The “Africa rising” story of the past decade, fueled by 5 percent average annual growth, is in danger of faltering. To change the narrative, and — more importantly — the reality it describes, African policymakers must urgently answer these six questions.
The two economic developments that have garnered the most attention in recent years are the concentration of massive wealth in the richest one percent of the world’s population and the tremendous, growth-driven decline in extreme poverty in the developing world, especially in China. But just as important has been the emergence of large middle classes in developing countries around the planet. This phenomenon—the result of more than two decades of nearly continuous fast-paced global economic growth—has been good not only for economies but also for governance. After all, history suggests that a large and secure middle class is a solid foundation on which to build and sustain an effective, democratic state. Middle classes not only have the wherewithal to finance vital services such as roads and public education through taxes; they also demand regulations, the fair enforcement of contracts, and the rule of law more generally—public goods that create a level social and economic playing field on which all can prosper.
If Africa’s smallholder farmers are going to lift themselves out of poverty, they need access to formal financial services instead of the unstable, inflexible, informal arrangements that they currently rely on and that keep them poor. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Janeen Madan review the ways in which digital technology is changing how financial services are delivered and made affordable. With the right investments and policies, farmers will be able to access credit, savings accounts, insurance, payment platforms, and other financial products that allow them to invest in their livelihoods without being exposed to exploitation or untenable risks.
To explain why ending hunger has been so hard, Peter Timmer highlights four main themes: the complex role of markets, the importance of government policies, the historical process of structural transformation, and the need to identify the appropriate time horizon for analysis and interventions. These themes are not new, but integrating them into a coherent approach to ending hunger seems to be original
The post-2015 development agenda is being shaped as we speak. The role of identification and its importance to development outcomes places it within the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda — specifically as one of the proposed SDG targets (#16.9), but also as a key enabler of the efficacy of many other SDG targets. Although there is no one model for providing legal identity, this SDG would urge states to ensure that all have free or low-cost access to widely accepted, robust identity credentials.
There are 20 pages covering the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. And while they are inevitably bubble-wrapped in diplo-speak and hat-tipping, there is a solid package of proposals nestled within. They cover domestic public finance, private finance, international public finance, trade, debt, technology, data and systemic issues. Amongst many other things, the Agenda calls for more tax and better tax (less regressive, more focused on pollution and tobacco). And it is long and specific on base erosion, tax evasion and competition and tax cooperation. It calls for financial inclusion and cheaper remittances. The draft discusses blended finance and a larger role for market-based instruments to support infrastructure rollout, as well as a new measure of “Total Official Support for Sustainable Development.” It calls for Multilateral Development Bank reform including new graduation criteria and scaling up. And it suggests a global compact to guarantee a universal package of basic social services and a second compact covering infrastructure. Finally, the draft has a good section on technology including the need for public finance and flexibility on intellectual property rights.
In fact refugees and victims of natural disasters account for such a small fraction of the world population, less than half a percent. There is no excuse for not providing adequate timely funding for disasters whose numbers if not locations are relatively predictable. The costs are manageable, or at least they are a fraction of, say, the costs of ending poverty or combating climate change. This is at the easier end of world problems. And therefore fashioning the political will to act in a timely and effective way should be possible.
In September this year, world leaders will meet in New York at the United Nations General Assembly. Top of the agenda will be the passage of a resolution laying out global development goals for the fifteen years to 2030, covering progress in areas from poverty reduction to forestry preservation. They will follow on from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have become a common yardstick of global progress over the past decade and a half.
This essay addresses the challenges likely to be faced by corporations and non-governmental organizations as they collaborate to implement recent commitments to deforestation-free commodity supply chains. The essay takes as its inspiration and a source of lessons learned Theodore Roosevelt’s 1913-14 expedition to explore the River of Doubt, a tributary of the Amazon River in Brazil.
Trade is a key tool to bring food security to an estimated 800 million people around the world that remain chronically undernourished. Many countries need reliable access to international markets to supplement their inadequate domestic food supplies. Better policies to make agriculture in developing countries more productive and profitable, including via exports, would also help alleviate food insecurity and reduce poverty. Stronger international trade rules would help by constraining the beggar-thy-neighbor policies that distort trade, contribute to price volatility, and discourage investments in developing-country agriculture.
Last year, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) management proposed a major financial restructuring that would increase the amount of bank capital available for investment. This proposal offers many benefits in and of itself. But it also creates an opening for additional and complementary changes in governance that would greatly strengthen the bank and would ensure all of the benefits of the restructuring are fully captured. The merger proposal represents a highly credible down payment by the ADB on a set of innovations that can greatly expand the institution’s ability to respond to the region’s needs and opportunities—and in the process, stimulate similar dynamics at other MDBs.
The current size of the income-secure middle class and its likely future growth, suggest that optimism is indeed warranted for many of today’s middle-income countries. But it is not warranted for all of them, and especially not for most of the low-income countries of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa — even if they continue to grow at the relatively healthy rates they have enjoyed in the last decade and more.
The development landscape between now and 2030 will be look completely different from the last fifteen years. The Sustainable Development Goals which look likely to be agreed in September, including a commitment to eradicate absolute poverty by 2030, will be addressed against a very different backdrop to the relatively successful period of the Millennium Development Goals. There are three challenges we are going to have to address.
In 2013, our CGD colleagues Julia Clark and David Roodman designed a low-cost quantitative approach to ranking think tank performance. We applied their methodology in early 2015 to produce an updated ranking of US and international development think tanks on the basis of 2014 data. The rankings aim to provide a transparent and objective method of assessing the influence of select think tanks.
On a chilly Monday morning on February 16th, 2009, I walked into the New Government Complex in Harare’s Central Avenue. As I strode for the very first time down a poorly lit corridor, eyes strained and necks stretched behind wide open doors to catch a glimpse of the newcomer with a reputation for short temper. I was ushered into a comfortable office that was to become my home for the next four and a half years.
How resilient are emerging market economies to potentially tougher external conditions, especially if they become prolonged? This paper takes the view that initial economic conditions before the eruption of an adverse external shock matter, and they matter a lot.
Time and time again I have seen NGOs and politicians in rich countries advocate that the poor follow a path that they, the rich, never have followed, nor are willing to follow.
With two major announcements on trade and climate at November’s APEC meetings, the United States and China have leaped into a highly productive bilateral relationship in the economic sphere. It’s all the more striking then to hear the discordant tone struck around the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).