Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

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Delivering on a Data Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa brief
July 7, 2014

Delivering on a Data Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa

Despite improvements in censuses and household surveys, the building blocks of national statistical systems in sub-Saharan Africa remain weak. Measurement of fundamentals such as births and deaths, growth and poverty, taxes and trade, land and the environment, and sickness, schooling, and safety is shaky at best. The Data for African Development Working Group’s recommendations for reaping the benefits of a data revolution in Africa fall into three categories: (1) fund more and fund differently, (2) build institutions that can produce accurate, unbiased data, and (3) prioritize the core attributes of data building blocks.

February 19, 2008

The Good News Out of Africa: Democracy, Stability, and the Renewal of Growth and Development

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who will host President Bush on Thursday in the final stop of his five-country Africa tour, has news that may surprise some people: despite the problems in some African countries, things are clearly improving in much of the continent. In a new CGD essay co-authored with senior fellow Steve Radelet, Sirleaf describes how a growing number of African countries are embracing democracy and good governance, strengthening macroeconomic policies, and benefiting from debt relief. These countries are in the midst of an economic and development rebound, with economic growth averaging 5 percent for a decade, poverty rates beginning to fall, and social indicators beginning to improve. The essay concludes with recommendations on how this progress can be sustained and consolidated.

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Steven Radelet
January 23, 2008

From Violence to Voting: War and Political Participation in Uganda - Working Paper 138

Over the past two decades tens of thousands of children were forcibly recruited or abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. What happens to these former child soldiers when they return to civilian life? This new working paper by CGD post-doctoral fellow Chris Blattman shows that the popular perception of former child soldiers as social misfits and possible threats to society is generally contrary to the facts. His research shows that the experience of forced recruitment generally leads to greater political participation, more than doubling the likelihood that a young person will become a community leader.

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Christopher Blattman
Cover of Fair Growth: Economic Policies for Latin America's Poor and Middle-Income Majority
January 17, 2008

Fair Growth: Economic Policies for Latin America's Poor and Middle-Income Majority

In an increasingly globalized world, inequality is an issue of rising concern, especially in Latin America, home to many of the world's most unequal societies. This new book, co-published by the Center for Global Development and the Inter-American Dialogue, describes the links between recent growth trends, changing patterns of inequality, and rising cynicism and frustration with the political leadership across the region. The authors, Nancy Birdsall, Augusto de la Torre, and Rachel Menezes, present a dozen economic policy tools to make life fairer for the great majority of people--without sacrificing economic growth.

Nancy Birdsall , Augusto de la Torre and Rachel Menezes
December 13, 2007

Putting the Power of Transparency in Context: Information's Role in Reducing Corruption in Uganda's Education Sector - Working Paper 136

One story popular in development circles tells how Uganda slashed corruption simply by publicly disclosing the amount of monthly grants to schools--thus making it harder for officials to siphon off money for their own enrichment. This working paper finds that while the percentage of funds being diverted did indeed drop, the real value of funds diverted only fell by a modest 12 percent over six years. And the information campaign was no panacea; other policies and reforms also contributed to the improvement.

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October 1, 2007

Does Influence-Peddling Impact Industrial Competition? Evidence from Enterprise Surveys in Africa - Working Paper 127

CGD visiting fellow Vijaya Ramachandran and co-authors Manju Kedia Shah and Gaiv Tata used firm-level survey data from more than 1,500 enterprises in six African countries to discover how and why African firms lobby. Their working paper concludes that larger, entrenched firms lobby to protect their market share, and that this inhibits competition, reducing efficiency and growth. The authors suggest that regional integration could be one way out of this trap, because it expands the number of enterprises in the marketplace as well as the size of the market, thus making it both harder and less worthwhile for domestically entrenched enterprises to lobby to protect their market share.

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Vijaya Ramachandran , Manju Kedia Shah and Gaiv Tata
September 17, 2007

Aiding Transparency: What We Can Learn About China Exim Bank's Concessional Loans - Working Paper 126

Aid experts interested in China's rapidly expanding development assistance program—particularly in Africa—have been frustrated by lack of information. How much aid is Beijing giving, and to whom? In this new working paper, Paul Hubbard fills in a piece of the puzzle by using Chinese-language sources to review the concessional lending program of China's Export-Import Bank. He finds that more than 48 countries have agreements with China's Exim Bank for concessional loans, and that the average loan of US$20-30 million is typically made available to Chinese exporting firms to develop infrastructure and facilities in developing countries.

