We love local. Whether it’s buying vegetables directly from your local farmer, frequenting a neighborhood business, or working as a community activist, many of us believe that solutions to some of our most pressing problems lie at least in part in a small series of actions taken from the ground up. This may be especially true in countries with limited state capacity, where community-based organizations (CBOs) are often among the highest-functioning entities at the local level. In some settings, producer cooperatives or savings and credit groups, for example, have stronger financial management capacity than local governments. Parent-teacher organizations, women’s associations, hometown associations, or other membership-based groups can be highly effective community mobilizers.
Reform leaders who are persuaded by the need to invest in human capital face the challenge of getting thousands of state personnel, who staff myriad government agencies, to deliver. The quintessential “delivery unit” in Africa, a region flagged by the Human Capital Index as having the greatest need for health and education investments, consists of local governments helmed by appointed bureaucrats and locally elected politicians. In new research in Uganda, we find that the quality of local politicians, elected at humble levels in a village or district, is a robust and substantial predictor of delivery of national health programs. These results suggest that for the Human Capital Project to have impact it may need to move beyond creating political space for national leaders to allocate more public resources to health and education and take-on the challenge of local politics as key to service delivery at the last mile.
When the going gets tough, do the tough need higher pay?
Many public policies and nearly all international aid aim to improve the well-being of the poor. Front-line service providers may not embrace this goal, however. Is this mismatch important? Can it be corrected? These questions are crucial for the success of public policies meant to equalize services to the poor and non-poor. Recent evidence suggests that money helps – but how we select service providers matters, too.
Thirty years ago, 1 in 7 of the world’s extreme poor – those living on less than $1.90 a day – were in Sub-Saharan Africa. Over the years, as other regions successfully reduced their poverty levels, this number has increased and by 2015, 4 in 7 of the global poor were living in Sub-Saharan Africa. The newly published Poverty and Shared Prosperity Report warns that as many as 9 in 10 of the world’s poor may live in this region by 2030 if current trends continue.
Growing a business is not easy, and for women firm owners the challenges can be acute, especially when they are poor and run subsistence level firms. In developing countries, 22 percent of women discontinue their established businesses due to a lack of funds, and women are more likely than men to report exiting their businesses over finance problems, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor. Meanwhile, personal savings are a crucial source of entrepreneurial financing, and nearly 95 percent of entrepreneurs globally state that they used their own funds to start or scale up their businesses. Women, however, face unique constraints in accumulating savings to invest in growing their firms.
Running a local government is not sexy. It’s making sure that roads are maintained, there is water to drink, health clinics are stocked and staffed, and schools are equipped to teach. Often, it means doing these things with limited resources, infrastructure, and manpower. With few exceptions, there is little fanfare and glamour. It’s a bit like being a soccer referee: you’re doing a good job when no one notices you’re there.
By 2050, more than a billion people will be living in African cities and towns. As more and more of the continent’s population – 60 percent of whom live in the countryside – move to urban areas, pressures on land can only intensify. How should we make room for this massive urban expansion? How will city structures have to change to accommodate Africa’s urban billion? And could well-directed policy help spring African cities out of the low-development trap? These questions were at the core of discussions at the World Bank’s 5th Urbanisation and Poverty Reduction research conference on September 6th 2018.
It’s financial inclusion week—a series of events exploring "the most pressing actions needed to advance financial inclusion globally"—making this a perfect time to launch the 2017 Global Findex microdata.
In April, we released country-level indicators on account ownership, digital savings, savings, credit, and financial resilience. Now comes the microdata – individual-level survey responses from roughly 150,000 adults living in more than 140 economies globally.