ride-hailing industryAccording to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the ride-hailing industry is “an ideal industry in which to examine the opportunities and barriers that women face in the sharing economy.” Using data from Uber and consultations with global experts on gender, transportation and the future of work, IFC and Accenture decided to research the impact of gender parity on the global ride-hailing economy. Their final report analyzes data from Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and the United Kingdom to bring forth recommendations for ride-hailing stakeholders and companies across the sharing economy.

Women and the Ride-Hailing Industry

Among other findings, the IFC discovered that it is relatively easy for women to enter the ride-hailing industry compared to other sectors, and that working in the ride-hailing industry allows women to start new businesses and maintain those they currently have. Additionally, women who use ride-hailing services say that services like Uber help them accomplish household tasks such as grocery shopping, visiting relatives and dealing with healthcare needs. Women surveyed felt that using ride-share services increased their sense of independence and mobility.

Women in the Workforce

However positive these indications may seem, ride-share services must overcome certain barriers if they are to fully incorporate women into their workforce. For instance, to attract more women to both drive and use their services, ride-hailing providers must work to increase personal security. Women often cite security threats as one of their main concerns regarding the ride-hailing industry.

Additionally, gaps in digital and financial inclusion disproportionately affect women globally. This means it is more difficult for women to acquire resources needed to access the industry. These could include a smartphone or a car. Nonetheless, it was found that 40% of women would prefer a women driver when traveling alone or at night. The IFC reports that recruiting more women to become drivers in the ride-hailing industry could create a cycle that attracts more women riders. Thus, it would be in the interest of the ride-hailing industry to work to attract more women drivers. This is true not only to promote gender parity in the economy, but also to boost their own sales.

The Gender Pay Gap

A Washington Post article on Uber’s gender pay gap outlines similar barriers to women joining the ride-hailing industry. The article finds that Uber’s lopsided pay results from men’s more aggressive driving and greater experience in the industry. In addition, they also have a higher willingness to drive in unsafe, more lucrative locations. Uber drivers are paid based on time and distance. Therefore, they earn more making frequent, shorter trips, rather than fewer, longer ones. Assuming that aggressive and speedy drivers tend to be men, male drivers are positioned earn more than women. Changing payment structures in the ride-hailing industry might be necessary to reduce the discrepancy in gender pay for drivers.

Reducing the gender gap leads to national economic growth. That means it is in the interest of both private sectors and entire countries to incorporate women into their workforce. The World Bank promotes economic empowerment through the elimination of gender gaps in paid employment. Through diverse initiatives, they help ensure that economic growth is shared among men and women. The ride-hailing industry is just one example of how women’s employment benefits the entire economic circuit — from buyers and sellers to a country’s overall GDP.

Giulia Silver
Photo: o.aolcdn.com

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in Côte d'Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire, otherwise known as the Ivory Coast, is a country nestled in the western panhandle of the African continent. Though the country has been war-torn since 2010, Côte d’Ivoire is becoming a vital part of the world economy. Poverty in Côte d’Ivoire affects more than 46% of the population; however, the country is working to provide more jobs, funding and resources for its citizens. Here are five innovations in poverty eradication in Côte d’Ivoire.

Working with World Organizations

The government of Côte d’Ivoire is working with world organizations to help Ivorian citizens. With aid from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Côte d’Ivoire is supporting economic growth and the eradication of poverty through Results-Based Management (RBM) and the implementation of Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRS).

Within the PRS document established in 2009, government officials outlined multiple poverty eradication goals. Among these goals are greater accessibility to food and healthcare as well as increased job opportunities for men and women.

Another notable organization working alongside the government to eradicate poverty in Côte d’Ivoire is the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDGF). This organization seeks to help vulnerable populations, such as women and children, achieve financial stability through training, counseling and education. Specifically, SDGF provides education for women who have dropped out of school or who are looking to generate their own income.

New Strategies for Ending Hunger

Among the innovations in poverty eradication in Côte d’Ivoire is adopting new strategies for ending hunger. In 2016, the Côte d’Ivoire government, with help from the World Food Programme (WFP), created a National Development Plan (NDP) to facilitate the country’s transition to becoming a middle-income economy by 2020. With help from WFP, the Ivorian government aims to increase access to food banks and work more closely with other organizations to end malnutrition.

Previously, in 2009, the Ivorian government worked with the IMF and World Bank to establish strategies for ending hunger throughout the country. To achieve this goal, Côte d’Ivoire vowed to modernize storage techniques of fresh produce, make food more widely accessible, increase the production of rice and update health standards for food supply.

