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: Sudan’s Conflicts, Children in Development, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A SPLA-N fighter walks in Jebel Kwo village in the rebel-held territory of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, Sudan, May 2, 2012 (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters).
Charles Landow ranges from Sudan to palm oil in this edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy the selection as always.
  • Sudan’s Conflicts: I have written on the blog about South Sudan’s economic crisis and other post-independence woes. Now comes a New Yorker piece on the violence that continues to plague South Sudan and Sudan, the country from which it split last year. Some contingents of the southern Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) remain in regions that went to the north; they now fight on against Khartoum. Meanwhile, South Sudan, where the SPLA governs, faces tribal conflict. “While those in power enrich themselves and their cronies,” the article says, “the tribes carry out raids and wars against one another.” Prospects all around are grim. As one scholar concludes in the piece, “The best-case scenario will see the territory on both sides of the border unstable for years to come.” Read more »

Missing Pieces: China’s Growth, Booming Cities, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A man covers himself with a coat as he cycles past a residential complex under construction, which is reflected in a puddle, in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China, July 10, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters).
In this installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights news from China and Rwanda as well as reports on the world’s cities and the Olympic games. Enjoy!
  • China’s Growth: As China’s second-quarter GDP growth hit a three-year low, recent days have brought a fresh round of worry about the country’s economic performance—a “China OMG moment,” as a Financial Times blog post puts it. First came a Barron’s article by Jonathan R. Laing chronicling a pile of woes: bloated state firms cozy with government officials, lackluster consumption, low productivity, “mountain ranges” of empty apartment towers, an aging population, debt and bad loans, and unhappiness over inequality and repression. “It looks like the Great China Growth Story may be falling apart,” the article says. A Newsweek piece by Minxin Pei sings a similar tune,  saying that “the era of rapid economic growth driven by investments and exports is over for China.” For true long-term prosperity, Pei argues, the country must “reject state capitalism and return to pro-market reforms,” an uncomfortable prospect for the Communist Party. Steven Rattner counters all this in a New York Times op-ed, contending that China’s “economic picture remains rosy.” Read more »

Food Crisis in the Sahel

by Isobel Coleman
The Mbera refugee camp in southern Mauritania on May 23, 2012. The Mbera camp was set up for people fleeing violence in northern Mali (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters). The Mbera refugee camp in southern Mauritania on May 23, 2012. The Mbera camp was set up for people fleeing violence in northern Mali (Joe Penney/Courtesy Reuters).

A massive food crisis is brewing in Africa’s Sahel. Already, some 18 million people in the Sahel region are confronting a severe food shortage. The hunger crisis is most immediately tied to inadequate rainfall, small crop yields, and high food prices, but conflict makes the situation all the more severe. A recent primer from the World Food Programme (WFP) draws attention to the precarious food situations in eight Sahel countries. In Gambia, crop production has declined by more than 60 percent since 2010. An estimated 3.5 million people face hunger in Chad, and that country’s remoteness makes aid distribution especially challenging. Ongoing conflict in Mali, where 1.7 million people face hunger, has forced 320,000 people to flee their homes. Tens of thousands of them are now taking refuge in other food insecure countries. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Slavery and Development, Mexico’s Politics and Security, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A general view of the gold mine in Marmato province, Caldas, Colombia, October 5, 2010. The Marmato mines have been exploited for more than five centuries (John Vizcaino/Courtesy Reuters).
In this installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights popular and scholarly work on Africa and Latin America. Enjoy and have a great weekend.
  • Slavery and Development: In an illustration that development’s drivers apparently run deep, a paper from the National Bureau for Economic Research examines the effects of historical slavery on contemporary outcomes in Colombia. The study, by Daron Acemoglu, Camilo Garcia-Jimeno, and James Robinson, compares areas that contained gold mines during the colonial period with neighboring areas that did not. Gold mining was a top use for slave labor. The differences appear stark. Areas home to slavery in 1843 had poverty rates 13 percentage points higher in 1993 than areas without slaves. Child vaccination rates in 2002 were some 25 percentage points lower. Secondary school enrollment rates, averaged over 1992 to 2002, seem lower as well, though less significantly. In a measure of this legacy over time, the authors find similar, “albeit weaker,” effects of slavery in 1843 on such metrics as school enrollment and vaccination rates in 1918 and literacy in 1938. Read more »

President Joyce Banda and Malawi’s Economic Development

by Isobel Coleman
People on a highway that links Malawi to Zambia on April 21, 2008 (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters). People on a highway that links Malawi to Zambia on April 21, 2008 (Siphiwe Sibeko/Courtesy Reuters).

