Charles Landow covers stories on Africa, India, and the World Bank in the first Missing Pieces installment of the new year. I hope you enjoy the selection.
- Africa’s Outlook: What are the essential issues affecting Africa in 2013? In the Brookings Institution’s “Foresight Africa” report, scholars offer eight suggestions: employment, “energy poverty,” China-Africa relations, Kenya’s presidential elections, “discordant development,” education, infrastructure, and leveraging Africa’s diaspora. On employment, one essay argues that Africa’s “rapid growth has created few good jobs.” It calls for better education and training, along with more investment in industry. The piece on “discordant development” focuses on “how deepening inequalities and rapid progress juxtaposed with group distress can generate uncertainty and violent conflict.” Sounder governance is a big part of the answer, the piece says. Meanwhile, CFR’s Sebastian Mallaby writes in the Financial Times that Africa’s growth, often deemed unsustainable, is proving enduring. Though commodity prices, demographics, and technology are helping, he says, “better policy has also made a difference,” especially by enabling higher productivity.
- Corruption in India: With India languishing at ninety-fourth in Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perceptions Index, the Washington Post profiles Vinod Rai, the country’s comptroller and auditor general. As the Post reports, Rai has issued devastating reports on government corruption, including in the 2010 issuance of mobile phone licenses and the 2012 “allocation of coal-bearing land to private companies.” Both were done noncompetitively, costing billions in lost government revenue. Although Rai’s supporters say he has become “a powerful force for accountability and transparency,” others accuse him of overreaching. On the blog last year, I noted another Indian anticorruption measure: a camera installed by one official in his office.
- IFC Questions: A Foreign Policy article takes on the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the arm of the World Bank that invests in private sector projects in the developing world. Instead of fighting poverty, the piece says, the IFC prioritizes profit. Its projects–from a Movenpick hotel in Ghana to Kentucky Fried Chicken in Jamaica–at best ignore the poor. At worst they “hold back development and exacerbate poverty.” Moreover, some energy-related investments, such as an oil pipeline from Chad to Cameroon, bolster autocrats and fuel conflict, IFC critics say. The organization’s CEO, writing in the Financial Times, unsurprisingly has a different view. “For more than half a century, the IFC has been a leader in emerging markets, providing capital and advice that have helped build prosperity and eradicate poverty,” he writes.
- Africa’s Wildlife: In a series of New York Times pieces, Jeffrey Gettleman examines the clash between economics and wildlife conservation in four African countries. Oil-rich Gabon “has made many of the right moves to protect its” elephants, Gettleman writes. But many villagers see little of the oil wealth and say the government “should not lecture them about poaching” as ivory prices soar. In Kenya, locals are arming themselves and taking on poachers, driven by the realization that elephants, because of their attraction to tourists, “are actually worth more alive than dead.” Another group of “noble but quixotic” citizen-rangers is struggling to protect elephants in Chad. At least five rangers were killed in an attack in September, apparently by poachers linked to the Sudanese military. Finally, with rhinoceros horns prized for their reputed medicinal value, “sophisticated poaching rings” are using everything from helicopters to prostitutes to gain access to South Africa’s rhinos.