Information and stories about economic growth.

Youth Empowerment Programs in AfricaBy 2050, Africa’s child population is projected to reach one billion, which would be the largest among the other continents. Already, the median age in Africa has shifted to 18 years old and increased the labor force substantially. The Center for Strategic and International Study released a report highlighting just how much of an impact the youth of Africa can have on the continent’s economic growth. With these trends in mind, a number of organizations are finding new and creative ways to increase youth empowerment in Africa today.

Here are three programs centered around youth empowerment in Africa.

3 Youth Empowerment Programs in Africa

  1. Young African Leaders Initiative
    The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) is one of the programs created by USAID to empower young people across the world. This 2010 U.S. initiative focuses on providing Africans with resources to bolster development. These young people receive support regarding leadership skills and entrepreneurship opportunities in Regional Leadership Centers in sub-Saharan Africa. The four regional centers are located in higher education institutions and primarily target young people between the ages of 18 and 35. For example, one center located at the University of South Africa School of Business Leadership serves Swaziland, Zambia, South Africa and Madagascar. These regional centers help foster entrepreneurship and create opportunities for cross-border collaboration.The program also offers a fellowship for young Africans to study at a U.S. university and further develop their skills to become young leaders. The Mandela Washington Fellowship selects young people from 48 countries across sub-Saharan Africa to create a diverse group of fellows learning about topics surrounding business, civic engagement or public management.

    One of the most important parts of this program is the large network for young Africans to connect with each other across the continent. With online resources and regional centers in all parts of sub-Saharan Africa, every day, more young people are gaining access to information about professional development and entrepreneurship, creating a strong foundation for long-term youth empowerment in Africa.

  2. Young Africa
    In 1988, Young Africa International was founded in the Netherlands. With a goal to empower young Africans with employability and entrepreneurship skills, the program utilizes a network of independent and local affiliations to run activities in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia.A majority of the funding goes to creating training centers to hire youth across these countries. It also allows local entrepreneurs to run their businesses in a successful environment. By establishing local nonprofits in these youth centers, it promotes local businesses while also giving youth the opportunity to explore career fields, develop new skills and learn lessons about the working environment.

    Targeted to the 15 to 25 age group, Young Africa also provides 43 courses to people in the program. These courses include vocational education in technical, agricultural and commercial skills. Young Africa also focuses heavily on life skills training to help empower young people to make healthy choices and grow their self-confidence so they can make a positive impact on their community.

    The overall impact of the organization can be seen by its milestones. In 2017, there were 1,980 vocational graduates from the program. Sixty-nine percent of them are now employed or self-employed. Overall, there have been 36,894 graduates from the vocational program and their incomes increased significantly. In Namibia alone, the participant’s average daily income increased from $15.30 a day to $40.

  3. International Youth Foundation
    For 30 years, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) has prepared young women and men to take control of their futures by focusing on a combination of education, employment, entrepreneurship and social innovation.Zimbabwe:Works is an example of a program focusing on employment for marginalized groups, especially women. Using the Passport to Success curriculum, the program teaches life skills to increase self-esteem, promote teamwork and motivate young people to engage in their communities. Certain partners and entrepreneurs also assist the process by providing business courses and access to microloans and related programs. Roughly 80 percent of interns with this program have transitioned to full-time employment with various companies. Also, almost 7 out of 10 women in the targeted group received financial literacy training.

    This program is just one of many examples of youth empowerment programs in Africa led by IYF. Across 14 countries, various programs introduce young people to healthier lifestyles and brighter futures.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Economic Growth in Nigeria
Nigeria, a country located on the western coast of Africa, makes up to 47 percent of the population of Africa. With the rising amount of people surrounding the area, there has been a vast amount of poverty overtaking the country. Recently, the economic growth of Nigeria has risen due to many factors such as its production of oil. However, no matter how much the economy grows, poverty continues to rise as well due to the inequality between the poor and rich.

Economic Growth

In 2018, the oil and gas sector allowed the economic growth in Nigeria to grow 1.9 percent higher than the previous year when it only grew to 0.8 percent. Although that is where more of the growth is, the oil sector does not have physical bodies working to ensure that the industry continues to grow. This leaves no growth in the stock of jobs, leaving the unemployment rate to rise to 2.7 percent since the end of 2017. Many hope that the new Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) will promote economic resilience and strengthen growth.

