Information and stories on development news.

Rwanda's Innovative Technology
Rwanda is a country located in the Eastern part of Africa that has been on the rise since the 1990s. The country has become a leader in innovation and technology, and it is one of the most innovative countries in Africa. Here are 10 facts about Rwanda’s innovative technology.

10 Things About Rwanda’s Innovative Technology

  • Rwanda’s innovative technology inspires the country to dream of “Made in Africa.” The Mara phone—the first phone in Africa—aims to create high-quality smartphones designed to promote digital inclusion. Using technology to improve the lives of people in Africa, Mara Phones produces high-quality smartphones designed to promote digital inclusion. Founded in 1996 by Ashish Thakkar, Mara Phones is a subsidiary of Mara Group, a dynamic African group with operations in the banking, technology, real estate and infrastructure fields.
  • Rwanda is using its technological potential to move the country from a developed nation to a developed country. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda is intent on turning Rwanda into the technology capital of Africa, like Singapore. For years Kagame has been drawing parallels between the two countries, following in the footsteps of the late Lee Kuan Yew, the man credited with transforming Singapore from a developing world status. Together with his successors, they have experienced global renown as the ‘master builders’ of the 20th century.
  • The Rwandan government has Stellar Ambitions, including a satellite program to help monitor water supply and anticipate natural disasters. In 2019, Rwanda launched its first telecommunications satellite, Rwa-Sat-1. The satellite now collects data from terrestrial sensors to inform the government about agriculture, meteorology, national water resources and disaster risks.
  • Today, Rwanda is part of just 13 African countries that have enacted explicit legislation on e-waste. In 2016, Rwanda’s law cratered common regulations for dealing with outdated electrical devices, as well as assigning duties in this area between the nation’s different organizations. By 2020, the so-called Enviroserve Rwanda Green Par e-waste management plant opened. Enviroserve offers services, such as remodeling, refurbishing and recycling of hardware, e.g. outdated mobiles, computer systems and other appliances. Furthermore, Rwanda has been championing the regional e-waste program of the East African Communications Association (EACO) alongside Burundi, Kenya, South Sudan and Tanzania, according to the World Economic Forum.            
  • Rwanda became one of the first nations in Africa to launch a national drone delivery system. Rwanda has been able to reduce service time delays and costs by using drones instead of conventional delivery methods to deliver medical supplies. To streamline blood deliveries, Rwanda’s government signed a deal with Zipline, a drone startup based in San Francisco, in 2016. Zipline’s autonomous drones would transform blood from a distribution center to a hospital.  
  • One of the forerunners in Africa in the development of smart cities is Rwanda. Kigali’s modernization is a part of a larger initiative by the Rwandan government to broaden and streamline access to public services. The government’s Irembo platform aims to develop e-government services that will enable citizens to submit requests for birth certificates and register for driving tests online. The Rwandan government established a partnership with Nokia and SRG to implement smart city technology in order to “improve the lifestyle and social sustainability of its citizens.” For instance, in 2016, the city began deploying buses with free Wi-Fi and cashless payment services.
  • The government of Rwanda introduced AI-powered chatbots to health care to help Rwandans have easier access to consultations with doctors or nurses. This is possible thanks to Rwanda’s cutting-edge technology. Today, patients can complete about 4,000 consultations per day from any location in the nation with just a mobile device. Babylon’s nurses are using the tool to increase productivity and help them make better choices for their patients.
  • To improve the technological aptitude of its youth, Rwanda has implemented a number of significant initiatives and policies. The “One Laptop Per Child” project, which distributes laptops to all of the nation’s primary schools, is one such initiative. The project has already given 203,000 laptops—which government funding paid for—to 407 schools. The Carnegie Mellon University branch in Rwanda is a partner in another impressive project. Through this collaboration, the University will offer Rwandan students instruction in IT, electrical and computer engineering as well as a degree.
  • A number of cutting-edge startups that have support from the government are based in Rwanda and have a positive impact on the nation. In contrast to other African nations, Rwanda’s government has complete authority over the nation’s technological infrastructure and operations. Long-term, this may stifle innovation, but it has helped the nation concentrate its efforts and resources on crucial areas that might be crucial to its future growth. In order to produce laptops that are “made in Rwanda,” the government, for instance, recently agreed to a contract with the South American business Positivo BGH, World Geostrategic Insights reports. The contract stipulates that the business will make 150,000 laptops annually.
  • Together with OneWeb, Rwanda launched its own satellite, the Icyerekezo. Rural Rwandan schools will now have access to fast internet thanks to the satellite. Icyerekezo (meaning Vision) is the moniker that students from Groupe Secondaire St Pierre Nkombo on Nkombo Island gave to the satellite. With the help of this exciting partnership, schools in isolated areas will have access to the internet, allowing them to take part in the ICT initiatives in classrooms all over the nation.

A Major Driver

The government of Rwanda made the deliberate choice to prioritize Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as a crucial component of the nation’s development agenda, which has led to the country’s innovation and technological advancements. A major driver of the expansion of the telecommunications industry in Rwanda has been the rise in demand for ICT services and the pressure to make the economy more competitive.

