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The Seven Billion Mark

Eduard Bos's picture

Photo: Arne Hoel, The World Bank

The UN Population Division has determined that the 7 billion world population mark will be reached today, October 31, 2011. This week’s Economist, the Guardian online, and the New York Times have written on this already, and other news media are following suit. Having produced the World Bank’s demographic projections for some years, and now working as a demographer in the World Bank’s Africa Region, let me add my perspective to the mix.

The approximate date of the world reaching the 7 billion mark is no surprise. When the Bank issued demographic projections back in 1985 (linked to World Development Report 1984– the only one in the series to have specifically focused on the demographic aspects of development), the 7 billion milestone was forecast for early 2011. This is quite close to the current estimate, especially when you consider the projection span of 26 years. At the global level, demographic projections are fairly reliable (but less so for individual countries or small regions).

Beyond “Beyond Aid” – Implications for DR Congo

Eustache Ouayoro's picture

It is hard, especially on the eve of only the second democratic elections in DR Congo, to find a topic about which a diverse group of distinguished Congolese agree. So, we expected little agreement when we brought together a diverse group of Congolese to contextualize the September 14, 2011 seminal speech of World Bank President Robert Zoellick at George Washington University on the theme “Beyond Aid.”

We were hoping to promote a public debate on policy choices and foster demand for good governance. We also aimed to set the foundation for the implementation of our Africa Strategy in this country. Participants included Congolese intellectuals; renowned politicians; parliamentarians; a respected cleric; renowned journalists; a lady who once ran for president; a key member of the current government; a prominent lawyer; and a women’s rights advocate.

Our guests dealt with the speech as if it had been written about DR Congo. The discussions went further. The talk could have been convened under the title “Beyond, Beyond Aid”.

A small country bringing about big change

Ritva Reinikka's picture

Thousands of Basotho joined HM King Letsie III last Friday at the inauguration of a state-of-the-art hospital in Maseru, Lesotho. The new hospital, together with its three filter clinics, is bringing modern, high-quality health care to about half a million people—or a quarter of Lesotho’s population—living in Maseru district, and also serving the country as a revamped national referral and teaching hospital. 

Prime Minister Mosisili reminded the audience of Lesotho’s history as a British protectorate. “The protectors gave the country its first national hospital in 1957 and named it Queen Elizabeth II after their Queen,” the PM said. “The new hospital is ours and we named it after our Queen, ’Mamohato.”

Why is this hospital so important? It symbolizes a fundamental change in publicly-funded health services in Lesotho.  The transformation in the country's health sector is supported by a unique partnership between the government and the private sector that is truly exciting as Africa looks for ways to reach the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, especially those related to saving mothers and children and fighting HIV/AIDS.

A strong leader and a good idea!

Cristina Santos's picture

Maria Ines, Head teacher of Tchinducuto, and Director of ZIP 6, Namibe, AngolaLeadership can be exercised in many ways and a lot has been written about leadership and empowerment, and about the need to strengthen both in Africa. Very recently, I came across a true female leader, a simple woman with a strong personality, excellent communication and problem-solving skills, and great determination. In sum, all the things we consider to be the basis for good leadership.

She is not a politician or the head of a big company. She is a school teacher in a poor area in the southern province of Namibe, Angola. Her school is part of a group called ZIP (zone of pedagogical influence), and although her school is the poorest among the three in the group, she was chosen as the group’s leader.

In Angola and many places in Africa, parents must purchase report cards which teachers then fill in to send home. In the following account Maria Ines, Head teacher of Tchinducuto, and Director of ZIP 6, describes how her school revamped the purchasing process and found a way to earn money for the students.

A Tribute to Professor Wangari Maathai

Obiageli Ezekwesili's picture

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari MaathaiMy colleagues and I at the World Bank are saddened by the death of Professor Wangari Maathai, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement.

Professor Maathai dedicated most of her adult life to nature conservancy and was world-renowned for her deep conviction for environmental protection and climate-change mitigation.

We are proud to have interacted extensively with Professor Maathai. We pay tribute to her for her selfless and tireless efforts to protect the natural environment, both to ensure sustainable development and to promote world peace.

Professor Maathai was actively engaged in working with the World Bank Group, both in Kenya and around the world.  Besides engaging World Bank leaders in important conversations on forest conservation, water resource management, and adaption to climate change, she actively participated in the preparation and dissemination of the seminal World Development Report for 2010, on climate change. We remember how passionately she campaigned for a better understanding of the multiple ways that we can and should protect our fragile natural environment, as well as for the preservation of Uhuru Park and the Karura Forest, two of the most important green spaces in Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi.