ERGP

ERGP projects that there will a growth rate of 4.5 percent in 2019, but within the first quarter, there was only a growth of 2.01 percent. Charles Robertson, the global head of the research at Renaissance Captial, believes that ERGP’s 4.5 percent target was not unrealistic, especially since Nigeria was unable to meet those projections. Because most of the country’s economic growth comes from oil, there have not been many other non-oil jobs that have made a lot of profit.

The plan not only focuses on the rate of economic growth but also makes predictions that the unemployment rate will decrease to 12.9 percent. With the lack of available jobs, there has been little to no change in this rate as well. Many of the individuals that do have jobs, however, are earning up to $1.25 or less per day, which is not enough to pay for one household.

Inequality

As the economic growth in Nigeria grows, so does the gap between the poor and the rich. With the poor as the bottom 23 percent, the gap between the two has widened to 16 percent. A lot of the high-paying jobs are looking for people that have received high-quality degrees. If one does not have the money to pay for a good education, then they automatically miss out on the job opportunities that are out there. This means, that the children that come from rich families are the only ones that will be able to get the best jobs in the market.

The current government has been running a cash transfer program that provides 5,000 nairas to each household per month, which is approximately $14. This amount is not enough to relieve any household expenses because “less than 1 percent of poor people are benefiting.” Without any increase in money for each household, one cannot do much to decrease poverty.

Although there is economic growth in Nigeria, poverty is still on the rise. Many countries have faced this problem with trying to break the balance between the two and found it has not helped to decrease poverty as much. Hopefully, as the ERGP continues, it will help make changes.

Emilia Rivera
Photo: Flickr

closing the gender gap in Southeast AsiaGender equality is an important factor in determining the future of civil and social development in a country. However, gender norms and traditional roles in Southeast Asia, sustained by historical-cultural contexts such as religion and village class systems, create a preference for boys and a belief that motherhood is a woman’s primary role. This perception diminishes the skills of women, affecting the way they view their own capabilities and futures.

On average, women in the Southeast Asian region are 70 percent less likely than men to have a career. While it is difficult to assess the full economic standing of women in Southeast Asia, it is evident that countries with higher poverty rates experience greater barriers to gender equality.

Listed below are some of the ways countries at the forefront of gender equality are closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia.

Job Opportunities

According to the Asian Development Bank, most women in Southeast Asia earn between 30 and 40 percent less than men. In addition, the average percentage of workforce female participation in Asia is only 55 percent.

In contrast, Vietnam’s informal and formal workforce holds 80 percent of the country’s women. Influenced by the rise of working women during the Vietnam War, Vietnam’s current rate of participation is due to increasing numbers of self-employed women, especially as the manufacturing industry becomes more prominent than farming. For example, according to the Mekong Development Research Institute, new road development in the Mekong Delta has allowed more women to travel to work in nearby textile factories while their husbands stay in town to farm. As a result, women in the delta have gained equal standing and in some cases even higher pay, thus balancing power dynamics in the family unit.

In environments like this, women are even attaining more positions as executive officers. The Boston Consulting Group reported that 25 percent of CEOs in Vietnam are women. Vietnam boasts a 17.6 percent rate of female board members in a survey of 50 companies, compared to more developed countries like South Korea and Japan, which have some of the lowest rates of female board members.

With 13 million members throughout the country, the Vietnam Women’s Union is an organization that is closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia and implementing gender equality policies in the private sector. VWU has helped to increase the rate of female employment in Vietnam by collaborating with SNV to support activities under the Enhancing Opportunities for Women Enterprises (EOWE) project that assists women in both Vietnam and Kenya. By supporting small and medium enterprises led by women, one of the initiative’s key focus is to ensure 20,000 women in Vietnam gain greater business and workforce techniques by 2020.