– Frida Sendoro
Photo: Flickr

OPAD ProjectsOPAD is an international non-governmental organization based in Sweden that works to create an “equitable society free from human suffering” by improving people’s standard of living and empowering people to fight against poverty. OPAD works with governments, local NGOs and donors throughout Europe, South America, Africa and Asia to address gender inequality, localization, human rights abuses and other pressing global development issues. All OPAD projects help to alleviate global poverty by addressing the specific needs of a community.

Kenya: Drugs and Alcohol Abuse Prevention and Parenting Tips

In some regions of Kenya, there are insufficient resources and education for men and women in regard to drugs and alcohol usage, responsible parenting, preventing teenage pregnancy and promoting literacy. To address this, the European Union funded work in the Kisii, Kakamega, Isumu, Bungoma and Migori counties of Kenya from June 2019 to 2020. The project also aimed to increase community knowledge about violence against women and create accessible resources for men and women in the targeted counties. Overall, the project enforces goals four and five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These SDGs outline the importance of implementing equitable, inclusive, quality education and promoting lifelong learning as well as empowering all women and achieving gender equality.

Sweden: Integration Pathway for New Adult Migrants and Refugees

In Sweden, specifically Stockholm, the donor Erasmus+ funded a project for new adult migrants and refugees entering Sweden. The project involves improving adult education by improving and creating education opportunities for adults, focusing on migrant citizenship issues and encouraging adults to learn high-quality skills to bring to the workplace.

France: Y+E3: Youth Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship Education

Funded by Erasmus+ from June 2019 to 2020, this project empowers youth through education in entrepreneurship and assists them with the development of innovative products and services that increase their productivity in their trade, OPAD reported on its website.

Turkey: Youth Unemployment and Psychological Well-Being

This OPAD project alleviates global poverty by providing opportunities in training and education and social services to youth experiencing unemployment in Turkey. The project, funded by Erasmus+ from June 2019 to 2020, promotes SDGs four and five. These two SDGs are central to this project as unemployed or underemployed youth face financial insecurity and psychological health damage.

Upcoming Events

Throughout 2019 and 2020, OPAD alleviated global poverty through its projects implemented in countries around the world that face issues like food insecurity, unemployment, lack of education and lack of opportunity, all of which contribute to global poverty when left unaddressed. Moving forward, OPAD continues to plan events in a variety of countries including hosting conferences like the International Youths Exchange Conference, which provides leadership and skills training for youth. These conferences, along with other events, all reflect the core mission of OPAD, which is to alleviate global poverty, aid in the development and create a society free of human suffering.

– Arden Schraff
Photo: Flickr

MinecraftWhen thinking of Minecraft most people will associate it with kids playing something akin to digital Legos, building worlds and if everything goes according to plan, defeating the Ender Dragon. At its core, this view effectively captures the game at the surface level. Partnering with U.N.-Habitat, Minecraft developer Mojang has harnessed the game concept and applied it to sustainable solutions for developing public space and addressing global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Since 2012, the aim has been to integrate Minecraft into urban planning on a local level, prioritizing the involvement of community members, particularly those that lack a voice in public development initiatives such as women, children, refugees and the elderly. The space they are working with is for the people and designed by the people. Behind the success of the Block by Block methodology lies the simplicity of Minecraft, providing an exceptionally effective lens for visualizing a three-dimensional environment that an untrained eye can make sense of, and propter hoc contribute to.

Block By Block

Pilot ventures in Nairobi and Mumbai in 2013 evolved the methodology into what it is today, built on the central tenet of collaboration. Block by Block provides community residents with the training, tools and platforms to develop and share their ideas on how best to transform public space. The exchange of ideas broadens the considerations of all those involved in the collaborative planning process.

Co-created public spaces come into existence, designed by different people and as such take into consideration the needs and concerns of all those involved in the process, resulting in a ubiquitously accommodating locality. Furthermore, what develops as a by-product is a shared sense of ownership and responsibility for the area, increasing the likelihood of maintenance and endurance, whilst simultaneously strengthening the bonds of the community.

Block by Block selects projects based on financial sustainability, accessibility and potential impact. They tend to target youth empowerment, refugee rights, climate change, accessibility, cultural heritage, social inclusion and human rights involving health and safety.

Kosovo

Following the success of a 2015 project in Pristina, Kosovo, that saw the transformation of an abandoned marketplace into a vibrant public space with a range of facilities including children’s playgrounds and Kosovo’s first skatepark, the Block by Block methodology was implemented once more in Mitrovica, some 40 km north of Pristina.

