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When It Comes to Tackling Inequality, Start Early

Ana Revenga's picture

It seems that everyone is talking about inequality these days, and I, for one, am happy to see this issue at the forefront in the development discussion.

We can look at inequality in a number of ways, which are not unrelated. One of the most visible types of inequality on the radar is inequality of outcomes — things like differences in academic achievements, career progression, earnings, etc. — which, in and of themselves, are not necessarily bad. Rewarding an individual’s effort, innate talents and superior life choices can provide incentives for innovation and entrepreneurship, and can help drive growth.  

However, not all inequalities are “good.” When inequality perpetuates itself because those born poor consistently do not have access to the same opportunities as those born rich, what emerges is a deep structural inequality that is bad for poverty reduction, bad for economic growth, and bad for social cohesion. How pervasive are these deep inequalities? Much more than we would like. Indeed, when we examine what is happening in many countries around the world today, we find large and persistent, even growing, gaps in earnings between rich and poor. And we find that those who start out in poverty or are part of a disadvantaged group tend to remain there, with little opportunity to work their way out.

How do we explain this, and what can we do to tackle it? We need to take a step back and look at where this inequality originates, and that is where the concept of equality of opportunity comes in to play. This concept broadly refers to access to a basic set of services that are necessary, at the minimum, for a child to attain his or her human potential, regardless of the circumstances — such as gender, geographic region, ethnicity, and family background — into which he or she is born. Too often, access to such basic services like electricity, clean water, sanitation, health care and education is much lower among children born into circumstances that place them at a disadvantage. Children from disadvantaged groups thus set off on an unequal path from day one, which curbs their opportunities and potential into adulthood.

A Fragile Country Tale: Restrictions, Trade Deficits, and Aid Dependence

Massimiliano Calì's picture

 Masaru Goto, World BankPart of the World Bank’s new vision is to step up its efforts to help fragile and conflict-afflicted states break the vicious cycle of poverty. But this is no easy task.
 
The destruction of productive assets and the restrictions on the capacity to produce are among the most severe economic impacts of conflicts and fragility. These effects explain why countries in conflict or emerging out of conflict typically have very large trade deficits. The productive sector is often particularly weak by international standards, so exports are low and domestic consumption has to rely on imports. Indeed, five of the ten countries with the largest trade deficit in the world (Timor-Leste, Liberia, the Palestinian territories, Kosovo and Haiti) are considered fragile by the World Bank and other regional development banks (figure 1).
 

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

How Information Flows During Emergencies
MIT Technology Review
Mobile phones have changed the way scientists study humanity. The electronic records of these calls provide an unprecedented insight into the nature of human behaviour revealing patterns of travel, human reproductive strategies and even the distribution of wealth in sub-Saharan Africa. All of this involves humans acting in ordinary situations that they have experienced many times before. But what of the way humans behave in extraordinary conditions, such as during earthquakes, armed conflicts or terrorist incidents? READ MORE.

‘Fragile Five’ Is the Latest Club of Emerging Nations in Turmoil
The New York Times
The long-running boom in emerging markets came to be identified, if not propped up, by wide acceptance of the term BRICs, shorthand for the fast-growing countries Brazil, Russia, India and China. Recent turmoil in these and similar markets has produced a rival expression: the Fragile Five. The new name, as coined by a little-known research analyst at Morgan Stanley last summer, identifies Turkey, Brazil, India, South Africa and Indonesia as economies that have become too dependent on skittish foreign investment to finance their growth ambitions. The term has caught on in large degree because it highlights the strains that occur when countries place too much emphasis on stoking fast rates of economic growth. READ MORE.

Zimbabwe: How Can the Diaspora Contribute to Development?

Norbert Mugwagwa's picture


Around Christmas time and at the beginning of every academic year, I have routinely sent cash to my extended family back home in Zimbabwe. That’s been the pattern since I joined the World Bank mid-career and settled in Washington D.C. 23 years ago.
 