Other Avenues for Helping Citizens

In Côte d’Ivoire, the mining sector is undervalued. While the mining industry previously focused on gold, there is an increased interest in nickel, iron and manganese. By expanding geographical data of the land, the mining industry could see vast profit and job increases.

Further, enhancing transportation — public and private — could help citizens escape poverty in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as better integrate the country into the international economy. Allocating more funds to road infrastructure, road maintenance and other modes of transport can facilitate domestic trading. Additionally, it could help individual citizens have better access to basic services and economic opportunities.

Becoming an Active Partner in the Global Market

The 2018-2022 Country Strategy Paper (CSP) suggests that to maintain favorable economic growth, Côte d’Ivoire should attract global investments, employ economic reforms and create more agriculture-industrial chains of supply. With support from the CSP and the World Bank, Côte d’Ivoire will receive loans to reach their economic development goals.

Côte d’Ivoire is further strengthening their economy through investments in the mining and electricity sectors, and by simplifying the start-up process and tax-paying procedure for small businesses.

Mending Gender Disparities Associated with Poverty

While gender inequalities still exist in Côte d’Ivoire, the government is working to make employment and educational opportunities more equal. More than 50% of women in Côte d’Ivoire are uneducated, and 73.7% of women are illiterate. In comparison, only 36% of men receive no education, and 46.7% of men are illiterate. To combat these disparities, funding is set aside for activities that specifically empower women. Further, more women are chosen to participate in important projects, thanks to the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA).

With more concentrated funding in education and the job market, impoverished women can establish themselves in society and regain economic stability. According to the World Bank, it is in the country’s best interest financially to incorporate more women in the job market.

Conclusion

These innovations in poverty eradication in Côte d’Ivoire show the government’s focus on addressing this issue. It is imperative that the country continue to receive funding to incorporate itself into the international economy. By sticking to these strategies and working with world organizations, the government will hopefully be able to eradicate poverty in Côte d’Ivoire.

Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr

hunger in vietnam
Over the course of two decades, there was a decrease in the number of citizens facing starvation in Vietnam, a Southeast Asian country. Each year, statistics that Macrotrends has provided show the percentages of citizens facing hunger slightly dropping. Vietnam’s World Food Bank reports that, as of 2010, its country is no longer an undeveloped country but rather a middle-income country. Still, issues of hunger in Vietnam persist.

Statistics

Based on the annual statistics from Macrotrends, the amount of people facing hunger in Vietnam as of 2016 is 9.40%, which declined by 0.4% from 2015. The following year in 2017, the percentage of those facing hunger is 9.30%, which is a 0.1% decline. Macrotrends also present a line plot on its site, displaying the steady decrease of starvation in Vietnam from 2000-2019.

Root Causes of Vietnam’s Hunger Problem

Despite the decrease in percentage over the years, the number of those who face hunger in Vietnam is still very high. Here are four factors that ultimately connects to Vietnam’s hunger problem:

  1. High Poverty Rates: The issue of hunger ultimately roots to the high rates of poverty in Vietnam. According to the U.N., Vietnam has around 9 million citizens, or 9.8% of the entire population, who live in extreme poverty. The statistics of those facing hunger mirror the percentage of citizens in poverty.
  2. Issues with the Education System: The VN Express International News, or the most viewed Vietnam newspaper, reports that the key to combating poverty is providing an equal opportunity for an education to children of all backgrounds. According to a report provided by Oxfam in 2018, only 3.1% of the population were college-level graduates in Vietnam. As a result, the same research discovered that only one-fifth of Vietnam’s young adults occupy a different job from their parents. Without the proper higher education, the majority of those in poverty remain in the endless labor-working cycle that their parents lived through.
  3. Imbalanced Income and Spending: The Vietnam Briefing, a website that provides insights on doing business in Vietnam, reports that the average monthly spending of a Vietnam citizen is VND 6.5 million, or $280 USD. However, the citizens’ monthly income is on average only VND 4.6 million, or $197.8 USD. Due to this issue, most people have to work overtime to make ends meet.
  4. Agriculture: Vietnam is one of the top five countries that faces environmental challenges. Due to this problem, rice production has experienced negative impact. The United States predicts that Vietnam’s rice paddy production will drop 3.3% in 2020 because of its droughts and incidents of saltwater intrusion. In the Central Highlands, coffee production also declines frequently due to intensive droughts. The food production rate affects the percentage of Vietnam citizens facing hunger.

