Decent LifeEgypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi kicked off the first stage of Egypt’s groundbreaking anti-poverty project, the “Decent Life” (Haya Karima) Initiative, at the first conference on July 15, 2021. Al-Sisi declared that this initiative would kickstart “Egypt’s New Republic” especially in the Egyptian countryside. The massive development and resource injection into education and health infrastructure, primarily in rural areas, appears as if it will significantly improve the Egyptian landscape for the future. This initiative comes at a crucial turning point in a country that has struggled significantly with poverty over the past years. Statistics such as how 32.5% of Egyptians reported being below the poverty line in 2019 or how the pandemic has increased the official unemployment rate to 9.6% as of November 2020 highlight Egypt’s difficult poverty battle. However, with the ‘Decent Life’ Initiative in action with its numerous quality components, Egypt’s economy looks to be turning a corner.

Four Pillars

Within the framework of the UN Egypt Vision 2030 Strategy, the initiative consists of four main pillars:
1. To ameliorate living standards and invest in human capital,
2. To grow infrastructure services,
3. To improve human development services,
4. To spur economic development especially by contributing to the poorest villages with increased access to basic services such as sanitation and education infrastructure.

These pillars provide the foundation for how Egypt is tackling poverty in a more assertive manner.

First Phases

Prior to President Al-Sisi establishing the initiative, he launched an unofficial phase of the project in 2019. This came in the form of him pressuring the Minister of Social Solidarity to develop Egypt’s 1,000 poorest villages. After the success of this stage of the process, the official first phase started in January 2021. This first phase expands the number of targeted villages to 4,500, covering 58% of the country’s population.

Since January 2021, the initiative has taken crucial steps in developing Suhag water and sanitation services in 33 villages, renovating transportation stations at a cost of EGP 183 million (almost $12 million), and creating new transportation stations at a cost of EGP 219 million (almost $14 million). This process forms as the initial stages of the 2021-22 plan of the initiative, which carries with it a budget of EGP 200 billion (almost $13 billion).

The 2021-22 plan for the initiative has specific and bold aims that ensure Egypt is tackling poverty in a decisive and thorough manner. Details of the 2021-22 plan include:

  • To set up 10,828 classrooms,
  • To improve 782 youth centers,
  • To renovate 317 public service buildings,
  • To develop 1,250 health care units, establish 389 ambulances and 510 mobile clinics, and 112 veterinary units,
  • To create 191 agricultural service centers.

Final Targets

The “Decent Life” Initiative has several end goals it aims to achieve which President El-Sisi set out. One of the main goals is that the Egyptian government plans to utilize overall investments amounting to EGP 700 billion (almost $45 billion) by the end of the project, demonstrating that Egypt is tackling poverty in an aggressive manner. President El-Sisi has also made the promise that “the Egyptian countryside will be transformed in three years’ time,” signifying an attempt to minimize the rural-urban inequality.

Regarding education and health services, the initiative is aiming to build 13,000 classrooms and activating the new Universal Health Insurance System by the project’s conclusion. The Universal Health Insurance System will consist of mandatory coverage to all citizens by unifying with the private healthcare sector and minimizing existing health insurance disparities.

UN Response

The UN has responded extremely positively to the official launch of the initiative, with the Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund, Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, stating that the UN considers the “Decent Life” project at top spot for the best application for sustainable development goals around the world and has full confidence that it will provide essential job opportunities for Egyptians in impoverished areas. Furthermore, the UN has praised the initiative as it also confirms the country’s willingness to “implement the participatory planning approach through integrating citizens in the need’s identification stage.”

–  Gabriel Sylvan

Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in the Philippines
Amidst the 7,107 western Pacific islands known as the Philippines, poverty is uniquely endemic. A country of scattered landmass, the Philippines is ranked the third most disaster-prone country in the world, as its close proximity to the equator encourages destructive weather such as earthquakes and storms. Natural disasters disproportionately and recurrently hit the poorest regions of the country, coursing them into higher levels of poverty.

