In January, we launched a campaign to find social media interns who could boost social media engagement and connect with young audiences in Africa. More than 30,000 Twitter users across Africa and in the Diaspora participated in the campaign – whether through original tweets or retweets. The 20 or so who ended up on the shortlist all took an online test, and we selected the two who went above and beyond: Sarah Clavel and Maleele Choongo.
In May this year, I joined World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on their historic visit to Africa’s Great Lakes region.
As we travelled this war-weary region, at every stop, whether in towns or the countryside, we saw families involved in an epic effort to keep the peace, find jobs, feed and educate their children, and make their lives more prosperous.
The results suggest strangely mixed conclusions. In certain ways, poverty trends in Nigeria over the past decade were better than has been widely reported, where a story of increasing poverty has been the consensus. And yet poverty is stubbornly high, disappointingly so given growth rates.
Three facts stand out.
The greatest development challenge facing Sub-Saharan Africa today is lifting 400 million of its people out of extreme poverty. The continent has abundant land and mineral resources to meet the challenge, but only if land governance can be improved. A new study, Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity, offers a ten-point program to improve land governance by accelerating policy reforms and boosting investments at a cost of US $4.5 billion over 10 years.
My experience as a doctor who practiced actively in this country did not prepare me for the shock I had during the preparation of the Nigeria State Health Investment Project. I had worked for three years in the public sector at the beginning of my career but then spent more than a decade in the private sector. I had not imagined the decay in public infrastructure – leaking roofs, heaps of garbage, broken down equipment, and stock-outs of drugs and disposables for months on end in public health centers. The general morale of frontline health workers was low and some ingenious workers were actually buying their stock of drugs to provide services for patients. Not surprisingly, the utilization of health services was low and the quality of service appalling.
As a World Bank Senior Economist and Statistician, I am responsible for compiling data from various sources to produce the Africa Development Indicators (ADI), an annual report of the most detailed collection of development data on Africa.
Whenever I mention numbers and data and tables, most people’s eyes glaze over and they shut down. But data can tell a mountain of a story, especially for African policymakers charged with developing policies that support development and economic growth. Without data, how would leader’s plan and design policies? How could they do anything without knowing where they are coming from, to where they’re going to?
Here’s more information about the ADI’s, and how the annual data collection not only helps African leaders, but also helps to inform citizens who can then hold them accountable.
Remittances are the money that migrants send back to their home countries to sustain their families. In the case of Africa it is estimated that 120 million people benefited from the US$60 billion sent home by 30 million migrants in 2012. While most of these flows are used for consumption, they could have a greater development impact if a larger portion was saved in banks by recipients and channeled into productive investment such as microenterprise activities.
This link between remittances and financial inclusion was the main topic discussed in a Forum organized by the World Bank in Brussels on May 16th, bringing together representatives of francophone African countries and Diaspora communities with several development partners such as the African Development Bank (AfDB), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the African Union Commission (AUC), who with European Commission (EC) funding and World Bank implementation, are collaborating to address this issue with concrete action.
What do Iran and Alaska have in common? Well for one thing, both have followed a similar path towards equity by sharing mineral revenues with citizens through the Alaska Permanent Fund and the Iran Citizens Income Scheme. Why aren’t other countries, rich in mineral and hydro carbon wealth on their way to doing the same? This journey can be short and sweet: It would entail direct dividend payments from mineral wealth to citizens to become a reality across Africa and other parts of the world. It’s time to put the mine in mineral revenues.
Marcelo Giugale, World Bank’s Director of Economic Policy and Poverty Reduction Programs for Africa, makes the case with enthusiasm for direct cash payments from natural resource revenues to the citizens of a country: a mechanism by which citizens of a nation, share in its wealth earnings while making sure that the earnings keep growing for future generations. Marcelo offers a tantalizing prospect: even a fraction of mineral and hydro carbon revenue as direct dividend payments to citizens would be enough to end poverty! Imagine that.
Africa has mineral revenues and much more that can end poverty. It seems, that whatever the so-called developed world craves, Africa already has: from mineral resources to yet to be discovered deposits of diamonds, oils, rare earth; to agriculture land. Yet, whatever enriches the so-called developed world from Africa seems to not benefit the continent itself. Why is that? And what will need to be done to change it? It is time to transform the discussion on economic growth drivers and development aid by adding into the equation the distribution of mineral revenues urges Shantayanan Devarajan, World Bank’s Chief Economist for the Middle East and North Africa and until recently for the Africa Region.
The Association of African Universities—AAU for short—held its 13th general conference last week in Libreville, Gabon. Representing the World Bank at this conference, I had a great opportunity to engage with this vibrant university community. A community which is expanding fast as demand for higher education is skyrocketing thanks to Africa’s “youth bulge”, that is, as the share of young people in the population is increasing in many countries. Private universities are mushrooming everywhere.
Next week, I will be joining World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on an historic joint visit to Africa's Great Lakes Region. The aim of the trip is to brainstorm with African leaders solutions to helping the people of the Great Lakes prosper.
This visit is important for two reasons - it highlights a new era of global institutions working together to promote stability, and it signals to the citizens of fragile and conflict affected nations our commitment: we will not leave you behind.
Many countries in today’s world have struggled, or are struggling, through war or political conflict to rebuild themselves and lift their people out of poverty. They are called fragile states, nations with poor health and education, little or no electricity, disorganized or weakened institutions, and in many cases no functioning governments. In Africa, 18 of the 48 countries in the sub Region are considered fragile, six of them so much so that UN, NATO or African Union forces are on the ground helping to keep peace.