Located on the banks of the Iber river and divided by The New Bridge, the administrative center of the district is burdened by the ethnic divisions between the Serbian and Albanian communities on either side of the river. A symbol of division, the bridge separates the 80,000 Kosovo Albanians living in the north and the community of 20,000 Serbians in the south. In 2016, Block by Block hosted a workshop bringing together residents of both communities to explore ways how to transform the area and collaboratively design their ideas using Minecraft. The approach aimed to negate the divisions between the communities, changing social attitudes towards the city’s unity through democratizing urban planning’s development process. Construction began in 2017, focused on community interaction and urban redevelopment and has had knock-on effects on intercity cooperation to bring about enduring changes across Kosovo’s socio economic landscape.

Nepal

Dey Pukhu, literally translated to “state pond,” as found in the Kirtipur settlement of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, is as one would expect, a pond, typically used for daily gathering and steeped in tradition, having been designed for socio-religious functions. Rapid urbanization across the area threatened the water systems and affected the use of Dey Pukhu for social and traditional gatherings, with other public spaces similarly experiencing some form of deterioration as well. In 2013 Block by Block selected it for restoration with the aim to sustainably revitalize the area and for the methodology to gain traction and lead to further development initiatives across Nepal.

Gathering local stakeholders to propose ideas for restoration and development, the initiative noted the rise in youth engagement with the project and the notion of public space. As Pontus Westberg of U.N.-Habitat outlined, the young people’s confidence, effort and pride in their work was perhaps the most rewarding outcome from the project. The positive response led to further development programs put in place across the Kathmandu metropolitan area.

Noteworthy is the 2015 Kirtipur project that proposed the development of a site with a school, temple and a water system amidst large open areas of green and vegetation. Following designs and finalized models of the site, the earthquake hit Nepal in April 2015, delaying implementation. U.N.-Habitat allocated $50,000 in emergency response, repairing a damaged local school and providing essentials for survival including water tanks and emergency shelter. By June 2016 the project was running again, with a trash-covered hillside converted into an open park with recreational space and access to clean water as well as a Public Space Revitalisation Plan put in place for the entire municipality of Kirtipur.

Successful Stories

The Block by Block applied its methodology to other cities across the Kathmandu Valley and is active in over 35 countries. The examples above have set off a chain reaction in the areas of implementation. More recent projects include the likes of public gardens as safe spaces for women and children in Beit Lahia. The successes are a momentous use of technology for the public good and make one wonder what other global concerns can have a solution in something as simple and commonplace as video games.

– Bojan Ivancic
Photo: Unsplash

Honey Pride Arua
Honey Pride Arua, a private organization started in 2015 by Sam Aderubo offered an innovative approach to inclusive economic development across the region of Arua, Uganda. Specializing in honey, the organization aims to construct sustainable markets for beekeeping and production, alongside raising awareness amongst local farmers of the commercial potentials of beekeeping.

A comprehensive program offers education on all aspects of beekeeping and the honey production process, from apiary management to the packaging and distribution of goods. Through this, the organization enables existing local farmers and anyone with a desire or interest to enter into beekeeping to convert their hobbies into economic output, sustaining themselves and their families.

The Effects

As Betty Ayikoru, a local beekeeper and councilor outlined beekeeping benefits communities in more ways than selling honey. Honey Pride Arua has grown commercially in the scale of operations and income, but what is more significant is the effect this has on the surrounding community and stakeholders.

Today working with more than 1,700 farmers – 30% women and 60% youth, the organization makes emphasis on targeting marginalized members of the community. A holistic and immensely effective approach in addressing local unemployment by gearing their project to those in the community most likely to be unemployed, or equipped on average with lower prospects.

Honey Pride is also noted for the inclusion and support of refugees in economic activity for local development. Arua, in Northern Uganda, is a region largely populated with refugees compared to other parts of the country. Honey Prides’ inclusivity played a key role in gaining external funding from the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).

Stable markets offer stable incomes and Honey Pride’s activity has helped local farmers put children through school, financially sustain households and their families, as well as offering a nutritious element to their diet, according to a U.N. News podcast.

Previously it was difficult to find a reliable market with stable prices to sell one’s honey in Arua. However, prospects for beekeepers have drastically changed since Honey Pride entered the industry. Delivering on one of its central tenets, a stable honey market has emerged across the region. A kilogram of honey in 2015 was worth 3,500 Ugandan Shillings, today the market price is around 7,000 Shillings per kilogram. Encouraging statistics motivates many young members of the community to venture into beekeeping.

Another noteworthy aspect of Honey Pride’s operations is the efficiency of its practices. The organization works to eliminate waste by offering excess produce and residue to the community to fertilize local gardens and land, as well as feed livestock, according to a U.N. News podcast.

Investment

The most significant challenge to the organization has been financial. As Sam Aderubo himself states in the podcast, “finance is the lifeline of a business.” The organization in its early years, like most small Ugandan businesses, was unable to get investment from commercial banks. Aware of its social impacts and inclusivity practices focused on a community-benefit model, the UNCDF found a worthy beneficiary, investing over $117,000 to help Honey Pride Arua reach a certain threshold at which it will begin to attract investment from larger commercial banks and private equity firms.