3 Things the Vietnam Government Did to Help Decline Hunger Rates

  1. Vietnam has launched a Zero Hunger Program, in 2015, which aims to reduce malnutrition rates in children. Its goal is to end hunger by 2025. In order to accomplish its goal, farmers receive encouragement to work with co-operatives and food production chains. This will increase the rate of food production, resulting in citizens obtaining more food. Presently, there are no known updates on the outcomes of the program.
  2. In 2018, the government planned on reforming the education system. It wants schools to help develop students’ workforce skills. Production of labor force skills receives priority with large-scale investment in relevant, job-oriented training. By educating students on varying job skills, they will have more career opportunities. This positively influences their income.
  3. As of 2018, the Vietnamese Government also planned on improving access to credit because it will help highland farmers make strategic investments on agricultural crops that profit more. Access to credit impacts the poverty rate, which in return, influences hunger rates. Issuing credit to farmers helps expand their livelihood activities, help them to improve living standards, and raise annual income. However, this plan still remains controversial because there are many factors, such as the number of household members and one’s age, in determining who gets credit and who does not. As of now, there is no official system providing all rural farmers with credit.

Although the number of citizens facing hunger in Vietnam is gradually declining annually, there are still many communities facing famine. The implemented programs and improved education for children bring hope for the future of Vietnam’s hunger crisis.

Megan Ha
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in MadagascarMadagascar is an island located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of South Africa. Established as an independent country in 1960, Madagascar is known for its diverse culture of French, Indian, Chinese and Arabic influences, along with many others. The island is home to about 27 million people. The majority of these people are currently living in extreme poverty in Madagascar.

Poverty Rates in Madagascar

According to the World Bank, 75% of people in Madagascar are estimated to be living on less than $1.90 per day as of 2019. This number has decreased since the last official statistic in 2012 (when 77.6% were living in poverty in Madagascar). Still, this remains one of the highest poverty rates in the world. For comparison, in the U.S., 1.2% of people lived on $1.90 or less per day in 2016. According to data from 2015, 10% of the world’s population lives on $1.90 or less per day.

Additionally, in Madagascar, approximately 85% of homes do not have access to electricity. Almost one-half of children in Madagascar are likely to experience stunting as a result of undernutrition. One in 16 children dies before the age of five. As an island, Madagascar is at a high risk of natural disasters and climate change effects, experiencing an average of three natural disasters per year. These are responsible for approximately $400 million in damages.

Georgette Raharimalala is a Malagasy mother to three in Betafo, Madagascar. On average, women in Madagascar have five children. Raharimalala, known as Zety, primarily makes her money by working in the fields in her village with her children, buying and reselling peanuts and occasionally gardening where she can find space on her small property. “Life is very hard,” she said. “As soon as we make a bit of money, we buy food.”

However, poverty in Madagascar continues to improve. There are many programs in place to provide economic assistance to low-income countries like Madagascar.

World Bank’s IDA Program Helps the Economy

Zety is eligible for financial assistance from the International Development Association (IDA) on a bi-monthly basis. The IDA is part of the World Bank, which distributes loans and grants to 74 of the world’s poorest countries. The bank aims to improve local economies, reduce inequalities and improve living situations. This IDA program requires Zety to take her children to the wellness center in her village for a checkup once a month to ensure they are properly nourished. She also learns how to cook and provide proper diets for her children. Children in families receiving financial assistance must also be enrolled in (and remain in) school. As a result of the IDA program:

  • 1.3 million children have had access to free healthcare
  • 347 healthcare centers have been refurbished
  • Over 700,000 mothers and children have improved nutrition

The Support of the US

In addition to programs like the IDA, the United States supports Madagascar on its own. In fact, the U.S. is the largest donor country to Madagascar. It has provided foreign aid in the following areas to help reduce poverty in Madagascar:

  • Food: The U.S. was the largest donor of food following the severe drought on the island.
  • Development: The U.S. provides aid in areas that USAID refers to as “WASH,” or water, sanitation and health.
  • Biodiversity Conservation: Madagascar is known for its incredible diversity and has more unique species than the entirety of Africa, which U.S. aid supports.

The U.S. has dedicated $109.91 million to Madagascar for the year 2020, a small percentage of its total foreign aid budget.

