Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Publications

 

Cover of Working Paper 521
December 15, 2019

Beyond Short-term Learning Gains: The Impact of Outsourcing Schools in Liberia after Three Years

After one year, outsourcing the management of ninety-three randomly-selected government primary schools in Liberia to eight private operators led to modest learning gains. In this paper, we revisit the program two years later. Despite facing similar contracts and settings, some providers produced uniformly positive results, while others present stark trade-offs between learning gains, access to education, child safety, and financial sustainability.

Front cover of Zambia domestic resource mobilization paper
December 11, 2019

How Erratic Tax Policies Are Impeding Revenue Mobilization in Zambia

This case study assesses whether Zambia’s tax and fiscal policies have been impeded by political and technical constraints. Tax policy is a deliberate—yet intricate—process requiring not just well-measured choices, but also stability. Zambia has undertaken several tax reforms that have included broadening the tax base, establishing a revenue collection agency, and introducing a value-added tax (VAT). 

Ramos Emmanuel Mabugu and Eddie Rakabe
A server blinks in a datacenter.
November 12, 2019

The New Economy of Africa: Opportunities for Nigeria’s Emerging Technology Sector

Nigeria has a vibrant and growing tech sector. In a survey of tech firms conducted in 2018, we find that most firms start small but grow quickly, more than doubling their size in the few years since the start of operations. Many are addressing inefficiencies in distribution of goods and services. But firms are still hampered by the business environment, notably unreliable electricity and lack of access to credit. Most suffer significant power outages, forcing them to purchase generators. Few firms have access to financial institutions or venture capitalists, relying instead on family and professional networks. Finally, tech firms employ very few women. While the Nigerian government has made the tech sector a priority, it needs to do more to improve the basics of the business environment. The government and the private sector must also take steps to increase the participation of women in the tech sector.

November 8, 2019

Center for Global Development Keynote Address

This is the text of a speech given by president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at an event hosted at the Center for Global Development on November 4, 2019.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Robots in a factory. Adobe Stock
October 22, 2019

Automation and AI: Implications for African Development Prospects?

Now that computers are capable of taking the jobs that require brain as well as brawn, it may appear there is little left for humans to do. But there are reasons to doubt the pessimism. This note reviews some of the literature around AI, automation, jobs, and development prospects with a focus on potential implications for developing countries and in particular for Africa.

Cover of Working Paper 518
October 3, 2019

Multilingual Assessment of Early Child Development: Analyses from Repeated Observations of Children in Kenya

In many low- and middle-income countries, young children learn a mother tongue or indigenous language at home before entering the formal education system where they will need to understand and speak a country’s official language(s). Thus, assessments of children before school age, conducted in a nation’s official language, may not fully reflect a child’s development, underscoring the importance of test translation and adaptation.

The Political Economy of Testing in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa
September 12, 2019

The Political Economy of Testing in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa

Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa have not implemented testing of children’s learning that can be benchmarked regionally or globally, in contrast to almost all countries in Latin America. Our analysis of the political economy of cross-national learning measurement in Latin America suggests that policymakers perceive the risks of exposing their education system’s performance by joining cross-national assessments, but they also value the quality of the data generated, the strengthening of domestic technical capacity, and the political benefits in using comparative results to argue for reforms or to advertise progress.

The cover of the report
September 4, 2019

Building an EU-Africa Partnership of Equals: A Roadmap for the New European Leadership

The arrival of a new leadership team in Brussels provides an opportunity for Europe to reinvigorate its role as a global development power and to build a true partnership with its continental neighbour, Africa. These tasks have never been more urgent. 

Cover of Policy Paper 154
August 6, 2019

Digital Technology and State Capacity in Kenya

Following the launch of M-Pesa in 2007, Kenya has emerged as a global leader in the development of mobile money and in increasing rates of financial inclusion. This paper shows how M-Pesa’s success has led to a series of endogenous innovations that have shaped Kenya’s digital space, placing it ahead of other developing economies in the region in the deployment and use of digital technology.

Njuguna Ndung’u
Cover of Policy Paper 149
July 11, 2019

Fuel Subsidy Reform and Green Taxes: Can Digital Technologies Improve State Capacity and Effectiveness?

Reforming inefficient and inequitable energy subsidies continues to be an important priority for policymakers as does instituting “green taxes” to reduce carbon emissions. The paper outlines how the use of digital technology can help accomplishing those reforms, drawing on four country cases. The technology is only a mechanism; it does not, in itself, create the political drive and constituency to push reform forward.

Cover of Policy Paper 147
July 1, 2019

Transforming the Institutional Landscape in Sub-Saharan Africa: Considerations for Leveraging Africa’s Research Capacity to Achieve Socioeconomic Development

In order to achieve sustainable development outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa, African institutions must be the leading experts on and primary providers of research solutions to local problems. We present for consideration three possible innovative models that can facilitate the emergence of strong Africa-based, Africa-led institutions: a multi-stakeholder funding platform, an integrator organization model, and a scale model.

Alex Ezeh and Jessie Lu
Cover of Struggling with Scale: Ebola’s Lessons for the Next Pandemic
May 9, 2019

Struggling with Scale: Ebola’s Lessons for the Next Pandemic

The next global pandemic is a matter of when, not if. Preparing for this inevitability requires that policy­makers understand not just the science of limiting dis­ease transmission or engineering a drug, but also the practical challenges of expanding a response strategy to a regional or global level. Achieving success at such scales is largely an issue of operational, strategic, and policy choices—areas of pandemic preparedness that remain underexplored.

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