This came in the form of loans for processing equipment and operations, alongside technical assistance and support in designing a sustainable and viable business model. Through these efforts, Honey Pride procured the likes of professional filtering equipment, an electric honey press for the extraction process and eight honey settling tanks each with a capacity of 1,000kg, UNCDF reported.

A direct impact of such measures saw a substantial increase in output from three to five tonnes per month post-investment, which, according to UNCDF, in 2021 amounted to a monthly increase in income by over $8,000.

Following the successful implementation of these loans in growing the organization, in the case of Honey Pride, several private equity firms have since displayed an interest in investing, offering a blueprint for further upscaling and aligning the company for greater success in the future, according to the U.N. News podcast.

What the Future Holds

Further expansion and entry into new markets is the next step for Honey Pride, having met international standards with its product. With increases in output and income, Honey Pride can begin to invest more in outreach and marketing, further consolidating the stability of local markets in addition to developing foreign ones as well.

Looking ahead, Honey Pride Arua aims to implement a program to equip local farmers or those with a desire to venture into beekeeping with the required equipment and facilities. This way, it is helping to establish more local beekeeping businesses that return on the investment they received from Honey Pride through their yield. An innovative, circular model of business. As Honey Pride grows commercially, its inclusive practices and reach spread, benefiting ever greater numbers of people.

– Bojan Ivancic
Photo: Unsplash

World Bank’s Efforts in Guyana
The World Bank’s efforts in Guyana have been paramount in helping to achieve growth and positive effects in the country. In the last few decades, the World Bank has made progress in enhancing natural disaster resilience, improving the quality of education and skills, generating private-sector development initiatives and supporting human development.

About Guyana

The Co-Operative Republic of Guyana is a small and sparsely populated South American country. It has an abundance of natural resources, fertile lands and valuable mineral resources such as bauxite and gold, along with tropical forests which cover 80% of the country. With a population of approximately 780,000 people, Guyanese society is ethnically diverse, including Indo-Guyanese, Afro-Guyanese, Mixed-Guyanese and many more groups. About 90% of this population lives in the country’s coastal area, despite this region only representing 10% of the total land.

Others have historically perceived Guyana’s GDP as the lowest in the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC). However, monumental growth (between 20%-40%) has raised the GDP from $6,600 in 2019 to $9,300 in 2021. The country’s heavy dependency on natural resources, especially oil production is a core reason for this growth. Nevertheless, this reliance on these resources means that Guyana is vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations and economic conditions.

An updated measure from the World Bank in 2022 found that Guyana’s national poverty headcount is among the highest in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) at around 48%. Rates of poverty are the highest in the interior of the country, where communities have limited access to economic opportunities, health care and public services. The country also experiences high emigration and brain drain, with 39% of citizens living abroad.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the population of Guyana. Although 63% of the adult population had received at least one dose of the vaccine by September 2022, it had been confirmed that there had been 71,351 COVID-19 cases and 1,281 deaths in October 2022. Guyana is a small country with a poor healthcare system consisting of a lack of insufficient resources and equipment, something which may reflect these COVID-19 case numbers. The World Bank’s efforts in Guyana have been ongoing since 2016, focusing on three areas:

Strengthening Resilience and Creating Disaster Risk Management Capacities

The Flood Risk Management Project works to reduce flood risks in low-lying areas of the country. The primary focus of this project is to strengthen the institutions that are necessary to reduce flood risks and support flood modeling. In 2020, further funding received approval for the project with the aim to improve Guyana’s climate resilience and reduce the impact of economic disasters. The results of this project should enable more than 90,000 people to benefit from flood risks and 47,600 water users will receive new and improved irrigation and drainage facilities.

Setting Up High-quality Education

The World Bank currently has four ongoing projects aimed at building Guyana’s workforce:

  • The Education Sector Improvement Project: The Education Sector Improvement Project has been working at improving teaching practices and student achievement in math.
  • Secondary Education Improvement Project: The Secondary Education Improvement Project supports secondary school math teachers, secondary school enrollment and school building.
  • Guyana Sector Programme Project: The Guyana Sector Programme Project supports nursery schools and increasing technology use in primary schools.
  • Guyana Strengthening Human Capital Through Education Project: The Guyana Strengthening Human Capital Through Education Project received approval in June 2022. It aims to focus on expanding access to secondary-level quality education, while also supporting vocational training.

The results of these projects have been far-reaching. For instance, the capacity of 600 math teachers worldwide has improved through training and expert feedback. Secondary school facilities grew by expanding the number of additional student spaces. Perhaps the most important result is the development of a new curriculum framework, something which has revised the subjects that the core teaching plans teach.

Laying the Foundation of Private Sector Development

The Guyana Petroleum Resources Governance and Management Project works to develop better legal and institutional frameworks. It will also raise the capacity of key institutions to manage the oil and gas sector so that there are more economic and social benefits for the country. The project will also strengthen the laws and regulations related to health, safety and environmental protection. The outcomes of this project have been positive in improving technical, advisory and capacity measures, along with transparency and governance within the oil and gas sector.

