Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

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Showing posts for "Sub-Saharan Africa"

Missing Pieces: Africa’s Mobile Explosion, Competing Aid Approaches, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Used mobile telephone cards are stringed together at a roadside call centre in the district of Obalende in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, March 8, 2012 (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow covers items on Africa, India, foreign aid, and the world’s wealthy in this installment of Missing Pieces. I hope you enjoy the reading.

  • Africa’s Mobile Explosion: “A little over a decade ago,” a CNN piece says, “there were about 100,000 phone lines in Nigeria, mostly landlines.” Today there are almost 100 million mobile lines, a story mirrored across Africa. The article explores several impacts of mobile phones on the continent. Mobile money is a crucial service in a region where “only one in five adults own bank accounts.” Phones are promoting action against autocrats and transparency around elections. In education, phones are “gain[ing] ground as tools for delivering teaching content.” Mobile entertainment, including music, movies, social networking, and more, is booming. In disasters, mobile phones help the displaced find their relatives and bolster “emergency reporting and relief systems.” In agriculture, farmers are getting mobile information about weather, crop prices, insurance, and animal husbandry. And in health, mobile applications are identifying counterfeit medicines and distributing information and tips, among other things. Isobel Coleman has been chronicling mobile technology’s impact on development regularly, most recently last week. Read more »

Mobile Technology, Internet Connectivity, and Development in Africa

by Isobel Coleman
A delegate checks a blackberry handset at an exhibition stand during the West & Central Africa Com conference in Nigeria's capital Abuja, June 18, 2009 (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters). A delegate checks a Blackberry handset at an exhibition stand during the West & Central Africa Com conference in Nigeria's capital Abuja on June 18, 2009 (Afolabi Sotunde/Courtesy Reuters).

Earlier this week, I participated in Time magazine’s “The Future of Mobility” panel, which focused on the implications of mobile technology for the developing world. As I’ve previously noted, certain advances in mobile technology in places like Kenya could leapfrog those in the United States. Perhaps the best example of this is mobile money, which is taking off in Africa but still struggling to get traction in the U.S. As Kiva CEO and co-founder Matt Flannery remarked during the panel, “Mobile money in Africa is a solution to a problem, whereas in the United States, mobile payments are a solution looking for a problem.” Satisfied with widely accepted credit cards and easily accessible online checking accounts, people in advanced economies have less need to adopt mobile phone-based banking; in Kenya, where access to traditional banking is far more limited, some 40 percent of the adult population now uses mobile money. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Cash for the Congo, Health Shocks, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A woman carries a gardening tool on her head while heading to work in the fields at Bukima, just north of the eastern Congolese city of Goma, August 19, 2010 (Finbarr O'Reilly/Courtesy Reuters).

In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow reviews stories on Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, and Mongolia, as well as a scholarly paper on health. Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Cash for the Congo: Starting in 2007, the Tuungane program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo “funded classrooms, clinics, and other investments in 1,250 villages,” which had to form elected committees to plan and execute projects in consultation with villagers. More recently, in what the Financial Times calls “an acid test of whether Tuungane had helped to promote effective village institutions,” an evaluation project gave cash to Tuungane and non-Tuungane villages and examined their process for spending it. Tuungane’s impact on improving governance appears minimal. In both groups, almost equal proportions of villages used elections to choose committees to spend the funds. The average amount of money that went missing was “nearly identical in treatment and control areas” as well. But even if Tuungane’s effects on governance were limited, it is heartening that the UK’s Department for International Development, which funded Tuungane, has allowed such a rigorous study of its work. Read more »

Mobile Phones and Business in Africa

by Isobel Coleman
A man uses his mobile phone as he walks past a Zain customer care shop in Nairobi on February 15, 2010 (Thomas Mukoya/Courtesy Reuters). A man uses his mobile phone as he walks past a Zain customer care shop in Nairobi on February 15, 2010 (Thomas Mukoya/Courtesy Reuters).

There are so many new applications of mobile technology in developing economies that it is hard to keep abreast of them. From time to time, I try to highlight a few that I think are particularly innovative and promising. In July, I wrote briefly about a non-profit, Zidisha, that makes it possible for anyone with an Internet connection and an online payment method to make a loan to an entrepreneur in Kenya or Senegal, among other countries. Would-be lenders can view entrepreneurs’ projects online and make a loan to a project of their choosing; Zidisha then transfers the money directly to the borrower. In Kenya, Zidisha takes the direct payment concept even further, sending a loan over Kenya’s mobile money system through a borrower’s cell phone. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Meles Zenawi’s Death, Development Debates, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi meets with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir during an official visit to Khartoum, August 21, 2011 (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow covers events in Africa and Asia, as well as the debate over development’s drivers, in today’s edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy!

