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Foreign direct investment, financial flows, private-sector development, humanitarian assistance, Africa
Vijaya Ramachandran is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. She works on the impact of the business environment on the productivity of firms in developing countries, and is the coauthor of an essay titled "Development as Diffusion: Manufacturing Productivity and Africa's Missing Middle,” published in the Oxford Handbook on Economics and Africa. Vijaya is also studying the unintended consequences of rich countries’ anti-money laundering policies on financial inclusion in poor countries. She has published her research in journals such as World Development, Development Policy Review, Governance, Prism, and AIDS and is the author of a CGD book, Africa’s Private Sector: What’s Wrong with the Business Environment and What to Do About It. Prior to joining CGD, Vijaya worked at the World Bank and in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. She also served on the faculties of Georgetown University and Duke University. Her work has appeared in several media outlets including the Economist, Financial Times, Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, National Public Radio, and Vox.
This CGD Brief, based on the book Africa's Private Sector by Vijaya Ramachandran, Alan Gelb, and Manju Kedia Shah, shows how investing in infrastructure and improving access to education can help bring about a broad-based business class in Africa.
Why is the private sector yet to take off in much of sub-Saharan Africa? In Africa's Private Sector, Vijaya Ramachandran and her co-authors identify the biggest obstacles: inadequate infrastructure (especially unreliable electricity and crumbling roads) and burdensome regulations. The authors suggest investing in infrastructure and reforming regulations to lower the cost of doing business, and increasing the access to education for would-be entrepreneurs to help foster the emergence of a broader-based business class that crosses ethnic divides. Join us for a discussion of how foreign donors can help African businesses by supporting better roads and renewable energy systems.
This is joint posting with Owen McCarthy
As word leaks out that the World Bank effectively funded the demolition of homes of the very poor residents of a small village, Jale, in Albania, and then refused to speak about it for more than a year, one can only hope that the Bank will spend as much time thinking through what went wrong as it will doing damage control. The Project Appraisal Document (otherwise known as the PAD) for the Albania Integrated Coastal Zone Management and Clean-Up Project stated that the Albanian government and the Bank had reached an agreement that no demolitions would take place until "procedures and criteria" were in place to assist affected citizens; in fact no such agreement existed. The Bank's Board approved the project.
The authors of this CGD working paper analyze what the principal bodies of global government—the Bretton Woods institutions and the UN, the G-20 and the OECD—would like if a country’s membership and roles were contingent upon objective criteria that would better balance representation and effectiveness. They find major disparities between the results of their analysis and the state of affairs today, and they point to the need for changes far more fundamental than the incremental tweaks now being considered.
According to its website, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has stopped accepting nominations for its UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences. But we are guessing that the applicant pool remains quite small. Frankly, who would want his or her name affiliated with one of Africa’s worst dictators? Besides UNESCO, that is.
“Regtech May be the Solution to Some De-risking Woes,” Says Center for Global Development’s Vijaya Ramachandran
Center for Global Development
Washington – Today, the Center for Global Development released a new study that finds that financial institutions have turned to new technologies, including artificial intelligence, to address de-risking and increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their AML/CFT compliance. These new technologies may enhance transparency and information-sharing capabilities, facilitate automation and interoperability between institutions, and improve banks’ ability to accurately identify illicit activity.
This study is the first comprehensive effort to assess six key new technologies and their potential to solve the de-risking problem: know-your-customer (KYC) utilities, big data, machine learning, distributed ledger technology (DLT), legal entity identifiers (LEIs), and biometrics.
“Some policies that have been put in place to counter financial crimes have unfortunately had a chilling effect on banks’ willingness to do business in markets perceived to be risky in part due to the high price of compliance. This has had costly consequences for people in developing countries, and have hurt migrant workers, small businesses that need to access capital, and recipients of lifesaving aid in conflict, post-conflict, or post-disaster situations the most,” said Vijaya Ramachandran, one of the study’s authors. “But what we’re seeing is that even as these policies are having an impact, financial institutions are coming up with solutions in the form of new cutting edge technologies to help them comply better and faster with anti-money laundering regulations.”
The study suggests that new regulatory technologies (“Regtech”) may offer a partial solution to de-risking by lowering compliance costs and improving risk management capabilities. The technologies include:
Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that allows computers to improve their performance at a task through repeated iterations. Machine learning may be used to augment or transform a number of compliance functions, including those for developing more sophisticated customer typologies and for more accurately monitoring transactions. These uses could simultaneously cut down on false alerts and identify undetected illicit finance techniques.
Biometrics use distinctive physiological or behavioral characteristics to authenticate a person’s identity and control his or her access to a system, and are more robust than other authentication factors, such as passwords and tokens, as they are generally more secure and easier to use. Biometrics are being used to address the “identification gap” that exists in many developing countries. This use, in turn, could make it easier for banks to conduct customer identification, verification, and due diligence, which may bolster the confidence of their correspondent banks. However, most biometric identification systems are being developed at the national level, meaning that work is required to develop an internationally recognized and interoperable identification system.
