Ideas to Action:

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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.

 

What Cash Payments Can’t Do: Lessons from #BringBackOurGirls

I have had the privilege of living and working in West Africa for the past 15 years. In 2007, I spent several months in northern Nigeria, interviewing grain traders in cross-border markets. These markets were some of my favorite places in West Africa—bustling, chaotic, open-air markets that brought together hundreds of farmers, traders and consumers, all from different villages and cultures, to exchange, talk and trade. I enjoyed walking through those markets, observing, negotiating and asking questions.

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.

And Now, Digital Food (Will It Help the Poor?)

Last month Mastercard Worldwide and the World Food Program (WFP) announced a global partnership in “digital food”. The public-private partnership aims to harness Mastercard’s expertise in electronic payments to develop WFP’s electronic voucher programs. Can it work?

Why Have Mobile Phones Succeeded Where Other Technologies Have Not?

A few weeks ago, I was sitting on a panel for a conference on Information and Communications Technology and Development.  The debate on my panel was a lively one, and came down to one issue:  Can information technology (by itself) lead to development?  Obviously there has been a lot of buzz about this topic -- Jeffrey Sachs has called the mobile phone the “single most transformative technology” for de

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.

Where Have All the Flowers Gone? (Short Time Passing)

This is a joint post with Christopher Ksoll.

Since the volcanic eruption in Iceland on April 14th, we have been inundated with stories about flight disruptions. Demi Moore can no longer travel to the premiere of her new movie in London. The opening of “Iron Man 2” has been moved from Europe to Los Angeles. Millions of passengers have been stranded in the US, Europe, Africa and Asia, as airports from Manchester to Munich to Milan were closed. And now the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is urging European governments to find ways to “compensate” the airlines for over USD$ 1 billion in lost revenues.

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