Missing Pieces: Housing in Haiti, Democracy and Inequality, and More

by Isobel Coleman
People sit outside a house that was destroyed by the January 2010 earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti, January 3, 2012 (Swoan Parker/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights topics ranging from Haiti to Zimbabwe, with inequality and agricultural development in between. I hope you enjoy the selection.
  • Housing in Haiti: More than two-and-a-half years have passed since Haiti’s January 12, 2010, earthquake. But according to a New York Times piece, “the most obvious, pressing need—safe, stable housing for all displaced people—remains unmet.” As the article explains, “while more than 200,000 houses were damaged or destroyed,” international efforts have produced only “an estimated 15,000 repairs and 5,700 new, permanent homes so far.” Some 390,000 Haitians languish in “abysmal” camps. Tens of thousands more have been ejected from camps and “remain homeless.” Others, ostensibly luckier, have received temporary homes built by humanitarian groups. But these are often too small and isolated from jobs and services. Finally, still other Haitians have rebuilt with their own hands. Though their comforts are modest, they seem happiest of all. As one says, “When I die, I will have something to pass on to my daughter.” Read more »

Food Insecurity in Malawi

by Isobel Coleman
A Malawian woman tends dry fields in Thyolo district, some 70 km (44 miles) from the commercial capital Blantyre on October 6, 2005 (Courtesy Reuters). A Malawian woman tends dry fields in Thyolo district, some 70 km (44 miles) from the commercial capital Blantyre on October 6, 2005 (Courtesy Reuters).

This summer has been a difficult season for global agriculture. Despite some much-needed rain in the American Midwest, drought continues to affect wide areas of the United States. This week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared that the U.S. government would buy $170 million of animal products, such as pork and lamb, from farmers who are strained by high prices for animal feed. Read more »

Missing Pieces: India’s Blackout, Kagame’s Fortunes, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Vegetable vendors wait for customers at their stall during a power-cut in Kolkata, India, July 31, 2012 (Rupak de Chowdhuri/Courtesy Reuters).
In this installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow covers stories from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Enjoy the post and the weekend.
  • India’s Blackout: India’s late-July blackout, which cut power to more than 600 million, has prompted a flood of analysis. A Businessweek piece notes that “blackouts are everyday occurrences,” partly because India lacks enough coal for its new power plants. A CNN post cites artificially low electricity rates, maintained by politicians in search of votes, as a root cause of the crisis. A Washington Post article says that even when an electricity connection exists, “the poor can’t afford to enjoy it.” Power flows are spotty, bureaucracy thick, and bribe demands legion. On, two authors argue that a history of state—not national—control over electricity grids has much to do with the crisis. Finally, the Economist concludes that “India’s great blackout is a consequence of rotten governance. Voters need to understand that, and deliver the country’s political class a different kind of electric shock.” Read more »

Food Security and Innovations for Africa’s Agriculture

by Isobel Coleman
Women use the MoneyMaker Hip Pump, a portable irrigation tool (Courtesy KickStart). Women use the MoneyMaker Hip Pump, a portable irrigation tool (Courtesy KickStart).

Headlines of late have focused on the worst drought in decades in the United States, and the impact that is having on global food prices. With half of the American corn crop in poor condition, food prices are rising and pinching wallets around the world. In the short term, the sharp spike in the cost of corn (used mostly for animal feed) and other commodities could lead to unrest in poorer countries around the world that import large amounts of food. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Kim’s Vision, Zimbabwe’s Farmers, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Jim Yong Kim, the new President of the World Bank Group, speaks to the press as he arrives for his first day on the job at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC, July 2, 2012 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow covers topics ranging from global health to emerging market growth, with stops in Zimbabwe and Latin America. Enjoy!
  • Kim’s Vision: In a speech and interview this week, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim made clear that he sees deep connections between poverty and health. First, in remarks at the International AIDS Conference, Kim called for using the lessons of the AIDS movement to combat poverty, including through partnerships, openness and transparency, and “applying AIDS knowledge and resources” to broader challenges like health insurance and human capital. In an interview with the Guardian, Kim said that his past work with Partners for Health “was really always about poverty.” As he put it, “we’ve always believed that investing in health means investing in the wellbeing and development of that entire community.” CFR’s Laurie Garrett offers a sobering take on the fight against AIDS in a interview. Read more »