Political Participation

The rates of female representation in Asia’s parliaments and political bodies differ from region to region. However, the Philippines boasts some of the highest numbers of female lawmakers. The WEF Global Gender Gap Report in 2018 listed the Philippines 13th place, out of 149 countries, based on its empowerment of women in politics. Female participation rates in Philippines politics is still relatively slow growing with an overall ratio of one woman to every two men holding top positions in government. Yet, in the Philippines Lower House, women occupied almost 30 percent of the seats in 2016 and overall, more than 40 percent of positions in civil service were filled by women. The growing push toward closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia through female representation in Philippine politics is attributed to some of the organizations that are mobilizing more Filipino women.

The Philippines’ future goal is to have more women engage in conversations about gender equality. The Philippine Commission on Women assists that goal by focusing on strengthening areas of women’s empowerment. One of its specific focus areas is the Women’s Priority Legislative Agenda, which creates thorough policies that stand before the government for consideration and also removes existing discriminatory laws that hinder the abilities of all Filipino women.

Education

The narrative around girls’ education has been improving in some countries of Southeast Asia. For instance, in Malaysia, women in Malaysia surpassed men in primary, secondary and tertiary education enrollment rates in 2017. Female enrollment rates in secondary school topped 78 percent compared to male enrollment which stoood at 72 percent.

Since the 1970s, National Union of the Teaching Profession Malaysia has sustained the futures of teachers. With a total membership of 172,995, it has reached many Malaysians nationwide. Its different branches host member activities and local committees. A few of the union’s accomplishments have been establishing counselor positions in schools, extending maternity leave time from 60 days to 90 days and increasing the basic salary of teachers by 13 percent. These successes challenge the systemic problems around education and push the government to make necessary changes to support the nation’s educators.

Final Thoughts

Over the past two decades, several countries have already made progress in closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia through employment, politics and education. While female participation rates have increased in the region, improvement is still needed to ensure that equality policies are being created in all areas of Southeast Asian life and that opportunities are not withheld from women.

After all, continuing to uphold gender discrimination could result in worldwide economic loss. The OECD estimates a 7.5 percent loss of GDP. In addition, ADP found, via a simulation model, that closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia and across the world could contribute to a 30 percent increase per capita income of an average Asian economy in one generation and reduce poverty rates. Therefore, increasing women’s standing in the Southeast Asian region will also increase the region’s economic prosperity.

– Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

US Foreign Aid
U.S. foreign aid has come under fire in the past few years and the small percentage of the budget the U.S. commits to foreign aid is shrinking. Many economists and politicians criticize this trend in the federal government, citing the many benefits of investing in developing countries. Luckily, independent nonprofits, like The Borgen Project, have dedicated themselves to helping the developing world for years. People often wonder why The Borgen Project focusses on international aid when there are so many Americans in need of help.

The short answer is that improving conditions around the world is beneficial to the U.S. It is a little more nuanced than that though. Unpacking the many reasons can help people better understand The Borgen Project’s continued commitment to supporting and enriching the world’s developing countries and why U.S. foreign aid matters.

Global Economic Growth

The most direct impact is the economic enrichment the U.S. experiences when it aids other countries. One of the most compelling examples of this is the way developing countries affected global economic growth after the 2008 global recession. According to the World Bank, “Strong economic growth in developing countries became an engine for the global economy … accounting for roughly 50 percent of all global growth.” Economic growth for the world is economic growth in America. One can see further importance on the developing worlds in their dependence on U.S. imports. As of 2014, half of all U.S. exports went to markets in developing countries. The economic growth of America directly links to the continued economic prosperity of these developing countries. When one grows, so does the other.

The US’s Security

The U.S.’s security is another reason why U.S. foreign aid matters. Countries that have aid coming in from the U.S. are much more likely to work with America in its global initiatives. Additionally, it helps foster an all-around safer global community. The Sept. 11 attacks were a grim reminder of what can happen when people ignore the suffering of foreign people. While foreign aid does not directly prevent the rise of terrorism, people with more wealth and stability in their lives are less likely to fall prey to dangerous organizations or demagogues.

