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On My Wish List for the Next Administration: A US Africa Policy Worthy of Africa

Precisely as Africa is rising on the radar screens of investors and security types, it seems to be falling off the US foreign policy map. With the exception of Governor Romney’s mention of Mali (twice!) in the third debate, Africa hardly featured at all. That’s a shame, since Africa is both a growing opportunity and will become a greater threat if neglected. I’ve been deeply disappointed to see the United States reduce its engagement with the continent under the current administration, losing ground on the progress made under Presidents Clinton and Bush. Regardless of who wins on November 6, the scope for doing better—and more without more money—is obvious.

The following originally appeared on October 1 as “Missing in Africa” on ForeignAffairs.com.

Development Hits the Debates (Kind of)

There were lots of critical foreign policy debate topics to cover during the final presidential debate—like the US auto industry—so we didn’t hear quite as much on development issues like climate change or global health as I might have liked.

Gaps aside, there were a surprising number of references to the importance of development to US soft power. Both candidates referenced the connection between developing countries’ economic growth and US national security.

Why Development Impact Bonds?

Development Impact Bonds come at a price: private investors provide upfront funding for social interventions and expect a return, including some compensation for the risk they are taking, if outcomes are delivered.  Is that price worth paying?  The second meeting of the CGD and Social Finance Development Impact Bonds Working Group recently considered this question in some detail.

Attn Bob Schieffer: Three Serious Questions to Throw Obama and Romney Off Kilter

From Big Bird to malarkey to binders full of women, it’s been quite the presidential debate series (there was also that whole dramatic shift in the momentum of the race thing).

On Monday, we’ll hear from President Obama and Governor Romney for 1.5 Bob Schieffer-moderated hours on foreign policy. The topics have already been announced, and while it’s possible some development-related questions could come up (mostly likely under the basket of America’s role in the world), the odds aren’t great. Regardless, here are three questions that I’d like to hear the candidates answer.

Can’t HiPoPoDomAe and Donuts Just Get Along?

I got to be part of a panel yesterday at the UN, grandly titled “Conceptualizing a Set of Sustainable Development Goals - A Special Event of the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly.” I was excited to be there not just because of the location and topic, but also because of considerable respect for the rest of the panel, including Andrew Revkin of the NYT Dot Earth blog, WRI’s Manish Bapna and Oxfam’s Kate Raworth.

Taxing Kenya’s M-Pesa Picks the Pockets of the Poor

Kenya has instituted a new tax that affects users of M-Pesa -- a widely popular phone-based money transfer service used by more than half of Kenya’s adult population. The new 10 percent excise duty on fees charged for money transfer services applies to mobile phone providers, banks, and other money transfer agencies. Operated by Safaricom, the largest mobile network operator in Kenya, M-Pesa accounts for the largest share of users of money transfer services. Users of M-Pesa products will therefore bear most of the impact of the tax.

“No One Gets Past a Raptor” The 2012 Biometrics Consortium Conference: Tampa

Even with global sales around $5 billion, the biometrics industry is surprisingly clubby.  Most participants at the 2012 Biometrics Consortium Conference I attended recently seemed to know each other.  Most were from the US, but some  came from Europe, and from India and other developing countries.  Their backgrounds were diverse:  academics, entrepreneurs, engineers, lawyers, police, security and military personnel. And, of course, sales departments!

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