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Power Africa Chart

Power Africa has the potential to be transformative for millions of poor people and be the single biggest legacy in Africa for President Barack Obama. Launched in June 2013 by the President while he was in Tanzania, observers now have roughly three years to reflect on the initiative: on what’s progressing well, what’s not, and where future risks may lie.

OPIC Commitments by Country Income Group, Percent of Total

When we took a deep dive into OPIC’s portfolio earlier this year, we found that the share of commitments going to high-income countries had increased significantly.  At the same time, the share of OPIC commitments in poorer countries had been declining over the previous 15 years. However, in 2015, there was a clear uptick in the percentage of OPIC commitments going towards lower middle-income countries.

Cat Bond Issuance Since 1996: Still Mainly for Rich Country Risks

“Cat” bonds are effectively a cheaper source of large-scale insurance coverage against clearly measured risks like earthquakes, storms, or even disease outbreaks. Generally, though, coverage hasn’t trickled down to the poorer and most at-risk countries—precisely those which are most vulnerable when aid fails to arrive or arrives piecemeal. Less than a twentieth of the total value of these products issued since 1996 covers risks in countries that the World Bank classifies as upper middle-income or below (places where income per capita is $12,475 or lower). They have mainly covered risks in the US and other high income countries (HICs).

Estimated Election Costs with Biometrics

Estimated Election Costs With Biometrics

While biometric technology can be costly—usually from $15 million to $100 million per election—its price tag seems relatively minor compared to the potential costs of post-election violence. This can run into the billions of dollars as economic growth stalls, in addition to less readily quantifiable human losses. If biometrics can make even a modest contribution to delivering more credible elections—and thus reducing the likelihood of violence—their use could be a worthwhile bet.

Damages Mainly in Rich Countries vs. Deaths in Poor Ones - 1980-2010

Damages Mainly in Rich Countries vs. Deaths in Poor Ones, 1980-2010

From a financial perspective, disasters appear to have been kind to developing countries. That makes sense: highways in Tokyo, for example, cost more than roads in Sri Lanka. But the costs in terms of human lives are dramatically higher in developing countries. That makes humanitarian emergencies and natural disasters highly regressive—their toll falls disproportionately on the poorest and most vulnerable. 

The Humanitarian Financing Deficit is Growing Quickly

This chart compares agencies’ requests for funding through humanitarian-response plans. Underinvestment in resilience and increasing costs due to late response show up as a rising deficit, as calls on donors’ humanitarian budgets go unmet. Since response plans are filed after crises develop, funding is late almost by design. And it arrives in the straitjacket of annual disbursements, despite the multi-year nature of many crises 

The OPIC Scraped Portfolio Dataset

Despite major improvements in OPIC’s transparency, there still is no single publicly available dataset that includes comprehensive information about the agency’s portfolio. OPIC has a searchable project dataset, but it only includes very basic information. Digging deeper requires clicking through hundreds of project descriptions (in PDF format), which very few people are willing to do. We built a better, scraped dataset, available now with as a detailed collection of nearly 1,500 OPIC projects over the past fifteen years.

Share of Global Area under GMO Cultivation (by country)

More than three-quarters of the acreage under GMO cultivation is in just three countries: the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. And almost all of the modified crops have been designed to either resist insects or tolerate herbicides used to kill weeds, which is helpful only to farmers with access to those chemical inputs.

Area of Land under Cultivation of Genetically Modified Crops (by type)

Large multinational corporations developed most currently available GMOs with large-scale, industrial agriculture in mind. These GMOs have had clear benefits for some farmers, seed companies, and herbicide producers (the latter two are often the same), but less tangible benefits for consumers.

Energy Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is both broadly and deeply energy poor: only 32 percent of the total population has “modern energy access” using even the minimal IEA definition. Even in urban areas, access averages only 59 percent.

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