The Future

 Overall, the World Bank’s efforts in Guyana have been far-reaching, supporting the creation of many sustainable and long-term changes in the country. The three areas of focus are monumental areas to champion for the country to increase its economic, social and environmental capital, all of which these projects have successfully addressed.

– Harkiran Bharij
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Green Urban Growth
Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is on the cutting edge of African development. In May 2022, the Rwandan government launched the second phase of the environmentally friendly, $175 million Rwandan Urban Development Project. The project consists of reinforcing nature-based infrastructure and protecting the city against extreme weather conditions. A hub of architects and entrepreneurs is working out of the newly built MASS Design Group’s largest office in Kigali. The recent increase in investment in the once war-stricken city aims to set Rwanda on the path to green urban growth.

A Critical Eye

President Paul Kagame received many criticisms for taking the position of an authoritarian strongman. While Rwanda appears to be a safe space for foreigners, Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch recently told CNN,  “Rwanda is a safe country for Rwandans if you keep your head down and don’t ask any questions or challenge anything. The moment you step up and start to question something or have an independent opinion and express it, Rwanda becomes a very difficult country to live in.” It is impossible to ignore the claims of citizens and spokespeople in the region. For Western and Asian allies, however, Kagame remains a “liberator” with intentions of expanding economic prosperity in the region.

Sustainability and Reframing

The Rwanda Urban Development Project focuses on developing the natural infrastructure of Kigali and surrounding cities. A green micro-mobility company called Guraride, which began a bike share scheme in Kigali in 2021 is just one of many firms setting up in the city. Guararide CEO, Tony Adesina, explained, “We’re looking at a situation where Kigali becomes the Silicon Valley of Africa.” President Kagame has made aspirational claims of making Rwanda a middle-income country by 2035.

In the decades since the atrocious 1994 genocide, the government has brought the country out of the ruins by taking several measures. For one, Rwanda now has close financial ties to China; in 2008, the country outlawed the use of non-biodegradable plastics a notable step towards its desire to be a green country. Moreover, it has closed gender gaps with 61% of its parliamentary seats, which women hold. The World Bank continues to report “strong economic growth” in the region, and a poverty decline from 77% in 2001 to 55% by 2017. With the decline in poverty and awareness of the need for renewable energy, Rwanda is a beacon of hope for the naysays of energy reform and a model country on the path to green urban growth.

Eco-Development

A coalition of architects, engineers, city planners, researchers, designers, construction and film industry has come to the MASS Design Group’s central hub. Entrepreneurs like Tony Adesina are attracted to the area because of the government’s inclination towards allowing tech-based and eco-friendly development. As increasingly severe weather conditions erupt around the world, Rwanda is taking the initiative to develop green solutions to the unique problems weather causes. Launched in 2017, The Green City Project in Kigali is an example of this initiative. It aims to be a green community in the Kinyinya Hill area of Kigali; allowing developers to use innovative climate-responsive building techniques and collect rainwater, as well as increase vegetation, tree cover and renewable energy sources. This facility is a harbinger for more green projects to come around the world, as the move to green urban growth becomes evermore important.

The region of Kigali represents hope for war-stricken countries. Often through struggle and war, many creative solutions emerge out of necessity. Western counterparts regularly overlook developing communities in Africa and view them as “reporters” of what is happening, rather than true artists and creators themselves. Though others should not ignore the iron fist of the Rwandan government, an encouraging move toward sustainability that the nation has taken is the bottom-line approach necessary to tackle environmental and economic issues.

– Shane Chase
Photo: Flickr

President Arce
On September 21, 2022, the President of Bolivia, Arce Catacora, gave a lecture at Yale University before participating in the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. Speaking to a small room of students and faculty, President Arce presented macroeconomic data from Bolivia’s last 20 years, noting successes during the 15-year reign of his political party, Movimento al Socialismo (MAS). Throughout his lecture, he emphasized a focus on resource extraction as the primary engine behind the country’s short and long-term growth.

About President Arce

President Arce began in a celebratory tone, comparing the successes of MAS’ socialist model compared to the “neoliberalist model” which existed before it. He noted that between 2006 and 2019, the years in which his party held power, GDP per capita grew by 4.7% compared to 3% from 1985 to 2005. He also spoke about Bolivia’s success in distributing those gains fairly, raising the income of the bottom 40% by 12.5% and adopting what he labeled a “democratization of the economy.”

Additionally, he stressed Bolivia’s financial stability, pointing out the country’s low levels of external debt. Drawing from data collected by the central bank, President Arce drew the crowd’s attention to the external public debt prior to the presidency of MAS’ Evo Morales, which reached a historic high of 63% of GDP in 2003. He then noted that after 2006, Bolivia’s external debt never rose above 33%, sitting at 28.9% of GDP under his administration.

Responding to critics of his “economic social communitarian productive model” he highlighted the continual growth of businesses in Bolivia as a sign of sustainable development. Beginning in 2005, Bolivia saw more than 250,000 companies originate over the course of 14 years, with smaller growth during the pandemic years. Going out of his way to address concerns over private investment under the socialist model, he claimed Bolivia had found a viable way to mix state involvement in the economy with entrepreneurship.