Finally, as the richest and most powerful nation in the world, it is the U.S.’s moral duty to help those in need. One study found that many Americans overestimate how much the government spends on foreign aid and would be willing to spend up to 14 times that amount. In 2016, the U.S. spent roughly $49 billion on foreign aid or about 1.2 percent of the federal budget. However, this number will likely continue to decrease under the Trump administration. The president stated many times that he wishes to make drastic cuts to foreign aid.

While it is tempting to forsake U.S. foreign aid in favor of more domestic endeavors, investing in other countries has incredible potential to help the continued growth and security of America for years to come. Investing in developing countries benefits Americans in several ways, and that is why U.S. foreign aid matters.

– Henry Burkert
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, is a diverse geographical region housing almost 50 million people. With a wealth of natural resources, Central America has the potential for sustainable and rigorous economic growth as it seeks to mitigate political unrest and economic inequality. Within this context, here are 10 facts about economic development in Central America.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America

  1. Central America is an Agricultural Powerhouse: The backbone of Central America’s economy relies on agricultural exports, such as coffee, bananas and pineapples. For example, agriculture comprises 24 percent of Costa Rica’s total GDP and 17 percent of Panama’s total GDP. In 2001, agriculture employed approximately 34 percent of Honduras.
  2. Central America’s Growing Tourism Industry: Belize and El Salvador contribute to Central America’s robust tourism industry. In Belize, tourism is the most important economic sector in the country next to agriculture. In 2017, El Salvador reported a 23.2 percent annual growth rate from domestic tourism. El Salvador expects to generate $75.5 million from its tourism industry in 2019.
  3. Severe Weather and Foreign Aid: In the wake of Hurricane Nate, Costa Rica alone reported $562 million in damages, severely crippling its agricultural and transportation industries. In response, USAID provided $150,000 to support immediate humanitarian efforts. More recently, in 2018, El Fuego erupted in Guatemala affecting approximately 1.7 million people. World Vision, a non-profit organization, responded by sending 30,000 boxes of medical supplies to affected regions.
  4. Tepid Economic Growth: One of the key 10 facts about economic development in Central America that informs policy-making is an analysis of GDP growth and poverty rates. As a whole, Central America has an average poverty rate of 34.2 percent. Guatemala has the highest rate of 59 percent as of 2014. Mitigating these poverty rates is difficult since GDP growth has slowly decelerated in many Central American countries. In the case of Honduras, declining prices for agricultural exports have left its main industries struggling. People expect Honduras’ GDP to grow with the decline in poverty. The nation’s poverty rate came down to 3.6 percent in 2019, from 4.8 percent in 2017.
  5. Political Uncertainty and Economic Expectations: Since 2018, many Nicaraguans protested the political oppression of their president, Daniel Ortega. They believe he is tamping out political opposition from human rights groups and using the poor to maintain political power. This recent political upheaval has alarmed investors, who have withdrawn an estimated $634 million according to Bloomberg. In this tumultuous climate, the International Monetary Fund believes Nicaragua’s economy could spiral into recession with unemployment climbing to 10 percent.
  6. Underinvestment in Infrastructure: Due to extreme weather and political upheaval, Central America often lacks the infrastructure to mobilize its economy. Central American countries spend only around two percent of their total GDP on transportation and infrastructure. Panama is a testament to the benefits of investing in infrastructure. The revenue generated from the Cobre Panama mine and the Panama canal gave the nation an average GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent over the past five years.
  7. Maintaining Trade Agreements: One way Central American countries have greatly benefited in terms of economic development is through maintaining trade agreements like CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). Between 2006 and 2016, Central America’s total trade with the U.S. increased by 17 percent and with the world, 20 percent.
  8. Grassroots Technology and Collaboration: Grassroots organizations have achieved economic success. For example, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with Nicaragua and Peru to promote agricultural productivity in its host country of Colombia. The CIAT has 51 active projects in Central America and 15 projects currently in Nicaragua. Such projects include investments in innovative technology that would make the rural family’s crops more resilient and more abundant.
  9. The Future is Technical: Costa Rica has successfully created a robust medical-device manufacturing industry dating back to 1987. It now generates $4 billion in exports for the country. Even more surprising, in 2017, medical device exports surpassed agricultural products for the first time in the nation’s history. Costa Rica boasts quality human resources and manufacturing and houses 96 operating firms in the medical device manufacturing sector.
  10. The Exemplary Success of Panama: Many expect Panama’s GDP to grow at six percent compared to 3.6 percent in 2018 and the country has cut its poverty rate from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent. Panama’s performance comes from investing in industries like mining, transportation and logistics. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Panama must continue to invest in education. One initiative in the U.S. that is investing in education in Panama is the Environmental Education Through the Transformation of Schools into Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools program at Johns Hopkins University. Its goal is to educate Panama’s students on how to make their public school system more environmentally friendly.