Joyce Banda, Malawi’s new president, is off to a great start. I cheered when she assumed the top job in early April after her predecessor, President Bingu wa Mutharika, unfortunately dropped dead from a heart attack. Banda had been expelled from Mutharika’s party in 2010 after clashing with him over his efforts to position his brother as his political heir, but she stayed on as vice president. Some of Mutharika’s loyalists tried to block her from taking office on the weak grounds that she wasn’t a party member, but she (and importantly, the army) held firm. As she told an audience on Tuesday in Washington (speaking at the USAID Frontiers in Development conference): “I just had to get out of bed at 6am and take the job.” Banda became Africa’s second female head of state, following in the footsteps of Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whom she credits with making her life so much easier since today “people don’t doubt women’s leadership.” Read more »

Missing Pieces: Exclusion in Nigeria, China at a Crossroads, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A scavenger works picking up trash for recycling at the Olusosun dump site in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, March 23, 2012 (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters).
In this installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights new work on West Africa, China, and the relationship between economic and political reform. Enjoy!
  • Exclusion in Nigeria: A paper from the Brookings Institution tackles a troubling question: why have poverty and inequality increased even as Nigeria’s economy has grown? The paper blames two factors. First, manufacturing could greatly boost job creation and poverty reduction. But Nigeria has failed to support firms and entrepreneurs, leaving an anemic sector worth only 4 percent of GDP. Second is federalism. With states subsisting largely on oil revenue from Abuja, governors are not held accountable for their economic performance and social services. The paper suggests “performance and evaluation platforms” to increase accountability and various reforms for industry and agriculture. Read more »

Missing Pieces: China’s Economy, Africa’s Economy, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Newly constructed residential buildings (back) are seen next to a construction site in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, China, May 25, 2012 (Rooney Chen/Courtesy Reuters).
Charles Landow highlights work on China, Africa, and global development issues in this edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy the selection.
  • China’s Economy: This week’s Economist features a sanguine special report on China’s economy. The report “argues that China does face significant problems, but nothing it cannot handle.” While many believe exports power China’s economy, it says, the real engine is investment. And China has not overinvested. Some investments have been misguided, especially through local governments and state-owned enterprises, but the cash-rich banks and central government can handle any bad loans that result. Still, the report notes the need for daunting reforms, such as liberalizing the financial sector, boosting social spending, and scrapping the hukou system of residence permits. “The faster that China expands, the sooner it will outgrow the development model that has served it so well for so long,” the report warns. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Africa’s Food Security, Measuring the Middle Class, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A woman walks past a grain shop at a market in the Kibera slum of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, January 20, 2012 (Noor Khamis/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow highlights stories and reports on African agriculture, the global middle class, and the G20 economies in this week’s Missing Pieces. Enjoy the reading and the weekend.

  • Africa’s Food Security: UNDP this week published the first Africa Human Development Report. The focus: food security. Overall, Africa remains “on the bottom rung” of the Human Development Index (HDI), but this may change, since “nine of the ten countries with the largest gains in HDI” over the past decade are African. The report offers extensive analysis of both the proximate causes of food insecurity and malnutrition, such as low yields and micronutrient deficiencies, and broader factors such as climate change and gender relations. Governance and inequity are crucial, too. As the last chapter argues, “interventions to strengthen food security have greater impact when women, the poor, and the vulnerable have a key role in decision-making.” Read more »

Missing Pieces: China’s Challenges, Africa’s Mixed Picture, and More

by Isobel Coleman
An employee puts up a price tag after updating the price at a supermarket in Hefei, China, April 9, 2012 (Jianan Yu/Courtesy Reuters).
In this week’s installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow discusses stories on China and Africa, as well as a report on U.S. international engagement. Enjoy the reading.
  • China’s Challenges: Last week brought troubling economic news for China, with disappointing indicators on everything from import growth to retail sales to real estate investment. The Financial Times, the Guardian, MarketWatch, and Reuters have reported on the numbers. The data indicating a slowdown come in the wake of major political scandals. The Bo Xilai saga (analyzed in a recent piece) continues to simmer and the Chen Guangcheng case (recounted in a Washington Post article by CFR’s Jerome Cohen) has shone a harsh light on human rights. With all these headwinds, a New York Times piece says that “triumphalism” over China’s economic and political model seems “at best, premature, and perhaps seriously misguided.” In a post on Asia Unbound, CFR’s Elizabeth Economy reviews China’s exhaustive efforts to control public debate. The authorities, she concludes, “are like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke.” Read more »

Missing Pieces: USAID’s Approach, Myanmar’s Path, and More

by Isobel Coleman
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, along with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter, is briefed at a stall during his visit to highlight the work of female micro entrepreneurs in Karachi, Pakistan, April 12, 2012 (Akhtar Soomro/Courtesy Reuters).

In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights stories from three developing regions, as well as Washington, DC. Enjoy!