This, along with uncontrolled population growth, exacerbates the reality of poverty within this collection of islands. Fortunately, there are significant plans in the works that focus on kicking such insufficiency to the curb, solutions that include the advancement of infrastructure in the Philippines.

Historically, insufficient infrastructure development has stunted both economic growth and poverty reduction, but there is an active movement toward improvement. Within the past couple of years, proposals have been met with action to pave the way for a change. The following are four important facts regarding infrastructure in the Philippines.

Four Facts About Infrastructure in the Philippines

  1. $7.6 billion has recently been approved to establish new infrastructure in the Philippines. President Rodrigo Duterte has plans for robust projects such as bridges, roads and the Metro Manila Subway. Under the national “Build, Build, Build” initiative, the country is looking to spend $180 billion to renovate and build airports, railways, roads and ports over a six-year period.
  2. Additional financing for the Rural Development Project for the Philippines was approved January 11, 2018. Costing over $2 million, this project aims to promote job creation, especially within rural development. It seeks to boost rural incomes and enrich both farm and fishery productivity in specified regions, as well as to establish essential pieces of infrastructure, like a network of roads, that allow farmers to sell products at market and connect to the urban areas.
  3. The Mindanao Trust Fund-Reconstruction and Development Project Phase II (MTF-RDP2) was approved April 4, 2018. Costing over $3 million, this project focuses on post-conflict reconstruction, improving labor market policy and programs, promoting social inclusion for ethnic minorities and appeasing forced displacement. The objective of the MTF Facility is to advance development in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao by assisting in social and economic recovery within these communities.The MTF-RDP2’s objective focuses on improved access for conflict-affected communities to basic socioeconomic structure and alternative learning systems. According to Xubei Luo, Senior Economist at the World Bank’s Poverty and Equity Global Practice, “Making a difference in Mindanao makes a big difference to the Philippines. Increasing public investment in Mindanao to boost development there would expand opportunities for conflict-affected communities, broaden access to services and create more and better jobs.”
  4. From 2006 to 2015, poverty in the Philippines took a dive. A recent report by the World Bank states that economic growth is responsible for poverty levels dropping by five percent. From 26.6 percent in 2006 to 21.6 percent in 2015, such a decrease in numbers is also a result of the expansion of job opportunities outside the agriculture sector.The Filipino government has a goal to reduce poverty from 13 to 15 percent by 2022. According to the World Bank, plans include the Philippine Development Plan 2017–2022 and AmBisyon 2040, a long-term vision to reduce poverty and recover the lives and wellbeing of the most marginalized regions and communities of the nation.The World Bank’s Poverty Assessment report recommends the following policy directions to achieve the proposed targets: “Create more and better jobs; improve productivity in all sectors, especially agriculture; equip Filipinos with skills needed for the 21st century economy; invest in health and nutrition; focus poverty reduction efforts on Mindanao; and manage disaster risks and protect the vulnerable.”

The sizeable collection of Filipino islands has an undying potential to continue reducing poverty through its infrastructure advancement efforts. Although an extremely complex process, both the booming Filipino economy and government project initiatives are projected to gradually alleviate cyclical Filipino poverty. The future of infrastructure in the Philippines is looking bright.

– Mary Grace Miller
Photo: Flickr

FARC Peace Deal

In Colombia, the conflict between the government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has officially ended as of September, after 52 years of unrest. From Havana, Cuba, the historic FARC peace deal between the left-wing rebels and the Columbian government is a vital step on Colombia’s path to prosperity. For Colombians, peace has been given a chance at last, and it is now time for society to create new hope for its children.

According to the Fitch Ratings, the peace deal is already paying dividends and will allow the government to rebuild its revenue base while also reducing debt. The cessation of conflict in previously-uninhabitable areas would prompt investment and allow space for new international markets, especially in mining and agriculture.

Furthermore, President Obama pledged $450 million in aid to Colombia in the next year. While many analysts do not expect a quick change, the economy itself has been recovering for the past decade. With the coming peace package, the economy will receive a much-needed boost.