Central America has positioned itself well for future economic prosperity based on this brief analysis of 10 facts about economic development in Central America. In order to accelerate Central America’s path of economic growth, World Vision has run a program in Guatemala since the 1970s that provides sponsorships, education, health and protective rights to children. Other organizations, like CIAT, have more than 60 programs in the Central American regions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

Wealth Inequality and Poverty
Wealth inequality is an issue that plagues many developing nations, causing a widening distance between the wealthy and the poor in those nations. When a country distributes income among its people in an unequal manner, even a country with a growing economy can advance slower. Impoverished people are often unable to improve their situation due to the number of barriers they face, and some people may even be more prone to falling below the poverty line when a country’s economy advances without them. Here are examples of how severe wealth inequality contributes to poverty and how these issues can be corrected.

The Challenges of Inequality

The country the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) lists as having the highest wealth inequality is South Africa, according to its GINI index of 63 percent (a measure of inequality, with zero percent representing perfect equality and 100 percent being maximum inequality). Though South Africa has a high GDP compared to the world average, it still has a large number of people below the poverty line. In 2014, 18.9 percent of the population was living on less than $1.90 per day. In many cases, the poorest workers in South Africa are living on wages of $50 per month. Many of these issues are due to the country’s history of apartheid, which entrenched economic differences between different groups of people. Though South Africa removed that system 25 years ago, its legacy still impacts the country today.

Brazil is another country where wealth inequality contributes to poverty in a significant capacity. Despite others earmarking the country as one quickly moving towards becoming a developed nation, 10 percent of the population still lives in extreme poverty. Though the country’s economic growth is significant, 61 percent of that growth from 2001 to 2015 has gone directly to the richest 10 percent of the country. This means that the majority of Brazil’s population has only seen 39 percent of all of its economic progress.

This inequality contributes significantly to the problem of poverty and prevents the poorest of the country from improving. Progress in Brazil on this issue with regards to specific groups of people is slow. By current projections, women in Brazil will not close the wage gap until 2047. As for black Brazilians, estimates determine that they will not earn as much as white Brazilians until 2089 by the current rate.

What Can Countries Do?

One should note that while wealth inequality contributes to poverty, the exact causes behind wealth inequality can vary greatly and come about as a result of many different social, political and economic factors. South Africa’s inequality as a result of historical institutions may be an issue more difficult to tackle. According to experts, however, a good start would be to offer more opportunities to those who those institutions have systematically excluded.

In Brazil, access to education remains seriously dependent on one’s family income. As a result, the majority of Brazilian adults have no secondary education. Expanding access to more education opportunities may be key to alleviating income inequality and poverty in Brazil.

Inequality is a serious issue in countries like South Africa and Brazil, and the issues that connect with it contribute to poverty’s continued existence and expansion. According to a study published by members of the U.N., there is a strong link between income inequality and poverty. In order to reduce poverty, it follows that countries must also correct inequality. With more legislation and NGOs assisting individuals severely disadvantaged by income inequality, ending poverty seems a lot more accomplishable.

– Jade Follette
Photo: Flickr

Consequences of Poor Living Conditions on the CommunityThe direct consequences of poverty are well-known — limited access to food, water, health care or education are a few examples. However, the consequences of poor living conditions on the community are seldom discussed; indeed, if members of a community suffer from poor living conditions, then the entire community suffers.

Effects on Community

Studies show that poor living conditions negatively affect physical and mental health. In fact, one study found that individuals in poor housing exhibit worse mental health in 100 percent of cases. Additionally, inadequate or unsanitary living conditions can contribute to the spread of disease, which adds to health care costs, prevents individuals from working and threatens the well-being of community members.

