls and the gentle fresh breeze. Sighting a tiger would only complete the experience. Will we? Won’t we, see one?
In many ways, the experience of sighting a tiger reflects the challenge its very survival is facing! Will it? Won’t it, survive? But more importantly, will someone notice if it is not around? Fortunately, I was in Periyar Tiger Reserve in the southern Indian State of Kerala, a turnaround success story where the World Bank’s India Ecodevelopment Project significantly increased income opportunities for the locals, improved reserve management and encouraged community participation in co-managing the reserve. Though this happened a decade ago, even today the incomes are sustained and communities are closely engaged! But such success stories are few and far between.
“Is it true there are lots of us [in the US] and I don’t have to hide?” - Fred, Uganda (living in Kenya Kakuma Refugee Camp)
After its summer recess, the Kyrgyz parliament is set to examine a repressive law against sexual minorities, often described as a copycat of the Russian “gay propaganda” law. This would be the fourth country this year to approve new legislation limiting the rights of sexual minorities.
The excellently named Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (R.I.C.E) recently published an equally excellently named survey – the SQUAT (Sanitation Quality, Use, Access and Trends) survey. Based on the findings of this survey conducted in five north Indian states, R.I.C.E calls for a latrine use revolution - since the bottleneck is not the non-availability of a latrine (since even those with a government latrine are not using them), nor is it lack of funds (since far poorer countries and communities have built and used latrine). It is an issue of messaging around hygiene, towards which we need to set our firm focus.
My first job in the development sector was with an NGO, Gram Vikas in Odisha and my experience there has shaped many of my core beliefs about working in this sector. At the core of Gram Vikas' work was the conviction that the 'poor can and will pay for quality services'. So when I think toilets (not latrines – and there is a key difference in the definition), I often use the 'quality' lens and make the argument about how the usage of physical facilities installed by projects has a direct link with what community perception of what counts as good quality. This also has a strong link with the extent to which they feel a sense of ownership for the facility.
Young professionals are special, but it is not really our abilities that set us apart, it’s the opportunities we’re offered. We're encouraged and motivated to work outside our comfort zone. For instance, those with academic accomplishments are usually shipped off to work in operations. Your research shows that economic clusters lead to productivity gains? Why don’t you work with a team helping a sub-Saharan African country design industrial zones. You come with private-sector consulting experience? Perhaps you should work on setting up a platform to collate and compile knowledge for the institution.