While the struggle for basic healthcare, education and income is still prominent for many Malagasy citizens, conditions are continuing to improve for people like Zety and her children due to a combination of national and international policy and aid efforts. Though there is always room for improvement, poverty in Madagascar is being reduced and fewer are living with less than $1.90 per day.

Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Unsplash

Fast Track COVID-19 FacilityAs of July, the World Bank committed $7.9 million in COVID-19 treatment and prevention aid to Egypt with the Fast Track Covid-19 Facility project. To find out more about this aid, The Borgen Project has interviewed the World Bank’s team of Egypt correspondents.

Interview With the World Bank’s Team of Correspondents

1. Could you speak more about why Egypt qualifies for the World Bank’s new Fast Track COVID-19 Facility and why the World Bank spurred this initiative?

“In March, the World Bank’s Board of Directors approved a package of fast-track financing to assist countries in their efforts to prevent, detect and respond to the rapid spread of COVID-19. The Bank organized and approved the fast track facility to quickly get resources to countries dealing with a fast-moving, global public health crisis.

As an IBRD* member, Egypt qualified for $50 million funding, the maximum amount available under the Facility based on the criteria of population size.

More information on the World Bank Group’s COVID-19 operational response is available on our website.”

*IBRD, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, consists of countries that are pre-approved for World Bank lending.

2. What organizations in Egypt will receive this funding? Why are these organizations chosen?

“The World Bank’s Egypt office worked closely with our counterparts in the Ministry of Health and Population to design the project, with funds that continue to support:

  1. procuring and distributing medical equipment and supplies necessary for the COVID-19 response
  2. health worker training
  3. operations of specifically designated quarantine, isolation and treatment centers
  4. mobilization of rapid response teams in contact tracing of COVID-19 cases
  5. development of contextualized messaging platforms and tools to improve public awareness of COVID prevention
  6. innovative monitoring and evaluation of social distancing strategies including community mobilization.

After receiving the funds, the Government of Egypt decides which organizations are chosen to execute specific parts of the project, such as the procurement of equipment. As part of the project, the World Bank’s technical experts continue to advise the Government of Egypt on technical issues related to the execution and evaluation of the project.”

3. What strategies does the World Bank use to ensure its funding avoids corrupt hands?

“With all of its operations, the World Bank has zero tolerance for fraud and corruption, and we take very seriously our obligation to ensure that the Bank’s funds are used for clearly defined activities and reach affected communities.

Emergency financing provided by the World Bank is subject to the same high level of safeguards as regular financing, including reporting requirements and oversight requirements. With the COVID-19 Facility, as in all World Bank operations, we have put checks and balances into place to help address fiduciary risks.

Additionally, the World Bank Group’s sanctions system ensures that fraud and corruption impacting WBG-financed activities are addressed efficiently and fairly, and that a strong deterrence message is complemented with a focus on prevention and integrity compliance programs.

More information on the World Bank’s procurement framework can be found on our website.”

Rory Davis
Photo: Flickr

new world bank Vietnam director
On July 1, Carolyn Tuck became the new World Bank Vietnam Director. The former director was Ousmane Dione from 2016 to 2020. Tuck’s past can be linked to her early days working at the World Bank organization, where she worked in Vietnam as the Senior Poverty Specialist. Tuck was also “Senior Social Development Specialist and Lead Social Development Specialist in Eastern Europe and Central Asia Region”, according to World Bank.org.

Tuck’s Leadership

Conditions in Vietnam have steadily improved under Tuck’s leadership. As of 2019, Vietnam was no longer considered a low-income poverty-stricken country after the extreme poverty rate declined from 50% to 2%. Per-capita income has risen at an exceptional rate, spiking from $100 in 1980 to $2,300 in 2017, according to the UN.

This exponential growth is fostered by investment in human capital. Education rose to 12% of the GDP while increasing health insurance, living conditions, and increased access to land all improved conditions for Vietnamese citizens. The investment has paid off since Vietnam is making strides in international education testing along with health care spending, which was 7% GDP.

Tuck plans to exceed these numbers by making Vietnam a high-income country by 2045. The per capita income would have to be $12,535, which means it would have to rise by $10,000.  

The World Bank’s Collaboration

The World Bank is helping this become a reality for Vietnam and Tuck by providing “$24.86 billion in grants, credits, and loans.” The World Bank also continues to invest in human capital by committing $516.67 million for Vietnam’s transportation, urban development, higher education, and climate change reduction.