The health ramifications of poor living conditions on individuals extend to entire communities as well. Overcrowded areas are prone to suffer from infectious diseases, especially if there are unsanitary conditions. Mental health issues decrease an individual’s chance of finding employment, which can hinder a community’s productivity and economic activity.

Educational and Social Impacts

Yet another consequence of poor living conditions on the community is the degree to which they affect educational attainment. Poor living conditions inhibit a child’s ability to receive the best possible education, no matter the country or region. And a substandard education affects the entire community negatively. Well-educated populations, on the other hand, provide a myriad of advantages for a community, such as higher wages, more opportunities for innovation and greater rates of investment. Community development programs that focus on education remain among the best strategies to combat poor living conditions worldwide.

One of the less examined consequences of poor living conditions on the community is the impact on social bonds. As discussed, poverty has a detrimental impact on mental health; further, it can negatively affect families, relationships and essential social networks. The simple truth is that poor living conditions shift the attention of individuals toward their daily struggle with poverty. Instead of, for example, participating in community organizing, individuals may have multiple jobs in order to support their family. Overall, this hampers a community’s ability to form bonds and work together to improve their situation.

Combating Poverty

Bridges to Community, a nonprofit organization, works closely with community leaders in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Through creating more robust education, health, housing and economic development networks, the organization hopes to initiate and inspire organic community growth. In selected areas in both countries, Bridges to Community builds schools, provides health care and repairs damaged homes. In the past 12 months alone, the organization built or repaired 71 houses and established 70 biodigesters, which cleanly and efficiently treat wastewater.

Mentioned before, poverty has adverse effects on community organizing, but it does not entirely prevent it from occurring. For instance, more than 1,000 residents of Paraiso, San Jacinto organized to build a community center, and they are continuing their work to strengthen health care and education opportunities. The community identified 18 projects best-suited to serve their needs; after completion of the community center, they now have a communal area where they may continue their development efforts.

A powerful way to combat poor living conditions is through community development. Steps taken as a community provide lasting change and often address the root causes of poverty and poor living conditions, such as limited education opportunities and lack of quality health care. Despite the barriers that poverty presents, strong communal bonds prove to be an effective tool in raising awareness and mobilizing community action.

– Kyle Linder
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about corruption in NigeriaCorruption in Nigeria is largely upheld by the state and its institutions, all the way from the police force, to the federal and state executive councils. National officials believe the source of corruption lies in the economy of Nigeria’s natural resources, specifically oil and natural gas. Addressing the source of corruption is integral to both the political stabilization and economic growth of Nigeria. Here are 10 important facts about corruption in Nigeria.