Know Your Customer (KYC) utilities are central repositories for customer due diligence (CDD) information. By centralizing information collection and verification, KYC utilities can reduce the amount of information that has to be exchanged bilaterally between correspondent banks and their respondents, thereby reducing the time banks spend conducting CDD investigations.
Big data refers to datasets that are high in volume, high in velocity, and high in variety, and therefore require systems and analytical techniques that differ from those used for traditional datasets. Compared with relational databases, big data applications offer more scalable storage capacity and processing. They also allow many different types of data to be stored in one place, so compliance staff spend less time gathering information from disparate sources. Most important, they can greatly expand the range and scope of information available for KYC and suspicious transaction investigations.
Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) is a way of securely organizing data on a peer-to-peer network of computers. In a blockchain, which is a type of DLT, data modifications, such as transactions, are recorded in time-stamped blocks. Each block is connected to previous blocks, forming a chain. Modifications are confirmed and stored by all users on the network, which makes the ledger difficult to tamper with. Although blockchain technology is most commonly associated with virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, the basic technology has a number of other potential use cases, including uses in regulatory compliance. In particular, DLT may be used for securely storing and sharing KYC information, as well as for cheaper and more secure international payments.
Legal Entity Identifiers (LEI) are unique alphanumeric identifiers, like barcodes, that connect to reference datasets held in a public database. Any legal entity that makes financial transactions or enters into contracts may request an LEI. In many countries, especially developed ones, LEIs are increasingly mandated by regulation. To date, more than 1 million LEIs have been issued worldwide. By serving as common identifiers, LEIs can enable different platforms, organizational units, and institutions to refer to entities clearly and without any ambiguity. This interoperability can, in turn, facilitate greater automation and information sharing. A further extension of the LEI would be to include it in payment messages to identify originators and beneficiaries, which would further enhance the transparency of international payments.
This important study comes ahead of the Financial Action Task Force meeting in Paris – set for next week.
“In the face of de-risking, both the public and private sector have tried to find ways to lower the compliance burden without lowering standards,” said Ramachandran. “Our study finds that Regtech may be the solution to some de-risking woes. But for this to work, policymakers need to invest time in understanding how these technologies work, and what their benefits and limitations may be.”
You can read the full report at https://www.cgdev.org/reader/fixing-aml-can-new-technology-help-address-de-risking-dilemma.
Last week, lawmakers in Somaliland (Somalia's northern, semi-autonomous region) reportedly established Somaliland’s first central bank. The measure will pave the way for foreign commercial banks to start operating in Somaliland by 2013, providing much-needed financing support for Somaliland’s private sector businesses. Simultaneously, the donor community (represented by multilateral institutions and both Danish and US aid agencies) has expressed a strong interest in Somaliland. Two questions arise: How can international donors further support Somaliland’s businesses and what can they learn from the parliament’s new central bank?
In a recent blog post, we discussed the phenomenon of Haiti as a “Republic of NGOs” where the government and the private sector were crowded out by large international organizations that provided most services. Just as international donors have sidestepped the Haitian government, reconstruction contracts have also bypassed Haitian firms in favor of Beltway contractors. The Center for Economic and Policy Research analyzed the 1,490 contracts (worth $194.5 million) awarded between January 2010 and April 2011. Only 23 contracts--for a total of $4.8 million or 2.5 percent of the total—were awarded to Haitian companies. In comparison, contractors based in the Washington DC area received $76 million – almost 40 percent of the total.
A dashing Brazilian man who keeps a flakjacket in his midtown Manhattan office, two firefighters from New York and Miami, a terrorist attack, and an attempted rescue using nothing but a string and a ladies handbag. Would you believe that this is a film about the United Nations? Sergio, which premiered on HBO this month, is the story of Sergio Vieira de Mello, an extraordinary public servant who died in the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Iraq. The film (based on the book by Pulitzer-prize winning author Samantha Power) is a tribute to his leadership and service in the world’s worst troublespots.
Sergio Vieira de Mello began his career with the United Nations in Bangladesh, at the age of 23, and continued to mediate conflicts for the next three decades in countries such as Sudan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Mozambique, and Lebanon.
Due to the potential for snow tomorrow, we are unfortunately canceling this event. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to see you at CGD soon.
Please join Crispian Olver for a discussing of his latest book How to Steal a City: The Battle for Nelson Mandela Bay: An Inside Account. How to Steal a City is an insider account of this intervention, which lays bare how the administration was entirely captured and bled dry by a criminal syndicate, how factional politics within the ruling party abetted that corruption, and how a comprehensive clean-up was eventually conducted.