There are still some problems the new World Bank Vietnam Director has to tackle before Vietnam can be declared as a high-income nation. Although investments in education have become a priority in the years past, higher-level education still needs to increase. This links back to income levels because families need money in order to send their children to higher learning institutions. The lack of higher income is caused by low agricultural income due to sub-optimal crop choice and fewer yields from the same crop type on the same type of land. The amount of land being used as capital has dropped significantly too by 10% in 2014.

Looking Forward

The way to improve this is by increasing crops that are profitable and strengthen land usage. The investment needs to continue throughout education and social growth. Education can grow by giving equal opportunity to all, especially in an impoverished country such as Vietnam.

Programs like “Save the Children” and “Child Survival Project,” have a single mission: to help children’s environment and education grow exponentially. They also provide health education and care to children in need through school health programs, according to their website. They’ve protected 27,495 children from harm, supported 60,574 children in times of crisis, and have given over eight million children a healthy start in life, according to their website.

For agriculture, The Asia Foundation helps develop Vietnam’s environment by having community-based environmental management, increased capacity of environmental agencies and NGOs, public consultation and advocacy on environmental laws and policies, youth education, and disaster risk management, according to their website. The Asia Foundation has supported laws and policies like the “Tourism and Law on Environment Protection” in 2005 and the “Law on Environmental Protection Tax” in 2010. The “Law on Environmental Protection Tax” was used to redirect public funds toward environmental issues. A case study was done by “Willenbockel of the Institute of Development Studies” projects that CO2 emissions will drop by 2.3-7.5%, depending on the tax rate. The Asia Foundation is supporting the Ministry of Education to help integrate environmental studies into school activities at 10 primary schools in Hanoi, said to reach 6,000 students, according to their website.

With these steps laid out, Carolyn Tuck as the new World Bank Director can lead Vietnam to new economic grounds never seen before and hit high-income statues by 2045.

– Grant Ritchey
Photo: Flickr

Kazakhstan’s Healthcare System
In the midst of a global health crisis, easy access to healthcare is more important than ever. Unfortunately, most people in Kazakhstan were already struggling with limited healthcare funding, high levels of chronic disease and restricted access to care prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the country’s daily new COVID-19 case numbers approached 2,000 in early July 2020, social reforms and organizations like the World Bank have worked to combat this crisis and improve healthcare in Kazakhstan.

Background

Kazakhstan is a country in Central Asia that Russia, China, the Caspian Sea and a number of former Soviet republics border. Once a member of the former Soviet Union, the world around Kazakhstan has shaped both it and its culture. The exploitation of its natural resources and the migration of surrounding peoples into the country have influenced its development and geography. A new movement to reinstate traditional Kazakh culture has resulted in various reforms in both its society and government, including reforms in healthcare.

Health and Kazakhstan’s Population

Poor diet, pollution and inadequate healthcare negatively affect the health of Kazakhstan’s population. Compared with the countries surrounding it, Kazakhstan’s infant mortality rate is one of the highest at 17.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. Additionally, Kazakhstan’s average life expectancy is at 72 years. Moreover, access to healthcare in rural areas has limitations. According to IntegratedCare4People, a website that the World Health Organization manages, the northern, rural region of Kostanay has 266 physicians per 100,000 people, while the rest of the country has, on average, 388 physicians per 100,000 people.

The Current Healthcare System

In the past, the healthcare system has failed to focus on the significance of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, and blood pressure issues, focusing more on transmissible diseases. Recently, the government has expanded primary-care services (generalized care aiming to improve the life expectancy of a population) to combat the growing chronic disease mortality. The ultimate goal of Kazakhstan’s reforms is to transition to a universal healthcare system with greater cost transparency and a better quality of life. Over the years, the government has steadily increased healthcare funding and reduced the influence of private insurance.

The Shift Toward Universal Healthcare

The newest reform, the Compulsory Social and Medical Insurance (CSMI) program, which went into effect in January 2020, aims to create a single-payer healthcare system. The intent is for public insurance to pay for certain medical expenses and regulate healthcare quality. The goal of the program is to reduce out-of-pocket expenses (the cost of care that patients are responsible for), which made up 45.14% of Kazakhstan’s total health spending in 2014. However, despite steady growth in funding, healthcare financing in Kazakhstan is still very limited. Health spending makes up 3.1% of the GDP, in comparison with the global average of 9.89%, as of 2017. With an average yearly income of $26,300 per capita, Kazakhstan cannot achieve widespread public insurance without stimulating its economy.

