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CGD in the News

November 8, 2018

More Uber for Africa (Welt-Sichten)

Note: Translated from German using Google Translate

By Tillmann Elliesen

From the article:

The main concern of European development policy at present is how to attract as many young men and women as possible in Africa in the coming years - so that they do not come up with the idea of ​​emigrating to Europe. Donor countries such as Germany are launching employment programs to create new jobs in sub-Saharan Africa. According to a new study by the Center for Global Development in Washington. This is going in the wrong direction: Most people in Africa have no formal jobs but are employed in the informal sector. That is, they have their own small "company" or engage in casual work. This has always been the case on the continent and will remain so in the foreseeable future, write the authors, who evaluate their own and foreign research for their paper.

Read the full article here


November 8, 2018

Opinion: Granting refugees the right to work can help revitalize economies (Devex)

By Gideon Maltz, Cindy Huang

From the article:

The discussion of refugees focuses too often on high-income countries in North America and Europe. In fact, it falls to a handful of middle- and low-income countries, such as Lebanon, Kenya, and Bangladesh, to host the majority of refugees around the world — and indeed to host refugees from intractable crises, such as Syria, Somalia, and Myanmar, that are likely to prevent refugees from returning for years or decades.

These countries bear a tremendous responsibility — and deserve more credit than they get from the international community — but too often they limit their own potential by preventing the refugee populations they host from working or owning a business.

In most of these countries — where 85 percent of the world’s 25 million refugees live — there is one policy in particular that is vital but rarely utilized: those preventing refugees from working legally or starting a business. Even in places where refugees technically have the right to work, fees, permits, and other restrictions can significantly restrict conditions.

Research shows that when refugees can work formally, they have more productive work, and can make more money — which in turn means that refugees spend more money on local goods and services and generate more tax revenue. When refugees start their own businesses, they create more jobs for hosts. In Turkey, Syrian refugees have started more than 6,000 companies and created more than 55,000 jobs since 2011, to the benefit of citizens and the economy.

Read the full article here.


November 6, 2018

China to set the bar high for new health technologies (BMJ)

By Tessa Richards

From the article:

How to reap the benefits of new technologies while keeping a tight rein on healthcare costs is a challenge all countries face, not least China. It spends a relatively modest 6.2% of GDP on health, but expenditure has been rising rapidly and is poised to soar further for its population of 1.39 billion is ageing and rates of non communicable disease increasing.

In response China has set up a new National Center for Medicine and Health Technology Assessment to inform decisions on which of the many new drugs, devices, and diagnostics coming on stream should be included in the country’s basket of care.

A reminder that countries’ health outcomes bear little relation to their health spend came from Kalipso Chalkidou, director of global health policy at the Center for Global Development. She also warned that “20 -40 % of expenditure on healthcare is wasted.” Countries must use health technology assessment as a policy tool to contain spending and drive more equitable care, she said. The evidence generated also helps negotiate prices and rules on reimbursement, and “China can lead the way here.”

Read the full article here.


November 6, 2018

Trump’s Trade War Was Bad Enough for Brazil’s Amazon. Then Came Bolsonaro (World Politics Review)

By Kimberly Ann Elliott

From the article:

From 2004 to 2012, the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon dropped more than 80 percent, even as Brazil’s agricultural production continued to grow. But that progress in protecting a fragile and essential ecosystem reversed in recent years, before the outlook got even worse.

First, U.S. President Donald Trump launched a trade war with China, shifting more Chinese demand for soybean products from the United States to Brazil, potentially leading to more deforestation to meet the demands of Brazilian agriculture. Then, last month Brazilians elected the far-right Jair Bolsonaro as president, a major supporter of agribusiness who has vowed to put economic growth over environmental protection. That combination could mean a surge in deforestation in the Amazon with serious implications not just for the Brazilians most directly affected, but for the wider world.

The Amazon basin is home to the world’s largest rainforest. Its trees release carbon dioxide when cut down or burned, and sequester it when planted or left in place. The pace of deforestation, especially in tropical areas like Brazil, has become a major contributor to climate change, as large in the aggregate as the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions. Reversing those trends could reduce global emissions by even more—as much as 30 percent according to some estimates. Rainforests like the Amazon’s are also important for global biodiversity and local resilience. In addition to the ecological benefits it provides, biodiversity creates economic opportunities through eco-tourism and sources of new pharmaceutical products. Forests also contribute to localized amenities, such as clean water and protection from climate-related disasters that include flooding and mudslides, as well as drought. Reducing tropical deforestation could stem the temperature rise due to greenhouse gas emissions faster and more cost-effectively than other options, according to researchers at the Center for Global Development.

Read the full article here.


November 5, 2018

Reality Check: Is China burdening Africa with debt? (BBC News)

By Reality Check team

From the article:

Africa is facing a looming debt crisis, say leading development economists.

"Almost 40% of sub-Saharan African countries are in danger of slipping into a major debt crisis" according to the Overseas Development Institute, ahead of a major conference on debt being held in London this week.

And the relationship between African nations and China is often seen as a significant part of the problem.

Compared to institutions such as the IMF, World Bank and Paris Club (a group of 22 creditor nations not including China,) loans from China are seen by some as much quicker, cheaper, and come with fewer strings attached.

The United States in particular has been highly critical of China's approach.