10 Facts About Corruption in Nigeria

  1. Corruption in Nigeria is persecuted via the Criminal Code and the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Act. Bribes, embezzlement and money laundering are punishable with prison terms between seven and 15 years. However, according to Transparency International, “nearly half of Nigerians perceive the judicial system to be corrupt… plagued by understaffing, underfunding, inefficiency and corruption.”
  2. In 2007, the Nigerian government passed the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA), which seeks to increase transparency within the country’s economic transactions. However, to date, there is no available data on the Act’s direct impact on minimizing corruption in Nigeria. To combat this shortcoming, civil society organizations have been working to assess the adequacy and legality of major Nigerian institutions suspected of corruption.
  3. The Public Procurement Act of 2007 works in conjunction with the FRA to eradicate corruption within government procurement of goods, a practice which is regulated very strictly internationally. During Goodluck Jonathan’s five year term as President, the Presidential Committee on Arms Procurement discovered that more $15 billion were diverted from the state treasury under fraudulent weapon exchanges.
  4. The Nigerian judiciary system has rather comprehensive laws against corruption, but its officials are often primary targets for bribes. In the fall of 2016, Supreme Court Justice Sylvester Ngwuta was persecuted on 15 different counts of fraud. In October of that year, the Nigerian government also uncovered a conspiracy including other Supreme Court justices involving more than $800,000.
  5. Government officials are also often bribed by companies seeking to evade corporate laws. The GAN Business Anti-Corruption Portal estimates that one in four companies “give gifts in order to obtain an operating license.” Standardizing the licensing process would likely result in a decrease in bribery at this level.
  6. Oil companies specifically have been closely monitored for both economic and political corruption. In 2015, President Goodluck Jonathan was accused of funding his reelection campaign with more than $2 billion from Excess Crude Oil.
  7. Tax evasion is also a common practice among big companies. In 2016, the Nigerian government discovered 700,000 businesses that had never paid taxes. Studies estimate Nigeria’s tax revenue at 8 percent of the country’s GDP, which is low in comparison countries of similar size, demographics and economy.
  8. Acquiring property in Nigeria can be difficult, given the competitiveness of owning land that is rich with natural resources. As such, businesses often bribe state governors to be given preferential construction permits. The Federal Capital Development Authority, located in Abuja, Nigeria, oversees this.
  9. PricewaterhouseCoopers, or PwC, estimates that the state of corruption in Nigeria “could cost up to 37 percent of GDP by 2030” without immediate intervention. While there have been a handful of legislative efforts to address these issues the past two decades, the World Bank’s report on Fiscal Governance and Institution also stresses the importance of developing data collecting methods to facilitate the implementation of more statistical evidence-based policies. Increasing the resources allocated to the National Bureau of Statistics and the National Population Commission seems like a promising solution for identifying more clearly consequences of corruption and minimizing its instances.
  10. The Federal Ministry of Finance Whistleblowing provides an anonymous online reporting service which provides between 2-5 percent compensation for that tips that recover funds from fraudulent transactions. More than $180 million worth of funds have has been recovered since its opening in 2016.

These 10 facts about corruption in Nigeria only paint a small picture of the country’s sociopolitical landscape. While identifying these issues is important, understanding and celebrating Nigerian history and culture is similarly integral to supporting this West African nation today.

– Jordan Powell
Photo: Carnegie Endowment

good news about sub-saharan africaFor many Americans, the face of global poverty is sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa consists of 48 countries in southern, central and eastern Africa. Four years ago, the majority of people living in poverty were in sub-Saharan Africa, but a great deal of progress has been made in the fight against global poverty in recent decades. The effects of that progress can be seen as clearly in sub-Saharan Africa. Twenty years ago, much of sub-Saharan Africa was gripped by extreme poverty and nearly non-existent economic growth. However, there has been significant poverty reduction and economic growth recently, thanks in part to poverty reduction initiatives throughout the region. These ten facts describe the good news about sub-Saharan Africa.

10 Pieces of Good News About Sub-Saharan Africa

  1. In 2013, 42.6 percent of sub-Saharan Africans were affected by severe poverty. By 2016, this percentage dropped to 35.2 percent. This represents a decrease in poverty rates of over 5 percent in three years.
  2. Since the 1990s, quality of life in sub-Saharan Africa has improved. Infant mortality is lower and chronic malnutrition is 6 percent less likely. Adult literacy rates have increased by 4 percent as well.
  3. African children are more likely to survive common diseases. In addition, more treatment options are available for HIV and life expectancy has increased by almost twenty years.
  4. Throughout the 1990s, sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP growth remained below 3 percent. The region’s economic growth was above 2.5 percent in 2017 and remained above 3 percent for most of the past decade. Even 2016, sub-Saharan Africa’s lowest year of GDP growth during the 21st century, was better than 1993, its lowest year of GDP growth during the 1990s.
  5. The sub-Saharan African economy was predicted to grow at a faster pace in 2019 than the economies of more affluent regions. For example, Kenya’s economy was predicted to grow by 5.8 percent. Overall regional growth was predicted to be higher than 3 percent.
  6. Economic growth is expected to continue rising after an economic downturn in 2015, with an expected average growth of 3.7  percent in 2020.
  7. In 1999, many sub-Saharan African countries adopted poverty reduction policies modeled on the 1999 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). PRSP programs include cash transfers, subsidies and public works programs. PRSP programs significantly increased economic growth where they were implemented.
  8. From 1990 to 2012, GDP in PRSP countries increased from 0.82 percent to 5.12 percent. GDP in sub-Saharan Africa (including both PRSP and non-PRSP countries) increased from 4.61 percent to 5.21 percent from 2000 to 2012. PRSP greatly stimulated economic growth.
  9. By 2013, 80 percent of primary school age children in Africa were enrolled in school. Secondary school enrollment rates also increased. This means that as education improves, poverty will decrease.
  10. In 1990, industry comprised about 21.9 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP. In 2012, industry comprised about 24.6 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP. In the west, the economic transition from a predominantly agricultural economy to a more industrial economy was an indicator of economic growth. A gradual shift away from an economy that relies solely on agriculture is good news for the people of sub-Saharan Africa.