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August 27, 2007

We Fall Down and Get Up: Carol Lancaster Reports on Elections in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone, where a brutal decade-long civil war finally ended in 2002, has just held remarkably fair, peaceful and well-organized elections. CGD visiting fellow Carol Lancaster, a former deputy administrator of USAID, was there as an election observer. In a new CGD Essay, she reflects on what democracy means in a country with a mere 35 percent literacy rate, a 70 percent unemployment rate, and life expectancy of only 40 years. She writes that progress will depend upon the new government's ability to tackle corruption, rebuild infrastructure and encourage investment. It will also require the emergence of a domestic constituency with the knowledge, power and commitment to hold new leaders accountable.

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Carol Lancaster
March 8, 2007

Do No Harm: Aid, Weak Institutions, and the Missing Middle in Africa - Working Paper 113

Does aid to Africa undermine the emergence of a robust African middle class? If so, what can be done about it? In this new working paper, CGD president Nancy Birdsall argues that high and unpredictable aid flows could be making life harder for Africa's small and medium-sized businesses by, for example, inflating wages and making governments less reliant on domestic revenue—and hence less accountable to taxpayers. She urges that donors systematically monitor such impacts in aid-dependent countries and suggests ways that aid could help to bolster Africa's crucial but fragile middle-income groups. Learn more

March 5, 2007

African Development: Making Sense of the Issues and Actors

Bill Easterly calls Moss's new introduction to Africa "compulsively readable and accessible" and "a masterpiece of clear thinking." Each chapter is organized around three fundamental questions: Where are we now? How did we get to this point? What are the current debates?

December 6, 2006

Freetown to Hollywood: The Kimberley Process Takes on Africa's 'Blood Diamonds'

Diamonds, long seen as symbols of love and prosperity, are now blamed for war and corruption in some of the poorest places on earth. But do all diamonds fuel conflict and strife? In this CGD Note program associate Kaysie Brown and senior fellow Todd Moss consider the strengths and limitations of industry efforts to break the deadly link between diamonds and conflict, most notably through the Kimberley Process, which certifies that a diamond has been obtained legitimately. They find that the Kimberley Process, which has helped turn conflict diamonds into development diamonds, is a good thing but it could be even better. They also offer consumers tips on how to buy conflict-free diamonds.

Kaysie Brown and Todd Moss
October 6, 2006

Artificial States - Working Paper 100

The colonial legacy of artificial borders is often seen as an important cause of problems for developing countries. In this paper CGD non-resident fellow William Easterly and his co-authors quantify this effect. They find that countries with straight borders that divide ethnic groups--lines on maps--tend to be less successful economically and politically than countries with less arbitrary borders.Learn more

Alberto Alesina and Janina Matuszeski
July 31, 2006

Development, Democracy, and Mass Killings - Working Paper 93

Do development and democracy lead to fewer massacres? By one estimate governments killed more than 170 million civilians in the 20th century – more than twice the number of soldiers killed in the century’s many wars. A new working paper co-authored by CGD non-resident fellow William Easterly using data from 1820 to 1998 finds that massacres are more likely at intermediate levels of income and less likely at very high levels of democracy. Episodes at the highest levels of democracy and income involve fewer victims. Learn more

June 26, 2006

Competitive Proliferation of Aid Projects: A Model - Working Paper 89

When aid projects proliferate, donors often seek better oversight through smaller projects. While this may improve administration, it burdens recipient governments with reporting requirements and donor visits. CGD research fellow David Roodman suggests in a new working paper that big projects are best for countries that get more aid, have better governance, or have less revenue. He also shows how donors who care most about their own success tend to divide their aid portfolios into more, smaller projects to draw the recipient's resources away from other donors. This reduces development.Learn more

Cover of Short of the Goal: U.S. Policy and Poorly Performing States
May 23, 2006

Short of the Goal: U.S. Policy and Poorly Performing States

This new collection of essays sets an agenda for increased American effectiveness in dealing with failed states to promote economic development and international security. It includes an overview of the poorly understood challenge of weak and failed states and case studies by regional policy experts, then offers recommendations for reform of U.S. foreign and development policy to better meet the challenges posed by weak states.

Nancy Birdsall , Milan Vaishnav and Robert L. Ayres
January 10, 2006

An Aid-Institutions Paradox? A Review Essay on Aid Dependency and State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa- Working Paper 74

Does foreign aid help develop public institutions and state capacity in developing countries? In this Working Paper, the authors suggest that despite recent calls for increased aid to poor countries by the international community, there may be an "aid-institutions paradox." While donor intentions may be sincere, the authors conclude that it is possible that aid could undermine long-term institutional development, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Todd Moss , Gunilla Pettersson and Nicolas van de Walle

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