The World Bank and Kazakhstan

In 2019, economic expansion caused wages in Kazakhstan to increase by 8.9% and poverty to decrease to 8.5%. Though the quick spread of COVID-19 in the country will likely backtrack some of these achievements, the World Bank has set up the Country Partnership Framework, a strategy for increasing economic support for Kazakhstan from 2020 until 2025. The goals of this framework are to expand economic diversity, minimize the healthcare gap between rural and urban areas, decrease carbon usage and increase energy efficiency. Part of the World Bank’s work in Kazakhstan includes offering grants to businesses to improve health and economic outcomes. The World Bank has sponsored and commercialized inventions like X-matrix (a wound dressing for burns) and invested in agricultural technology to boost Kazakhstan’s economy.

Healthcare in Kazakhstan is majorly dependent on its economy. While government funding for healthcare is far behind similar countries, the steady growth of business and investment will allow it to slowly increase. The effects of COVID-19 in Kazakhstan are meeting with productive and long-term funding from organizations like the World Bank. With steady growth and progress, Kazakhstan’s healthcare system and overall health should be able to improve over time.

Ann Marie Vanderveen
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty and FragilityThe year 2020’s biennial World Bank Fragility Forum is a series of seminars and discussions about working to build peace and stability in conflict-ridden areas. It brings together policymakers and practitioners in many different sectors from around the world, including the government, to address poverty and fragility and use international aid to promote peace in fragile settings. The Forum exists in conjunction with the World Bank Strategy for Fragility, Conflict and Violence for 2020-2025 and focuses on fighting poverty as a means to eliminate conflict and violence in fragile settings, acknowledging and addressing the link between poverty and fragility.

What is Fragility?

There is no simple definition for a fragile setting or context since each fragile region is circumstantially unique. The Fragile States Index (FSI), though, says there are many common indicators that include state loss of physical control of territory or social legitimacy, loss of state monopoly on legitimate force, loss of connection to the international community and an inability to provide basic public services. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also explains that there are common characteristics of fragile settings, like extreme poverty, authoritarian regimes, high rates of terrorism, high rates of armed conflict and short life expectancy. The majority of fragile settings currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Fragile States Index lists Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan as the three most fragile contexts in the world.

Poverty and Fragility

The World Bank explains that addressing poverty and fragility go hand-in-hand. While only 10% of the global population live in fragile contexts, more than two-thirds of the people around the globe who live in extreme poverty live in fragile contexts. Experts expect this figure to rise to 80% by 2030. Poverty and fragility exist in a sort of feedback loop, as it becomes more difficult to escape poverty in a fragile setting given poor living conditions and likely economic ruin, while poverty is also an initial driver of fragility. Global Washington reports that fragility hurts economic productivity – violent conflict caused a 12.4% decrease in economic activity in 2017 alone – and is the main driver of both global hunger and refugee crises.

Fragility Forum Highlights

Three lectures from the Forum in particular address key components of poverty and fragility by looking at case studies: the social and economic inclusion of refugees, the use of country platforms to increase the effectiveness of global aid and the effectiveness of existing economic programs in fragile contexts. These lectures were:

  1. Refugee Policies: Increasing Self-Reliance & Economic Inclusion in Protracted Crises – Around 80% of refugees today live in developing countries and, as Global Washington reports, the violence and conflict of a fragile region are the main drivers of forced migration. Lecturers in this session explained that aid to refugees and their host countries must address both the immediate needs of refugees with investment in basic needs like healthcare and in long-term, policy for economic and social inclusion of refugees in their host countries. Refugees currently do not have permission to work in 50% of host countries and refugee mobility is severely restricted across the globe. This makes refugees dependent on aid from international agencies like the U.N. Economic self-sufficiency for refugees shifts the responsibility from these international bodies to the host country and both enhances the living situation of refugees and develops the host country’s economy. The Senior Director of Fragility, Conflict and Violence at the World Bank Franck Bousquet explains in the lecture that the World Bank focuses largely on support to the host country and strengthening national systems through emergency response programs and using grants to incentivize host countries to include refugees in their economies.
  2. Reducing Fragility and Conflict: What We Are Learning from Impact Evaluations – This lecture looks at the impact of a wide range of interventions in fragile settings from behavioral studies on social interventions to how labor market programs and economic intervention can increase stability in fragile settings by creating a market opportunity for individuals through vocational training. One particular study in Liberia explored the claim that economic insecurity can encourage violent or criminal behaviors in individuals. The study also explored how giving impoverished Liberians agricultural training increased the employment and average wealth of the individuals in the study, the root connection between economic opportunity and criminal activity, large-scale questions about what motivates violence and whether poverty causes criminality. The theory that underwent testing hypothesizes that increased economic returns to noncriminal activities will minimize the incidence of criminal activities by occupying individuals’ time, building social skills in youth and reducing grievances with poor economic opportunities. The study found that vocational training can decrease the time that individuals spend on illicit activities, but found little effect on individuals’ attitudes about democracy and violence.
  3. Revisiting Development Cooperation in the Hardest Places: The Case of Somalia – This session discussed “country platforms,” which the featured Center for Global Development (CGD) podcast defined as a “government-let coordinating body that brings together partners and stakeholders to define shared goals and coordinate development efforts in the country.” Places like Afghanistan and Somalia have utilized these country platforms, which are part of the World Bank’s Strategy for Fragility, Stability and Violence for 2020-2021, to streamline aid efforts by encouraging collaboration and joining local government and civic leaders with international donors to better implement international aid projects in fragile settings. Country platforms allow for more streamlined and effective flow from a donor to the recipient country, as evidenced by the organizational progress made in Somalia, where the U.S. invested over $400 million in aid in 2019; the country platform in Somalia has been developing clearer plans for development, humanitarianism and politics and shifting control of aid efforts into the hands of the Somali government to both increase aid efficiency and promote state legitimacy.

The World Bank Fragility Forum has made the link between poverty and fragility apparent. Hopefully, an increased understanding of how these two topics interlink will help eliminate poverty in fragile settings.

Emily Rahhal
Photo: Wikimedia

Poverty in TogoPoverty in Togo is a widespread issue. The nation is one of the world’s top five producers of phosphates, which are widely used in making fertilizers. However, Togo remains poor. Although Togo’s overall economy and GDP have improved in recent years, many worry that the rate of poverty in Togo is not declining fast enough. The disparity is especially notable in Togo’s agricultural sector, in which the majority of Togo’s population are employed. These issues leave many wondering, “What can be done to aid the people of Togo?”

Poverty in Rural Areas

Togo is a presidential republic in West Africa. Formerly known as French Togoland, Togo achieved its independence from France in 1960. A few years later, in 1967 General Gnassingbe Eyadema installed a military rule. After President Gnassingbe’s nearly four-decade-long rule, the military placed Faure Gnassignbe, the son of the former president, into office. Since then, Togo has been moving toward gradual reform to its democratic system. However, the Togolese’s frustration with the slow pace of this reform sometimes results in violent outbursts of political demonstrations.

According to the CIA World Facebook, 55.1% of Togo’s population lived below the poverty line in 2015. Rural poverty is especially concerning as more than half of Togo’s population resides in rural areas. In the World Bank’s estimation, the 2015 rate of poverty was worse for Togo’s rural areas, where 69% of the households lived below the poverty line.

These rural residents, the majority of whom are farmers, make up 65% of the Togolese workforce. Recognizing the vital role that the agricultural sector plays in Togo’s economy, many organizations and experts are focusing on revitalizing Togo’s agricultural sector. According to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), a multi-donor trust fund provides food security in the world’s poorest countries, Togo’s food yields from agriculture have been consistently low.

The Link Between Rural Poverty and Agriculture

The yields of Togo’s major export crops, such as cotton, coffee and cocoa, have been declining for some time. In order to make up for the food deficit, Togo still relies on foreign imports for some basic food items. Upon closer inspection, industry experts stated that some of the barriers to agriculture improvement in rural Togo include:

  • A lack of effective policies that assure provisions of inputs (seeds and fertilizers)
  • Underdeveloped markets for agricultural goods
  • The absence of farming and transportation infrastructure

To address Togo’s rural poverty, GAFSA and the World Bank implemented the Togo Agriculture Sector Support Project (PASA) in 2017. PASA, a $19 million project, aimed to improve Togo’s agricultural output and foster an institutional environment that can encourage agricultural investment. According to GAFSA’s report, PASA brought numerous changes to Togo’s agricultural sector. Under PASA, Togo’s rice yields increased by 30%, farm employment opportunities in rural areas for the youth rose and numerous coffee farms and cocoa farms were rehabilitated. PASA rehabilitated 17,174 hectares of coffee farms and 11,578 hectares of cocoa plantations by implementing improved planting materials and improving coffee and cocoa value chains. PASA is reported to have helped 877,191 Togolese citizens.