Earlier this year, ahead of a visit to Africa, the then US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, said China's lending policy to Africa "encouraged dependency, utilised corrupt deals and endangered its natural resources".

China's response was forthright. Its ambassador in South Africa, Lin Songtian, said China was proud of its influence in Africa and that Mr. Tillerson's comments were part of a smear campaign by the United States.

"China is just like any other lender," says Gyude Moore, a former Liberian Government official, and "China's strategic interest is in African countries paying back debts."

There are many examples of China supporting programmes to help with debt repayments, says Mr. Moore, who's currently a visiting fellow at the Centre for Global Development.

Read the full article here.


November 2, 2018

Refugees post-Pittsburgh, Rohingya trauma, and Pacific island storms: The Cheat Sheet (IRIN)


From the article:

Here’s the IRIN team’s weekly take on humanitarian news, trends, and developments from around the globe.

Humanitarian makeover

"Traditional humanitarian response remains plagued by deep power imbalances, needless rivalries between organisations, and perverse institutional incentives" – not a big revelation to regular IRIN readers, perhaps, but a blunt report card anyway. It comes from think tank Centre for Global Development (CGD), which is starting a new research project, running until 2020, analysing why reforms to the international humanitarian system have fallen short and what might work better. Initial lines of enquiry, according to a posting by Jeremy Konyndyk, a former US donor official and now a senior fellow at CGD, include: more clarity on how donors make decisions, delinking the UN's role in policy-setting from operational response, and looking again at a way to better define needs and response based more on local perspectives. The project is looking at three broad areas: business models, governance, and field practice. Earlier this year, we heard from another research project along similar lines, this time from the UK-based think tank Overseas Development Institute. The lead researcher wrote at the time that they had identified strong opportunities for a better system, but: "Change is elusive. It’s not fully within our power; it’s political, and we have little influence..."

Read the full article here.


November 2, 2018

Will the World Bank push China's Belt and Road Initiative in the right direction? (Devex)

By Michael Igoe 

From the article: 

WASHINGTON — In the 18 months since the World Bank signed on as a partner to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the risks associated with the massive infrastructure investment effort have begun to crystalize, prompting some observers to ask just what kind of a partner the World Bank plans to be. 


In 2019, the bank plans to release the results of its research into the economics of the massive initiative. Based on the information the bank has shared publicly so far, it seems to have a clearer picture of the potential benefits than it does of the potential risks of the initiative, said Scott Morris, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.

“They’re doing some very good detailed data work, which will ultimately be helpful to the Chinese and to the countries that are participating. At a higher level, their overarching framing of it leans toward being too friendly to the initiative and isn’t playing the role of constructive critic as much as I would like them to be,” Morris said.

What would be more helpful, according to Morris, would be for the bank to look more closely and more critically at the principal lending institutions involved in Belt and Road.

“There are official lenders, and we know them — China Development Bank, China [Export-Import Bank] — these are the big ones. And if we simply made a priority of focusing on their priorities and practices, I think we would get a long way toward fixing problems,” he said. 

Read the full article here


November 1, 2018

Long Story Short #34: What the 'migrant caravan' means for US aid (Devex)

Hosted by Kate Midden

CGD blog, “US Regional Security amid the Caravan Debate”, by Michael Clemens and Kate Gough was mentioned on the Devex podcast, Long Story Short.

Episode description:

In response to an estimated 7,000 people making their way through Mexico from Central America — with the goal of reaching the U.S. border — U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to cut U.S. aid to the region.

In this episode, reporter Teresa Welsh and engagement editor Kate Midden explore why several thousand people across Central America have banded together for the journey, the differing U.S. government responses, and what cuts to aid could mean for the region. 

Listen here.

November 1, 2018

Freelance Jobs Tend to be More Desirable in Many African Cities (Tech in Africa)

By Rinchi Marry 

From the article:

Recently, Uber and Airbnb have been in a big discussion on “informal economy” even though they only have a small part of many other freelance types of work worldwide. However, these so-called informal economy seem likely more efficient while using technology. In fact, most of these freelance jobs are driven by technology. 


According to the Center for Global Development, digital platforms have a big influence on helping freelance workers and budding enterprises for formalization. Even though it is not something totally new to most Africans, they need the services more than anyone else in the other part of the world since “they have no working experience in the formal sector, nor do they have mentors who have created a larger business”.

Read the full article here.

October 31, 2018

Analysis: Muse-Mandalay Railway Agreement with China Raises Debt, Conflict Fears (The Irrawaddy)

By Nan Lwin 

From the article:

YANGON—Even as Laos’s planned railway connecting southern China with northeast Thailand comes under scrutiny due to its huge cost and uncertain benefits, Naypyitaw has agreed to conduct a feasibility study on a high-speed railway project that would link two economic centers in Myanmar as part of Beijing’s grand infrastructure plan for the region.

Critics of the rail project warn that it could saddle Myanmar with unsustainable debts, and point out that the route passes through conflict zones. By approving the feasibility study despite these concerns, the government has again signaled its willingness to cooperate with China in its bid for economic supremacy in the region.

Two state-owned companies, China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group (China Railway Group Ltd) and Myanmar Railways signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) last week to begin studying a proposed railway line from Muse, in northern Shan State, to Mandalay. 


According to a March 2018 report by the Washington-based Center for Global Development, China is putting many countries involved in the BRI at financial risk through a series of “aid” activities and huge amounts of lending. 

Read the full article here