With rigorous economic research and practical policy solutions, we focus on the issues and institutions that are critical to global development. Explore our core themes and topics to learn more about our work.
In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
To become prosperous and globally competitive, emerging economies require reliable, affordable, and abundant energy for industry and households
Energy is essential for economic growth and the basis of modern lifestyles, yet more than a billion people worldwide live without access to electricity. For millions who may have some access, power is too unreliable or expensive to achieve real prosperity. Boosting generation and expanding access are top priorities for African governments and their partners, including through the US Power Africa Initiative and the Electrify Africa Act. CGD research seeks to redefine what the world means by “modern energy” and to suggest ways to provide energy at scale for development to flourish.
We know very little about what a Trump administration will do about longstanding US efforts to combat global hunger, disease, and poverty. But here are five reasons Power Africa should appeal to a new White House team presumably focused on cutting waste and promoting business.
Energy is critical to human welfare, yet energy consumption in developing countries is extremely low relative to modern living standards. Conventional aid programs have invested in energy production with some success but also with many notable failures. This paper discusses how a distinctive approach to development aid—disbursing funds against improved outcomes—could make aid more effective in the energy sector. In particular, it explores the use of Cash on Delivery Aid (COD Aid) to resolve perennial difficulties encountered by conventional aid programs in energy sector development.
Power Africa has barely gotten started and now faces a whole new administration, with its own ideas and its own priorities. The biggest risk to Power Africa is loss of momentum. As a progress check, an early analysis of the transactions pipeline, and input to the next White House, CGD assessed Power Africa along eight dimensions. Here’s a summary.
Power Africa has the potential to be transformative for millions of poor people and be the single biggest legacy in Africa for President Barack Obama. Observers now have roughly three years to reflect on the initiative: on what’s progressing well, what’s not, and where future risks may lie. While it is still too early to provide a complete analysis of outcomes, this report card provides a timely assessment at the close of this administration and an input to the next one. While the judgments of Power Africa are largely positive, the coming months will be crucial to keeping the effort on a positive trajectory.
The Obama Administration has left an indelible impact on domestic energy policy and global climate policy. Policies driving technological innovation—in what critics have dubbed the “war on coal”—are helping the United States transition its energy system to one that is cleaner and more efficient. While the administration touts the growth of clean energy deployment in the United States at international fora, it should not limit its engagement with foreign countries on fossil energy—especially when the climate gains could be large.
Most people accept that we will only achieve sustainable energy patterns with a substantial investment in research and development, but where the research will take place and where energy will be consumed doesn’t necessarily match up. Within 25 years, non-OECD countries will account for two-thirds of global energy consumption. To that end, the climate and energy challenge is primarily about finding ways to bring clean energy to Rio and Lagos, not to San Francisco or Berlin.
Reducing fossil fuel emissions to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius or less means that a huge amount of proven fossil fuel reserves will need to stay in the ground. A new Oxfam America Research Backgrounder by Professor Simon Caney of Oxford rightly proposes that, in considering which assets will be “stranded” (left in the ground), priority for extracting these fossil fuels should somehow be given to the poorest countries/people. But while poor countries should get priority when it comes to selling fossil fuels, when it comes to using them, they should be viewed as an energy source of last resort, after alternatives have been seriously explored.
The World Bank now has three benchmarks for measuring poverty. The “headline” extreme poverty threshold of $1.90/day will stay, but two new international poverty lines were added for lower middle-income ($3.20/day) and upper middle-income ($5.50/day) countries. While it’s great that the World Bank is bringing a little more nuance to the way we define poverty, it's still a repackaging of Lant Pritchett’s kinky development.
In a few days, the US government will move to officially oppose any and all large hydroelectric projects funded by the multilateral development banks, even as USAID considers bringing the mother of all hydroelectric projects, “Inga 3”, into the high profile “Power Africa” initiative.
As the debt ceiling looms and the government shutdown continues, it seems like a useful time to revisit budget-neutral ways to amp up US development policy. We recently released a proposal titled “OPIC Unleashed,” which provides a budget-neutral roadmap to strengthen US development policy’s best tool for the post-aid era.