Poverty is still present in sub-Saharan Africa, but the numbers show how much progress has been made. Further, they show that there is plenty of good news about sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa does not have to be the face of global poverty because of the region’s economic growth and poverty reduction.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr

Digital GAP Act
For the developed world, internet access has become a standard part of everyday life. Currently, 80 percent of individuals living in the developed world have access to the internet and this number is growing. However, in the developing world, a mere 40 percent of individuals have access to the internet due to a lack of infrastructure. This number decreases to 11 percent when looking at the world’s least developed countries. In order to promote global economic growth and job development, the U.S. has introduced the Digital Global Access Policy (GAP) Act, a bill that would encourage broadband (high-speed) internet access throughout the developing world.

Purpose of the Digital GAP Act

Ultimately, the Digital GAP Act would fund the infrastructure needed to provide broadband internet access throughout the developing world. The goal of the bill is to provide four billion people living in both the urban and rural areas of developing countries with first-time access to the internet by 2027. The benefits of the Digital GAP Act are manifold. Supporters of this bill hope that fixed access to the internet will “catalyze innovation, spur economic growth and job creation, improve health, education, and financial services, reduce poverty and gender inequality, mitigate disasters, and promote free speech, democracy and good governance.” In short, the Digital GAP Act has the potential to be revolutionary because the ability to access all different types of information with the click of a button would drastically transform the developing world.

Who is Spearheading the Bill?

The Digital GAP Act is a bipartisan bill. Rep. Ron Wright (R-TX-Six), Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA-33), Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) and Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA-Seven) introduced it on February 26, 2019. Additionally, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA-30), Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN-Three) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA-Six) have cosponsored this bill.

On May 20, 2019, the House of Representatives passed the Digital GAP Act. The Senate now needs to pass the bill and President Trump must sign it. The government has reported that there is an 85 percent chance of Senate passing the bill.

The Installation of Broadband Internet

The developing world will gain access to the internet through a build-once policy. In order to fund this initiative, both the public and private sector will invest in roads and other critical infrastructure in order to ensure that the infrastructure will last and that workers install it adequately the first time. The goal is that this infrastructure will be able to reach the poor rural areas of the developing world. Without actively targeting rural areas, only the major cities would gain internet access, leading to heightened wealth disparity. Without promoting the development of all areas, sustainable development cannot be achieved.

The Way the Digital GAP Act Will Benefit the Economy

By providing internet access to more than four billion people throughout the world, the global economic output would increase by approximately $6.7 trillion and raise over 500 million people out of poverty. This initiative would greatly advance the United States’ foreign policy interests because global poverty reduction helps foster resilient, democratic societies, which promote national security and global economic growth. According to the World Bank, “Raising Internet penetration to 75 percent of the population in all developing countries would add as much as two trillion USD to their collective GDP and create more than 140 million jobs around the world.” The bill also anticipates bringing 600 million more women online. Currently, there are 23 percent fewer women online than men. According to the U.S. government, these women would contribute between $13-18 billion in annual GDP across 144 countries.

The Digital GAP Act is a long-term investment. While many foreign aid initiatives look to reduce immediate suffering by providing food aid or funding for crisis relief, the Digital GAP Act looks much further into the future. In other words, the goal of this bill is not to temporarily mitigate poverty, but to end it altogether by promoting avenues for economic growth and job development. However, both forms of foreign aid must work together, for the long-term benefits that this Act could provide are irrelevant if the people do not address the immediate needs of those living in extreme poverty.

– Ariana Howard
Photo: Flickr