I am not alone; the number of Zimbabweans that have left the country is estimated at more than 3 million. Most have left since 2000, for reasons varying from the socio-economic to political.

The King Baudouin African Development Prize

Kristina Nwazota's picture
The King Baudouin Foundation has just announced that it is accepting nominations for its 2014-2015 African Development Prize. The Prize awards innovative initiatives that help local communities take development into their own hands and that improve quality of life. The Prize is worth 150.000 Euros and is awarded every other year. Previous winners include women's rights advocate Bogaletch Gebre of Ethiopia and Dr.

Relaunching Africa Can and Sharing Africa’s Growth

Francisco Ferreira's picture

Dear Africa Can readers, we’ve heard from many of you since our former Africa Chief Economist Shanta Devarajan left the region for a new Bank position that you want Africa Can to continue highlighting the economic challenges and amazing successes that face the continent. We agree.

Today, we are re-launching Africa Can as a forum for discussing ideas about economic policy reform in Africa as a useful, if not essential, tool in the quest to end poverty in the region.

You’ll continue to hear from many of the same bloggers who you’ve followed over the past five years, and you’ll hear from many new voices – economists working in African countries and abroad engaging in the evidence-based debate that will help shape reform. On occasion, you’ll hear from me, the new Deputy Chief Economist for the World Bank in Africa.

We invite you to continue to share your ideas and challenge ours in pursuit of development that really works to improve the lives of all people throughout Africa.

Here is my first post. I look forward to your comments.

In 1990, poverty incidence (with respect to a poverty line of $1.25) was almost exactly the same in sub-Saharan Africa and in East Asia: about 57%. Twenty years on, East Asia has shed 44 percentage points (to 13%) whereas Africa has only lost 8 points (to 49%). And this is not only about China: poverty has also fallen much faster in South Asia than in Africa.

These differences in performance are partly explained by differences in growth rates during the 1990s, when emerging Asia was already on the move, and Africa was still in the doldrums. But even in the 2000s, when Africa’s GDP growth picked up to 4.6% or thereabouts, and a number of countries in the region were amongst the fastest-growing nations in the world, still poverty fell more slowly in Africa than in other regions. Why is that?

The Fight to End Wildlife Crime Is a Fight for Humanity

Valerie Hickey's picture

Available in ไทย

Elephants in Kenya. Curt Carnemark/World Bank

Elephant ivory is on the march. Not elephants, but their ivory. The elephants are left bloodied and dead on the range. So are many rangers who work to protect a country’s natural capital. In the past 10 years, over 1,000 rangers have been murdered in 35 countries alone; the International Ranger Federation tell us that as many as 5,000 may have been murdered worldwide in that time.
 

At the CITES COP – the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species – the halls in Bangkok ring loud with concern for the elephants and other charismatic species, particularly rhinos, that are being exterminated across Africa in pursuit of private profit, at the expense of communities that rely on nature for their food, shelter, start-up capital, and safety net in a warming world.


So why should the World Bank care? Our concern is to build strong economies and healthy communities by revving the engine of inclusive green growth as we prepare countries and communities for the impacts of climate change.

What does this have to do with elephant ivory you ask? Simply put, we cannot achieve our dream of a world without poverty without taking account of the rise in wildlife crime.

Is Concentrated Solar Thermal Making Progress in Developing Countries?

John Probyn's picture

Concentrated Solar ThermalIt’s no secret that renewable energy development in developing countries is on the rise.  In its most recent report on renewable energy investment, the UN states that investment in renewables in developing countries  has grown over ten-fold – from USD 8 billion to USD 89 billion in the past eight years.  When taking advantage of solar resources, the clear choice – assisted by large recent reductions in capital cost - has been for solar photovoltaic technologies (Solar PV). 