The peace deal heralds great opportunities for Colombia, but progress will not come without considerable challenges. Reintegration, disarmament and a period of stabilization will have high costs to begin with. Alberto Ramos, head of Latin American Economics at Goldman Sachs, said that “over time, the economic peace dividend is expected to more than offset the initial costs associated with the disarmament and integration of the rebel forces into civil society.”

One possible threat to the FARC peace deal is the reconfiguration of rebel groups, since nothing is stopping guerrilla fighters from forming new extremist political groups and alliances. Violent groups and non-state actors could mobilize individuals to their cause and set their sights on any political power vacuum created by the emerging peace. Therefore, a new security game plan for Colombia is required.


Noman Ashraf

Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu
There is great potential for economic growth in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu according to a thorough analysis from the islands’ new representative. The representative, Guido Rurangwa, is overseeing nine different projects across the two countries that will be equal to $164.47 million or more as time goes on and relationships deepen.

The projects in both countries will cover a variety of issues such as youth employment and training, renewable energy, disaster resilience, climate and more. An example of this is the Infrastructure Reconstruction and Improvement Project in Vanuatu. The project, which was approved on June 17, 2016 and will last until April 30, 2022, aims to reconstruct and improve certain areas of Vanuatu hit especially hard by Cyclone Pam. This assistance will provide immediate responses to emergencies.

A key project in the Solomon Islands is the Rural Development Program II, which has been in place since Nov. 21, 2014. This project’s goal is to improve basic infrastructure to rural areas in an attempt to establish links between small-scale farmers and markets. The project will also help rebuild production quality after flash floods that hurt numerous farms in April 2014. The project will close on Feb. 28, 2020.

Rurangwa’s analysis is extremely trusted because of his long history with the World Bank and years of experience in the field. Rurangwa joined the World Bank in May 2001 as an economist in the Macroeconomic and Fiscal Department. Since then, he has advanced to numerous other ranks and positions, such as senior economist for Rwanda, his home nation, and senior country economist for Egypt.

This new information proves to be good news for the Solomon Islands based on the history of their economy. A majority of the population of the Solomon Islands live in small, rural villages, engaging in agriculture to sustain themselves and cash economy. The country’s economy almost collapsed in 2000, when the country suffered from a coup due to civil unrest. Even a large number of secondary schools provide agricultural training to students.

Vanuatu’s economy shares similar characteristics with the Solomon Islands’ economy. Also based mostly on subsistence farming, Vanuatu’s main exports include kava, cocoa and more, which are traded with many European nations and countries like Australia and New Zealand. The country does boast a bit more success than the Solomon Islands with tourism and offshore financial services.

The World Bank may also be a contributing factor to the economic growth in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. With 13 active World Bank projects in the Solomon Islands and 10 active projects in Vanuatu, both countries possess a future filled with opportunity and growth.

Ashley Morefield

Photo: Flickr

Clean WaterThe first West and Central Africa Innovative Financing for Water Sanitation & Hygiene conference recently convened in Dakar, Senegal to discuss efforts to increase access to clean water in rural areas.

For three days, 24 governments in the sub-Saharan region had the opportunity to meet with major investment banks, international organizations, businesses and experts.

Their collective goal is to find new methods to raise an estimated $20 to $30 billion annually for the water, sanitation and hygiene sector. Success will bring universal access of those services to West and Central Africa, home to nearly half the global population currently living without access to improved drinking water.

The Joint Monitoring Report Update of 2015 estimates 663 million people globally still lack access to improved drinking water sources. 2.4 billion people have no access to improved sanitation facilities, and of that number, 946 million defecate in the open.

According to UNICEF, no country in West and Central Africa has universal access to improved drinking water and access to sanitation even rarer. In countries with the best coverage of the sub-Saharan area, as many as one in four people still lack adequate sanitation.

Within the last 25 years, the population of the sub-Saharan area has nearly doubled. Growing populations are outpacing government efforts to provide essential services. Access to improved sanitation and clean water has not kept pace with these changes. In fact, improved sanitation only increased by 6 percent and water only 20 percent within the same time period.

The number of people in the region who defecate in the open is higher now than it was in 1990.

