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The Mozambican Riots: Food for Thought

This is a joint posting with Rebecca Schutte.

Last week’s deadly unrest in Mozambique became a global news story, as clashes between security forces and people protesting rising food prices in the capital, Maputo, left at least ten people dead and more than 400 people injured. CGD Non-Resident Fellow Chris Blattman explained his skepticism about such riots, questioning why many were blaming climate change and higher international grain prices for domestic unrest. Rather, he pointed to poor domestic policies and alarmist journalism and “yearned for real information” about the root causes of the riots this weeks. Having recently returned from Mozambique, here are some additional insights on the food riots.

C U L8ter? Using Mobile Phones as a Literacy Tool in Niger

This is a joint posting with Kristy Bohling.

I recently received a text message from my friend Karim in Niger, asking “Keski ce passe?” (What’s happening?). Those of you who know French might notice his text is an abbreviation of the much longer expression for “Qu’est-ce qui se passe”, which is formal and proper but a bit long when you only have 140 characters. Such abbreviations in French, English and other languages have caused teachers and parents alike to blame texting for corrupting our language and “degrading [the] spelling of [our] youth.” Existing studies in the UK and elsewhere have debunked these claims, and, the National Adult Literacy Database called on people to celebrate International Literacy Day by “reading or writing, tweeting or texting.” In fact, mobile phones and texting might be a new tool in the arsenal against illiteracy: our new research in Niger suggests that mobile phones could promote literacy and numeracy skills in sub-Saharan Africa.