Bolivia’s Challenges

Although Arce’s presentation portrayed the last 20 years in an overwhelmingly positive tone, it omitted many of the challenges that Bolivia faces. Although his model is based upon natural resource extraction, with Bolivia’s primary resource being natural gas, this cannot keep up with the rate of growth of the Bolivian economy. In fact, Bolivia has already become a net importer of hydrocarbons, at a time when energy prices are at historic highs.

The Environment

In addition, Bolivia grapples with numerous environmental issues, including poor management of its portion of the Amazon rainforest. President Arce announced in July 2022 that he would be investing in palm oil to increase the country’s energy output, something that is both inefficient and environmentally harmful. Furthermore, Arce’s administration did little to quell the massive fires in Bolivia’s Chiquitania region, and his political predecessor Evo Morales actually signed a decree in 2019 making it easier for agribusiness to exploit the land. This is a far cry from his speech at Yale, in which he promised to “respect mother earth” after a question from a faculty member.

Human Rights Issues

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Bolivia’s questionable actions regarding human rights within Bolivia and South America threaten to sour any notions of success. During the questions which followed the presentation, President Arce was asked how Bolivia could claim to support human rights while remaining on friendly terms with Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, even amidst human rights abuses. His answer, vague and evasive, did little to conceal the fact that Bolivia continues to have close ties with Venezuela, even choosing to opt out of a regional conference if Venezuela did not receive permission to attend.

The Justice System

Even within Bolivia, others have accused Arce and his party of tampering with the justice system for political gain. In June 2022 former interim president Jeanine Anez received a 10-year sentence in prison for plotting a coup, despite her rise to Bolivia’s supreme court upholding the president. Prosecutors claim she was part of a plan to remove President Evo Morales from office in 2019, despite the fact that she did not participate in the largely peaceful protests which led to his resignation. Anez claims her imprisonment is a purely political affair, designed to legitimize MAS after its fall from power after allegedly committing fraud to win the 2019 presidential election.

Looking Ahead

President Arce’s economic model has proven that it can succeed, and his presentation is a testament to the fact that Bolivia’s growth under nearly 20 years of MAS rule has been truly unprecedented. However, it does not take away from Bolivia’s murky future, and dubious record with human rights. The country has the economic potential to develop strongly, but strong political and environmental protections still remain uncertain.

Samuel Bowles
Photo: Flickr

Chile to enter CPTPP
In October 2022, Chile’s Congress passed a vote allowing Chile to enter the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), previously known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an international trade agreement. Chile, a nation that relies heavily on international trade, is joining the CPATPP to boost its economy and the global economy.

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

In 2005, the CPATPP began as a five-nation agreement. The nations were Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. In 2008, President George W. Bush agreed to begin talks for the United States to join this trade agreement. President Obama continued the trade agreement, with a finalized agreement by 2016. Unfortunately, President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement, crumbling the TPP and forcing all 12 countries involved to re-plot the deal. The TPP then turned into the CPTPP.

The remaining 11 countries in the TPP moved forward to create their international deal, with the recent vote for Chile to enter the new international trade deal.

Eleven, soon to be 12, countries have ratified the deal to enter the CPTPP, a free-trade agreement aiming to boost domestic and global economies. For its members, the CPTPP removes 95% of the tariffs used commonly for international trade. The CPTPP eliminates all tariffs on sheep’s meat, wool and cotton. There are partial tariff eliminations for industrial/manufactured products, plants (medicinal or otherwise), wine, dairy products and beef (specifically Japan’s beef products). The CPTPP is the first international agreement providing a free market for e-commerce and no policies forcing ownership of one nation over an e-commerce enterprise. It protects foreign investments and keeps all parties safe from potential discrimination, thus creating fair and free trade that benefits all involved.

The CPTPP accounts for 40% of the global economy and in the case of the global trade value, about 25%. The CPTPP can create lasting positive effects on the global economy because of its impact on raising global GDPs. It can increase productivity and national income worldwide, bringing money into local economies, increasing wages, creating jobs and effectively lowering poverty rates worldwide. The potential benefits of the CPTPP convinced Chile to enter the trade deal.

Chile’s Global Trade

Chile is trusted internationally for its strong trade presence, but like the rest of the global market, Chile experienced some economic downturns during the COVID-19 pandemic, though it appears to be recovering. With the U.S., Chile has an established free-trade agreement. Chile already limits tariffs on its exports, welcomes foreign investments, and its open market operations. An open market, such as Chile’s, has no barriers to trade, i.e., no tariffs. Its economy is in solid shape with only around a 4% poverty rate. As many can benefit from Chile’s lack of tariffs, it is logical for Chile to seek similar financial gain elsewhere.

