Public procurement is a linchpin for good governance and effective public service delivery, both of which are critical to the sustainable development of Africa. In many countries throughout the region, strengthening procurement to address weaknesses in public sector governance has become a priority.
Like many World Bankers, I took some time recently to look through the newly released 2015 World Development Report “Mind, Society, and Behavior.” From my perspective, in the Finance and Markets Global Practice, one thing jumped out immediately: The report is packed with insights that are directly relevant to our work on financial inclusion.
In the Overview alone, the reader is met with an abundance of findings related to consumer protection, financial capability, savings and other key topics involving financial inclusion (grouped together under the theme of “household finance,” which is fully explored in Chapter 6). We’re told of how changes to the framing of payday-loan terms dramatically altered borrowing behavior in the Unitedc States; how embedding financial messages in an engaging television soap opera in South Africa improved the financial choices of viewers; and how SMS reminders increased saving rates in Bolivia, Peru and the Philippines.
Of course, this is not the first body of work to summarize key behavioral lessons learned from decades of careful research on financial inclusion: See, for example, Chapters 6-9 of Banerjee and Duflo’s Poor Economics or the Bank’s 2014 GFDR on Financial Inclusion.) But these examples do help drive home the key message of the report: Paying attention to how people think, and to how history and context shape their thinking, can improve the design and implementation of development policies and interventions that target human behavior.
The report highlights that psychological impulses such as present bias, loss aversion and cognitive overload can lead to poor financial decision-making. For those in or on the edge of poverty, the ramifications of these poor decisions – low savings, chronic over-indebtedness, investment shortsightedness – can be devastating. We are reminded that most adults in developing economies do not benefit from the sophisticated financial tools such as automatic salary deposits, mandatory retirement contributions, or default insurance programs that help mitigate the effects of automatic thinking.
Yet, as outlined in Chapter 6, there are a range of interventions that have been shown to help address behavioral constraints on financial decisions in a developing-country context. Many of those interventions take advantage of what we know about the natural processes of the mind, using techniques such as framing, default settings and emotion persuasion to nudge people toward better financial decisions.
I recently returned from a trip to West Africa during which I crossed the Benin-Nigeria border by car at the Seme border post. While waiting for our passports to go through lengthy controls and stamping, I observed the intense activity of the numerous cars, motorbikes and pedestrians passing through.
Sure enough, most of the women were on foot, and they were the ones who were submitted to the most intense scrutiny. While the men on motorbikes were able to ram their way through by refusing to slow down, the women all had to go through a narrow passage where they were subject to questioning and document requirements. It was quite apparent that women were being asked for bribes that men were able to waive by driving right though! I had been reading about how women are subject to more intense harassment at border crossings – this experience brought this to life very vividly.
It made me thankful for all the work we at the World Bank Group are doing to help women traders on the African continent.
Your name is Sarah. You live in New York, or perhaps Nairobi, where you divide your time between caring for your young family and building a small business. Your life is more comfortable than your mother’s, and your children’s prospects are brighter than you might have hoped. Until your husband’s simmering resentment of your growing business turns violent, and he beats you badly.
On November 12th in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, twelve women who had received tubal ligations died. The tragic incident highlights the unfortunate reality that for many people around the world, hospitals and clinics may not satisfy the most basic assumption that visiting them will make you better. Equally worrying is the Indian government’s singular focus on increasing ‘institutional deliveries’ and family planning that led it to celebrate a surgeon who had performed 100,000 sterilizations, now spending no more than 4 minutes on each “case”.
“Smart” is in. So is digital. According to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, “digital innovation has leveled the playing field, making it easy for anyone from anywhere can compete in the global economy. Today, ideas do not have borders and therefore countries cannot be landlocked.”
Earlier this month, the Government of Rwanda convened a “Smart Rwanda Days” conference, bringing together participants from seven countries. During the two-day event, attendees were asked to “take the pulse” of digital development across Africa – as well as within their own countries – and then set concrete roles and responsibilities for current members of the Smart Africa alliance (Burkina Faso, Mali, South Sudan, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Gabon). The event was co-sponsored by the International Telecommunications Union, the African Union and several private-sector companies.
The Smart Rwanda Master Plan (SRMP), developed by the government in consultation with representatives of civil society and private sector, in February 2014, calls for better services to citizens through e-government and ICT education at all levels. The Plan includes a specific focuses on broadband networks and tertiary education, as well as fostering investments, innovation and creative local content to strengthen ICT. “Africa is on unstoppable move forward that tremendous progress is being made, but also the room for increasing speed and impact is limitless,” said Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Rwanda’s Minister for Youth and ICT.
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Women in Senegal traditionally have few chances to acquire computer or programming skills. A young woman from Dakar has set out to change that. Binta Coudy De has created a tech hub, Jjiguene Tech Hub, that trains young women in computer and programming skills, preparing them for a career in the high-tech sector.
According the World Bank’s latest report on the state of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) research in Africa, African researchers produce only 1 percent of the world’s research.
As shown in this video, unlocking the talent of women and girls could improve the quality and quantity of scientific research and tech innovation in Africa.
In developing countries, small businesses employ a disproportionate share of the population: SMEs comprise two-thirds of formal private sector employment in emerging markets and create 95 percent of jobs in low income countries. They take many forms, from mobile food vendor to technology firm, and they can be incubators of creativity. But, as studies have shown, on average, they account for a smaller share of productivity growth than large firms.
This week I am in Kigali, Rwanda, to participate in the World Export Development Forum. Its theme is: “SMEs: creating jobs through trade.” At this forum, government and business leaders will discuss the role of SMEs in international trade and strategies for increasing their participation. I will speak about the work the World Bank Group is doing to help improve the conditions for SME competitiveness and their integration into the global economy.
The stroke of the pen is powerful indeed; it has led to wars, peace, and lots of other things in between, including changes in a country’s business environment. A large part of what defines the environment for doing business in a country is set in legislation. In many countries around the world, business regulations are more difficult than necessary, and some have taken great efforts to remove unneeded impediments with the aim of stimulating entrepreneurship and investment.
This week’s links highlight the 500-day countdown to the MDG deadline, global response to #Ebola and the push towards universal health coverage. Each Friday, we share a selection of global health Tweets, infographics, blog posts, videos and more. Follow us @worldbankhealth.