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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Mobile phone reception coverage map of Tanzania.

How Much Would It Cost to Extend Mobile Coverage to Everyone in Tanzania?

Less than 45 percent of the area of Tanzania is covered by any form of cell phone reception. Telecom providers target high-population areas first, so the percentage of the population covered by the cell phone signal is 83 percent. But the problem is that the remaining 17 percent of the population, or 9.2 million people, is spread over 55 percent of the country—meaning the density of potential users is low. Especially because rural populations tend to be poorer than city dwellers, the revenue generated per cell tower may be too low to justify rollout.

Cape Town at morning rush hour

Anarchy Undelivered

Twenty-five years ago, travel writer and journalist Robert Kaplan wrote an article for The Atlantic, headlined “The Coming Anarchy.” It was an apocalyptic account of Kaplan’s visit to West Africa and his dark vision that much of the world would end up looking like war-torn Sierra Leone. Kaplan suggested recently that he thought “The Coming Anarchy” had stood the test of time. I disagree, and think the fact that Kaplan was wrong matters: global jeremiads are a force for isolationism. I discussed why with The Atlantic’s Matthew Peterson on a new podcast.  

 

Barron's Africa Mess

Gifted travel writer Paul Theroux has written a piece on “Africa’s Aid Mess” in Barron’s Magazine.  It is certainly an entertaining read, but factual errors make it a misleading piece –and suggest a lack of due diligence on the part of Barron’s.

A White House Own Goal on Energy Poverty?

I’m in full agreement with Todd that it’s great the Obama administration is focusing on energy in Africa (or at least, telling Ex-Im and OPIC to focus on energy in Africa).  Todd spent a good deal of time in 2012–13 encouraging White House to make the issue a signature US foreign policy concern, blogging about it here and here, and supporting the ONE Campaign’s efforts to make it happen, so kudos to him, too.  But Todd begins his post by noting his previous frustration with the White House for dropping the ball on Africa policy.  My concern with this latest initiative is the reverse—too many balls.