Ed: This guest post is by Alan Ruby, senior scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy who also serves as a consultant to the World Bank, an adviser to the Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan, the Head Foundation in Singapore, and the American Institutes of Research.
Nearly 50 years ago, 40 classmates and I spent the last two weeks of November taking our higher school certificate examinations. In a cavernous, hot, and poorly ventilated hall, we sat in widely-spaced rows, writing essays, solving mathematics and science problems, and answering multiple-choice questions.
Government representatives express their frustration for not having benefited enough during the boom. Policymakers lament the lack of planning that has left their countries with no cushion in their budgets, and companies are looking to cut costs so they can weather the storm. And most importantly, communities are feeling the economic impact as mines purchase less local supplies, generate fewer jobs and halt some operations.
Not only are things slowing down, but it seems a golden opportunity has passed us by. Fatima Denton, Director of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, highlighted that Africa is less industrialized today than it was in 1990. After the minerals super cycle of 2000-2013, the percentage of manufacturing of African economies actually declined from 12% to 11%.
In 2010 I was doing research for Poor Numbers:How we are misled by African development statistics and what to do about it. I was In Lusaka, Zambia on a Wednesday afternoon, and was having a free and frank conversation with a specialist working for the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) office there as part of the ethnographic component of my book. One of the themes we kept returning to was the problem that donors demanded evidence that was not necessarily relevant for Zambian policy makers. We were also discussing how results-oriented MDG reporting had created real outside pressure to distort statistics, with donors having the final say on what gets measured, when and how. Indeed, whenever I asked anyone in Zambia—and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa—“what do we know about economic growth?,” a recurring issue was how resources were diverted from domestic economic statistics to MDG-relevant statistics.
Two days later I was sitting in the Central Statistical Office in Lusaka, talking to the then only remaining member of the economic statistics division. In 2007, this division was manned by three statisticians, but when I returned in 2010, there was only one person there. The other two had been pulled from economic statistics to social and demographic statistics where there was more donor money for per diem payments. The phone rang. DfID Lusaka was on the other end. They had a problem. They had financed a report on social statistics, but the office statistician tasked with completing the report had recently travelled to Japan to participate in a generously funded training course, leaving the report incomplete. Could someone help out? And so it was that the last remaining economic statistician for the Zambian government temporarily left the office to come to the rescue.
Labor reforms have been a key reform agenda in Zambia for quite some time. Experience on the ground shows that labor laws can have a significant impact on poverty and competitiveness. When laws have been loose, workers have been disadvantaged. When the government has tried to tighten the ropes, employers have been hurt. Therefore, finding the right balance is essential.
Climate change is affecting us all, but its impacts are hitting the poorest and those in poor countries hardest. That means developing countries vulnerable to sudden and slow-onset impacts of climate change need reliable and accurate weather and climate data and information to help them know when and how to protect their economies and communities.
Child marriage. It’s a phrase that was barely uttered or understood in the global development community even just 10 years ago. Yet over this past decade, some 140 million girls, most living in the developing world, have married before the age of 18, forcing them to drop out of school and become pregnant before their bodies and minds are ready. Child marriage may also lead to increased intimate partner violence, restricted mobility, limited access to families or friends, and limited ability to engage in their community’s and country’s development.
In today’s world, international aid is fickle, financial flows unstable, and many donor countries are facing domestic economic crises themselves, driving them to apply resources inward. In this environment, developing countries need inner strength. They need inner stability. And they deserve the right to chart their own futures.
This is within their grasp, and last week the launch of an unassuming-but-powerful tool marked an important step forward in this quiet independence movement. It’s called the TADAT, or Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool. At first glance, this tool may look inscrutable, technical, and disconnected from development. But listen.
At the heels of the Sustainable Development Summit at the United Nations in New York this past weekend, an operations team from the World Bank’s Water Global Practice (GP) is meeting with international development partners and African implementing partner organizations in Zambia this week as part of the fourth annual advisory committee meeting of the Cooperation in International Waters in Africa (CIWA) program, with deep commitment and support from the Governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The timing is coincidental, but symbolically significant: water management will be key to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which set the wider global development agenda for the next 15 years. In much of the world, managing water resources means working across borders in transboundary river basins, adding complexity to realizing SDG #6, to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”
New York this week plays host to Climate Week 2015, where business and government leaders are convening to make pledges and commit to actions to demonstrate that development does not have to come at the expense of the environment.
One year ago this event was a forum for the New York Declaration on Forests, a public-private compact to end natural forest loss by 2030.
Now one year on, the World Bank Group remains an active partner working with countries and companies to help turn forestry commitments into actions on the ground.
Plastic waste, in particular PET, which is typically found in soda bottles, is becoming abundant in African cities. In Dar es Salaam, one of the most rapidly urbanizing cities in Africa, BORDA found that about 400 tons of plastic waste per day remains uncollected or unrecycled. Although about 98 percent of the solid waste generated per day can be recycled or composted, 90 percent is disposed in dumpsites.
At the same time, the recycling industry has started to grow because of new initiatives, community organizations and private companies. There are a few organizations that repurpose waste into arts and crafts, tools or apply it as a source of energy – such as WasteDar. However, the majority collect or purchase plastic waste from collectors, primarily with a view to export, rather than recycle or reuse locally.
Socially and environmentally, waste management is one of the biggest challenges for an increasingly urbanized world. Waste pickers can earn as little as US$1-2 a day in dangerous conditions with little opportunity for advancement. They make up some of the most disadvantaged communities living in deep poverty.
Through a new market for sorted waste materials, these communities may access higher income generation opportunities in a sustainable manner. This presents an opportunity to explore turning this waste into value more close to home.