2012, une année charnière pour le sida et les avancées attendues

David Wilson's picture

Lors de la dernière conférence internationale sur le sida organisée à Washington, en 1987, les États-Unis étaient présidés par Ronald Reagan, l’Union soviétique tenait encore debout, un mur coupait Berlin en deux et la taille de l’économie chinoise était comparable à celle de l’Espagne. Personne n’aurait pu prédire les évolutions de notre planète ni celle de l’épidémie de sida.

 

En cette année 2012 décisive, la conférence est de retour à Washington. Le sida reste le plus grave défi de notre temps sur le front des maladies infectieuses, avec plus de 65 millions de contaminations et 30 millions de décès depuis le début de la pandémie, sans compter les quelque 3 millions de nouveaux cas et les 2 millions de victimes supplémentaires chaque année.

 

Ces statistiques sinistres ne doivent pas masquer les incroyables progrès accomplis. Lors de la conférence de 1987, le monde était démuni face à cette pandémie mortelle alors qu’il n’existait aucun médicament pour atténuer une lente et douloureuse agonie. Aujourd’hui, la palette des outils de prévention à l’efficacité avérée ne cesse de s’étoffer ; les infections sont en recul dans plus de 33 pays ; et jamais l’humanité n’a disposé d’autant de traitements pour lutter contre un virus. Les coûts de traitement annuels ont été divisés par 100 et ils atteignent désormais 8 millions de personnes à travers le monde, soit 60 fois plus. C'est, à ce jour, l'expansion la plus importante d'un traitement qui permet de sauver des vies.

 

Avec l’accélération des progrès scientifiques, des percées encore plus spectaculaires sont attendues.

 

C’est en Afrique surtout que ces progrès incroyables sont le plus visibles. En Afrique de l’Est et en Afrique australe, l’épidémie de sida était responsable à son paroxysme de 50 à 70 % des hospitalisations et des deux tiers des décès dans la population adulte. Imaginez un instant ce que cela signifierait à l’échelle de votre quartier. Dans mon pays, le Zimbabwe, les hôpitaux étaient remplis de mourants décharnés, le personnel soignant transformé en fossoyeurs, les hôpitaux en hospices et toute la vie sociale réduite à deux activités : visites aux malades et funérailles. Les marchands de cercueils, à l’activité florissante, s’installaient le long des routes menant aux cimetières surchargés.

AIDS 2012: In a watershed year, breakthroughs await

David Wilson's picture

When the International AIDS Conference was last held in Washington, D.C. in 1987, Ronald Reagan was U.S. president, the Soviet Union stood, a wall scarred a divided Berlin and China’s economy was roughly the size of Spain’s. The wider world – and the AIDS epidemic – has changed more than anyone foresaw.

 

The conference returns to Washington in a watershed year. AIDS remains the greatest infectious disease challenge of our age: more than 65 million people infected and 30 million deaths since the epidemic began, and roughly 3 million new infections and 2 million deaths a year.

 

These are grim statistics, but they belie the incredible progress made. When we met at the 1987 AIDS conference, the world had few tools to prevent deadly infections and no drugs to commute slow, agonizing, wasting death. Today, there is an expanding armory of proven prevention tools; new HIV infections have been reduced in more than 33 countries; and there are more drugs to treat HIV than for every retrovirus in history combined.  Annual treatment costs have been reduced 100-fold and AIDS treatment has been expanded 60-fold to reach 8 million people worldwide in the largest-ever expansion of lifesaving treatment.

 

As the pace of scientific progress accelerates, even greater breakthroughs await us.

 

Nowhere is this amazing progress more evident than in Africa. At its peak in Eastern and Southern Africa, AIDS was responsible for 50-70% of bed occupancy and two-thirds of all adult deaths. Let each of us simply try to imagine experiencing this in our own neighborhoods. In my country, Zimbabwe, hospitals overflowed with emaciated, dying people, nurses and doctors were undertakers, hospitals were hospices, and an entire society’s social life rotated from hospital beds to funeral gravesides. Coffin-making was the fastest growing business, lining miles of roads to overcrowded cemeteries.


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