Chile’s main exports are copper, which accounts for 48% of all Chile’s exports, but it also relies on its exported manufactured and industrialized goods for income (38% of exports and export income). Chile earned $50.7 billion from copper alone in 2021, an incredible increase from $33.17 billion in 2020. Chile’s international presence and trade are substantial factors in the government’s decision for Chile to enter the CPTPP. The Chilean government hopes to promote additional changes regarding certain “state-to-state” trade operations in the CPTPP but remains hopeful for future economic prosperity.

The Benefits of the CPTPP

The CPTPP still has room for advancement as more countries enter it. Despite its newness, there has already been significant progress relating to the world of e-commerce. The CPTPP inspired e-commerce trade regulations and other free-trade agreements between Chile and Argentina. China, an important trading partner for most of the world, has applied to receive recognition as a full member of the CPTPP. China’s presence could entice other nations to follow suit, given its placement on the world stage.

The CPTPP protects small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a fact that Canada heavily promotes. About 47%  of Chile’s businesses are SMEs. The presence of SMEs allows for local economic development and can attract foreign investments. As the world faces economic troubles and continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada reported stable and trusted trade and attributed this success to the CPTPP.

Many nations have already found the CPTPP beneficial in one way or another, be it regarding e-commerce trade, decreased tariffs or protection of SMEs. As a free market, Chile exemplifies the benefits and economic prosperity that the CPTPP can provide on a larger scale. Chile is an example of the kind of nation and partnership the trade deal seeks to create. When Chile enters the CPTPP, it can share its economic prosperity worldwide with strengthened trade partners.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Statistics on Poverty
Statistics is an essential piece of the policy-making puzzle. From polls to censuses to studies, data is one of politics’ few truths, an impartial measure of the approval or success of any action. In the fight against poverty, the positive results of a policy are often used to justify its implementation in another country, often with mixed results. Although statistics can be incredibly useful for suggesting and tracking anti-poverty efforts, these numbers on poverty carry a series of caveats and assumptions that one cannot overlook.

The Difficulties Behind Statistics

A clear example of this is an experiment run in 1987 by Sally Grantham-McGregor in Jamaica. Looking for a correlation between malnutrition, cognitive development and income, she found that supplementing the meals of malnourished children raised their income over 20 years by 25% compared to the average. Although seemingly indisputable from her evidence from Jamaica, her experiments saw dramatically less success when implemented on a larger scale in Colombia and Peru, with Grantham-McGregor saying that “there is no way to know what caused the impact.”

Much of this uncertainty has to do with the way researchers define terms and the way seemingly unimportant assumptions end up affecting results. A study from 1970 to 2000 focusing on the connection between economic growth and inequality across 26 U.S. states found no correlation, but the correlation between economic growth and inequality of opportunity was extremely strong. Another study by Patrizio Piraino in 2015 found that race-based inequality accounted for around 70% of inequality in South Africa, a figure that is not visible when using the traditional measure of income, GDP per capita, as representative of individuals in a society with a high degree of race-based inequality.

This problem is particularly prevalent in studies on low-income populations. Because questions regarding salary and living situation are sensitive, asking about these topics in questionnaires often yields incorrect data. Low-income groups tend to face underrepresentation in studies, meaning policies meant to alleviate poverty often work with a flawed understanding of the overall improvement objective.

Researchers also present another key difficulty in using statistics in the study of poverty. A study by Lyberg and Kasprzyk in 1991 found that interviewers stood as a large source of error when conducting studies. Language barriers as well as “socioeconomic and demographic characteristics” inhibit accurate responses and interpretations, increasing the margin of error in those studies.

The Benefits of Randomized Studies

However, data science is improving and researchers are beginning to apply the lessons of these studies to improve the accuracy of statistics on poverty. Randomization, or randomly choosing a group as a test for a particular policy, has become an increasingly popular method of policy analysis. A successful example of this process occurred in Indonesia where researchers wanted to test whether identification documents (IDs) carrying information on “program eligibility and entitlements” improved access to a social assistance program. Indeed, researchers found that these social assistance ID cards increased access to Raskin, Indonesia’s rice subsidy initiative that began in 2012. Leaning on the results of this research, the government of Indonesia decided to scale up the distribution of these IDs, reaching more than 15 million poor households in 2013.

Many academics in the field of poverty research remain opposed to randomized studies, but there is an increasingly vocal group advocating gradual implementation based on the past successes of randomization. Particularly in education research, experts have criticized the high costs, overly general results and unorthodoxy of randomization, but policy research has shown it can be effective on a large scale.

The PROGRESA Pilot Program

In Mexico, the social conditional cash transfer program PROGRESA, launched in 1997, is an example of a successful randomized evaluation that informed future policy. PROGRESA first began as a pilot program tested across 506 communities in Mexico. The evaluation showed promising outcomes for children from households receiving conditional cash transfers. As such, the Mexican government decided to implement PROGRESA on a wider scale. Other countries conducted similar randomized studies to evaluate the benefit of “PROGRESA-like programs on their populations before scaling up.” Poverty Action Lab indicates that by the year 2014, 52 nations “had implemented PROGRESA-like programs.”