Kenya’s undisputed wheat basket

The sight of farmers around Narok drying wheat on the ground with agents haggling over price and quality is a reminder of how Kenya’s farmers take advantage of the plentiful sunshine to cut post-harvest costs. Makeshift canvas driers line both sides of the Maai Mahiu-Narok-Bomet highway, a section of the Northern Corridor transport system that creates a shorter link to western Kenya.

Narok is Kenya’s undisputed wheat basket, producing half of the national wheat output in any given year. Its lush wheat and maize (corn) farms, as well as livestock ranches dotted with thousands of cattle, sheep and goats, tell you why the over 2,000 farmers in this fertile region of the Rift Valley are so powerful. Moreover, it is gateway to the world famous Masai Mara game reserve, where wildlife riches and revenue, especially bountiful during this period of the famous wildebeest migration, are shared by the Narok and Trans-Mara county councils.

Think equal, act equal!

Obiageli Ezekwesili's picture

This week’s release of the 2012 World Development Report (Gender Equality and Development) forced me to reflect, not on the life of my grandmother or women her age, but on the women of my generation and girls the age of my three young adult sons, whose voices and life stories the report brought to us so poignantly.

If they have to live through the inequality the report unveils, how can we who are blessed to work in development deliver better on our mission to lift slightly more than half of humanity out of the status of “second best”?

Refuge in Nairobi

Asa Torkelsson's picture

Zeinab Lebon, 65, with her family

In the Nairobi slum of Kawangware, people like Said, 33, are struggling to help relatives fleeing the drought in Somalia. The full-time gardener and father of four is providing refuge to his mother, Zeinab Lebon, 65, and six other relatives. All share his family’s two bedrooms of 144 square feet each, and he now supports 12 people on one salary.

“We do not have water or toilet; I have to pay every day 1 Kenya schilling for every person for the toilet, 20 schillings for 20 liters of water,”  says Said. Yet, he now also plans to bring his mother-in-law, who is 70, from Daadab in northeastern Kenya. She lost her husband to a stray bullet as they took off for Daadab on foot from Mandera, on the Somali border.

Eid in a dry season

Greg Toulmin's picture

I am standing in a camp near Dollo Ado, in southern Ethiopia near the border with Somalia. The camp is an open site on hard rocky land: the only vegetation is grey, thorny scrub. An endless wind is swirling around me, picking up the light soil under foot and coating everyone and everything with a thin film of orange. Dust devils spin lazily in the relentless hot sun, making it hard to see the plastic sheeting that is the only covering for the ‘huts’ in which 10,000 people are living. Welcome to Haloweyn, the newest refugee camp for the drought-triggered exodus from Somalia. Today is Eid-ul-Fitr, but nobody is celebrating here.

Haloweyn Camp, Ethiopia's border with Somalia. Photo: Robert S. Chase, World BankWe have stopped to talk to people and understand the challenges they face, but it is hard work. Many of them have scarves wrapped around their faces to protect themselves from the wind, very few of us speak any Somali, and when we do communicate they look uncertain and dazed, as well they may. This camp is only three weeks old—less than a month ago all these people were wandering through this extraordinarily arid landscape, trying to pick their way past the lines of conflict, almost all malnourished and often sick too. That those we meet seemed to have recovered their physical health already is fairly miraculous. Their reluctance to relive their experiences seems wholly understandable.

Leaving the two Congos

Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly's picture

Working for the two Congos – DR Congo, Kinshasa and Congo Republic, Brazzaville (the closest two capital cities in the world) – over the last three-and-a-half years has been like running a fast-track marathon. Everything was urgent and important. Time was never our friend.

Yet, when I settled in Kinshasa as the first World Bank Country Director to serve the two Congos in-country, I was convinced that I would find a few weeks now and then to catch my breath. As I am leaving, I know better. The two Congos demand all the time and energy we have… and more, to make a dent in the many development challenges of the countries.

As I leave Kinshasa for my next post as World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, I will surely miss the dynamic and hard working people of the Congos. Happily, I will take indelible memories with me. I will forever remember my first field trip to the Province Orientale in the northern part of DR Congo. It came on the heels of my assuming service in Kinshasa at the end of January 2008. I remember the big smile of farmers in several villages along the 750km road we were helping to rebuild in order to reestablish the Eastern Corridor with Uganda and Kenya. “We are happy,” the farmer told me about the road, beaming from cheek to cheek. He explained that, only a few days before, he had seen for the first time in seven years, a car coming from Bunia (a town in the same province). Another farmer noted: “Before the road was built, a trip to Kisangani would cost us $10. We are now paying $2. Now we can travel faster and sell our products more easily.”

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