Poverty in Togo has a close relationship with the performance of Togo’s agricultural sector. As the greatest source of employment for Togolese workers, the improvement of Togo’s agricultural sector is paramount to ensure a more stable economic future for Togo. While Togo’s economic potential is becoming a reality through steady improvement, there is still a long road ahead for Togo. The Togolese government and many other international experts recognize the importance of bolstering the country’s economy through the improvement of the agricultural sector. Organizations such as the World Bank and GAFSA are already implementing measures to alleviate poverty in Togo.

 

Although there are still many improvements to be made from agriculture to political stability, Togo has the ability to lift itself from poverty in the near future.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in KazakhstanPoverty in Kazakhstan compares to what small businesses around the world face now that COVID-19 has changed the game. Kazakhstan is not a developing country. It is not a top player in the international market either. It is somewhere in between. And with the new and confusing world that we live in now, Kazakhstan is going to have a difficult time maintaining its good trade relations.

Kazakhstan is Like a Small Business

COVID-19 has thrown the plight of small businesses around the world into the spotlight. Now more than ever people are realizing the struggle of small businesses to stay afloat during a pandemic among other larger businesses. Poverty in Kazakhstan is like a small business. It has been making headway in the global market, but now that the pandemic has hit, its economy will struggle to stay afloat among the other major players in the world economy, an economy that goes under spells with poverty in Kazakhstan for many of its citizens. With the GDP per capita increased by a factor of six, poverty in Kazakhstan has decreased. But, this upward trend may not hold if the pandemic continues to restrict the country’s international trade. According to the Asian Development Bank, Kazakhstan’s poverty rate is 4.2%.

The U.S.–Kazakhstan Relations

Trade relationships and federal direct investments are a key part of success for small countries like Kazakhstan. The U.S.–Kazakhstan relations have been thriving in past years, having signed the U.S.–Kazakhstan Bilateral Investment Treaty and the Treaty on the Avoidance of Dual Taxation. And this has improved Kazakhstan’s economy tremendously; in 2006, Kazakhstan became a part of the upper-middle-income bracket instead of the lower-middle-income bracket. Trade makes up 60.6% of Kazakhstan’s GDP. Federal direct investments allow for the country to focus on its largest economic contributors: mining and manufacturing.

A major country recognizing a state’s independence is a colossal benefit to a rising state; and that is exactly what the U.S. did for Kazakhstan when it was the first country to recognize their independence; the U.S. set up an Embassy and a Consulate General in Kazakhstan. Now that Kazakhstan has excellent relations with countries of the east and the west, perhaps it will be able to maintain its footing in the global economy. Kazakhstan has excellent relations with Russia, the Middle East and Asia and is completing its term on the Security Council of the U.N. These are great strides, but the progress that Kazakhstan’s economy has made may backslide because of the restriction that the pandemic has imposed on so many countries.

The Impact of COVID-19

 The World Bank states, “If the pandemic continues to spread and the external economic environment deteriorates further, GDP could contract by as much as 3 percent in 2020, which would significantly increase the poverty rate.” Two of its major cities – Almaty and Nur-Sultan – are already shut off from outsiders. Large corporations have been unable to get loans because the banks are too afraid that they will not be paid back. The deficit has already grown to 3.3% of the GDP as of 2019.

Here is a look at Kazakhstan’s predicted future in 2020:

  • 0.8% drop in GDP because of decreasing demand from foreign consumers and “COVID-19 mitigation measures sap[ping] consumer demand and investment.”

  • 6% of the GDP is predicted to be the increase of the deficit because of the aforementioned trade decline and the price of oil being lower.

In conclusion, Kazakhstan has become a thriving market over the years. It has excellent trade relations in almost every part of the world and its poverty rate has been reduced due to a bolstering in the economy. COVID-19 is affecting every country, though, and Kazakhstan is particularly vulnerable because its economy was still growing, and now may see regressions.

It isn’t all bad, though. The U.S. along with USAID are contributing to a relief fund that will give Kazakhstan $800,000. This money will go towards fighting the virus by preparing labs, tracking down cases, etc. Though the world is certainly not perfect, it is heartening to see the quick and unencumbered responses of countries to help each other.

Moriah Thomas
Photo: Pixabay