Each statistical method comes with its own advantages and drawbacks, but researchers are increasingly aware of how to balance the usefulness of statistics with its limitations. By improving the quality of these statistics on poverty, statistics can become an essential part of the reduction in global poverty.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Flickr

On the surface, China has been a powerhouse in diminishing global poverty. Measured by individuals living with less than $6.85 a day, China’s poverty rate decreased from 63% in 2010 to 25% in 2019. Based on the country’s official poverty line, the World Bank states that, as of 2020, China’s national poverty rate is 0%. Martin Raiser, the World Bank’s representative in China, claims that China’s work accounts for roughly 70% of the world’s absolute poverty reduction. However, the People’s Republic of China maintains ingrained inequities due to how its hukou system restricts mobility.

What is the Hukou system?

The hukou system is the administrative tool used for population management and registration. The hukou system classifies individuals into urban and rural categories, assigning certain services to each classification, such as access to hospitals and schools. This policy dictates where individuals can live, work and own land in China. This restricts population movement by reserving government services like social security and public education only to citizens with proper hukou for the area in which they live. Changing one’s hukou is often expensive and almost impossible, depending on where the individual wants to live. Due to these policies, the PRC directly shapes available opportunities for urban and rural residents, contributing to stark disparities between its civilians.

China’s hukou system controls internal migration, manages social protection and preserves social stability. By restricting the legal right to live and work in cities without proper hukou, China achieved its goal of limiting the growth of megacities. This process helped mitigate the uncontrolled growth of urban slums, but many rural residents ignored hukou restrictions in search of better economic opportunities in cities.

Hukou Controls Mobility in China

Being born in a rural area causes those Chinese citizens to lose access to the job market in prosperous cities. Thus, they are often confined to living in the same region for most of their lives. Citizens need a temporary residence permit to spend more than three days outside their city or town, preventing free mobility like in other countries such as the U.S.

Some people born with rural hukou endure a complex and costly process to change their status, but many others lack the resources to go through this legal avenue. As a result, many rural residents migrate to cities without the allowed hukou, losing access to beneficial government services and often resorting to poor housing conditions.

Larger cities often limit new hukou to wealthy households, thus, leaving poorer urban residents with worse living conditions. Smaller cities usually accept rural migrants, making it easier for them to receive their desired hukou. While this process deters migrants from moving to larger cities like Shanghai and Beijing, it also puts millions of Chinese migrants in threatening conditions.

Ingrained Inequities in the Hukou System

The hukou system exists in tandem with growing income inequality. China’s Gini coefficient reveals high-income inequality: measuring inequality on a scale from 0 (low) to 1 (high), China’s is approximately 0.47 compared to 0.41 in the U.S.

While moving to urban areas increases access to higher-paying jobs, rural-to-urban migrants face significant penalties if they do not have an urban hukou. These workers lose access to health insurance, retirement allowances, unemployment insurance, maternity benefits, work insurance, employment and education. With more than half of China’s population living in cities, only 35% of urbanites have a city hukou. This disparity means more than 250 million migrant workers do not receive social security benefits.

The hukou system disadvantages rural residents more than city-designated dwellers by limiting their opportunities. On average, a farmer’s annual income equals about one-sixth of the average salary of an urban citizen. This steep income disparity is exacerbated by how farmers pay a tax rate three times the amount urban residents pay, presenting a great challenge for upward social mobility.

The Borgen Project spoke with Lauren He, a former resident of Shanghai, about the hukou system’s inequities. He stated, “Because of my urban hukou status, I have evaded many barriers migrants face when moving to cities like Shanghai.”

“My grandparents did not grow up with the hukou system, so they were able to move to Shanghai from the countryside with fewer complications than what migrants face today. This system deeply disadvantages those who cannot get the necessary hukou,” said He.

Consumption Poverty Rates Show Inequity

Despite persisting inequity due in part to the hukou system, studies have shown that rural-to-urban migration reduces poverty. Migrant workers move to increase their salaries, with many sending money back to their families in less prosperous rural areas, expanding economic growth and lowering the risk of poverty.

However, the hukou system has widened inequities in many ways. Many migrants work jobs more susceptible to market change, indicating a higher risk of impoverishment. In addition, while migrants may have lower income poverty, they still face the challenges of high consumption poverty rates. Migrant workers with urban hukous consume up to 30% more than their counterparts without the proper hukou status, revealing a disparity linked to the hukou system.

The Future of Poverty Reduction in China

While reforms continue in the hukou system, other programs in China are working to counter poverty through more direct action. In 1989, the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation began its mission to combat poverty by organizing projects ranging from health care and education to economic development through infrastructure construction. Headquartered in Beijing, the CFPA targets domestic and global poverty, aiding the mission to end poverty for all.

With the work of organizations like CFPA and liberalizing restrictions on hukou, change may come to help eliminate disparities between urban and rural citizens in China.

– Michael Cardamone
Photo: Flickr