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African Economists Care About Jobs; Non-Africans Care About Institutions?

There's a lot of chatter in the blogosphere about Westerners' perceptions of Africa, and how poorly they align with Africans' own views of the challenges their societies face.

This week I'm in Oxford, for the annual conference on "Economic Development in Africa" at the Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) .  The CSAE conference is unique among top-tier development econ conferences in that it brings together a huge number of scholars based in African universities and research institutes  -- as well as people like me, non-Africans working on the economics of Africa.

Is Agribusiness the Key to Africa’s Growth?

Today, the World Bank launched a new report, "Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness." The report argues that agriculture and agribusiness should be at the top of the development and business agenda in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Bank is right to emphasize this issue--of the $25 billion of food that African countries import annually, only $1 billion comes from other African countries. The report offers a clear and well-researched exposition of the state and prospects of African agribusiness. It is broad in scope, encompassing agricultural production and upstream input markets as well as supply chains and agro-processing.

Three Reasons Why Electricity Should Be President Obama’s Legacy in Africa

A month after the inauguration, it’s not too early for the White House to start thinking about legacies. President Obama will surely want some signature development achievement that will outlive his Administration and help, in the public mind, to solidify the connections between Africa and the American people. To be worthy of a US President, and especially one with a family connection to the continent, it has to be something great. Bill Clinton has AGOA. George W.

After France Attacks Radicals in Mali, What Next for the United States?

The unexpectedly sudden French military action in Mali is a first step toward reunifying the country, but it also highlights the risks for outsiders, including the United States. In the days ahead, the US will need to balance its cautious instincts on Mali with the imperative to help shape events as they unfold. In the months ahead, the US must reflect on the future of American counterterrorism and democracy strategies in places without a massive US military presence.

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.

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.

Latest AGOA Delay Comes from a Surprising Source

This is a joint post with Jenny Ottenhoff.

Last month, one of us wrote that Congress seemed to have compromised and reached a bipartisan deal to extend the rule (known technically but awkwardly as the third-country fabric rule) that allows poor African countries to export clothing to the United States duty-free under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. We should have known better. This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was finally ready to bring a package of trade items, including the rule extension, to the floor for passage by unanimous consent when two senators put holds (subscription required) on it over completely unrelated issues – despite the fact that they actually support the extension.

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