Without speedy action, UNICEF warns the situation could drastically worsen within the next 20 years.

The UN estimates global economic losses due to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene amount to $260 billion dollars per year. As the sub-region with the worst access, West and Central Africa carries a significant portion of this burden.


Funding for the water, sanitation and hygiene sector is uneven and insufficient, noted UNICEF. No African country has allocated more than 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product to the sector.

Meanwhile, of the $3.8 billion overseas development aid (ODA) allocated for the water, sanitation and hygiene sector in 2012, approximately three-quarters went to water and the remaining quarter to sanitation.

Most ODA funding goes to countries that are already doing well, and while rural access to clean water is far behind urban access, both external and domestic funding go primarily to urban systems.

“While we know what needs to be done, we have to figure out a way to do it faster and better,” UNICEF Regional Director for West & Central Africa Manuel Fontaine said. “There are a lot of options on the table; what is not an option is to continue to allow children to pay for our lack of action.”

Kara Buckley

Sources: WASH Finance, UN, UNICEF
Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Flickr

Village_South_Korea_DevelopmentWhen people think of South Korea, they may imagine an export powerhouse replete with skyscrapers, neon lights and a booming economy. Few remember the South Korea of yesteryear, a war-torn nation with a GDP per capita of $70 in 1957, equivalent to Ghana. Even fewer recall the New Village Movement. To teach the world about this program that eliminated its extreme rural poverty, South Korea held its second annual Global Saemaul Leadership Forum (GSLF) from Nov. 24 to Nov. 27, 2015.

The New Village Movement is called “Saemaul Undong” in Korean.  Begun by President Park Chung-Hee, South Korea’s dictator from 1961 to 1979, it is based on a simple idea: community-led development. Park provided each of the nation’s 33,267 villages with 335 bags of cement, a half ton of iron rods and a plan.

The plan consisted of four steps that began with selecting community leaders and gathering seed money. Step 2 featured small meetings with villagers to persuade everyone to join. Step 3 was the main phase of the project, and involved modernizing homes, establishing cultural facilities and launching cooperative ventures. Lastly, villages would create their own newspapers, build city halls and partner with neighboring towns.

Within 9 years, rural income nearly sextupled from a household average of 225,800 won to 1,531,800 won. Thatched huts gave way to tiled houses across the country. Rural poverty decreased from 27.9 percent before the program to 10.8 percent after, and women gained a more prominent place in the local economy.New_Village_Movement

Due to the success of the New Village Movement, the United Nations recognized the program as a model for rural development. At the November GSLF conference in Daegu, more than 500 delegates from 50 countries gathered to learn more about the model. Countries with representatives included Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Myanmar, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Honduras and Azerbaijan.

The primary aim of the conference was education for New Village Movement leaders in countries outside of South Korea. Leaders are trained at the Global Saemaul Undong Training Center in Seoul, but the conference provides a unique opportunity for them to learn from each other as well as their Korean mentors.

South Korea has made considerable progress in getting other countries to adopt its model. According to a press release in September 2015, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Korean government, created an updated New Village Movement called “Saemaul toward Inclusive and Sustainable New Communities” (ISNC). ISNC is being implemented in Bolivia, Vietnam, Uganda, Myanmar, Laos and Rwanda .

Whether the New Village Movement will flourish in other countries remains to be seen, but there is reason to hope. Sri Lanka has already implemented seven New Village Movement projects in its country. By following the Korean model, villages now have concrete roads, a city hall and electricity. One village has already seen its income quadruple through the addition of powered pottery wheels. This had the added benefit that local women could become potters.

People often dismiss efforts to eradicate poverty, but in truth, it has already been done. South Korea lifted millions of impoverished villagers out of poverty while entwining them in the larger fabric of the national community. As the New Village Movement spreads around the globe, millions more are sure to benefit.

Dennis Sawyers

Sources: Asia Foundation, Modern Ghana, Saemaul Undong, The Sunday Times, UNDP
Photo: Flickr1, Flickr

Six out of every 10 people in rural Bolivia live below the poverty line. In 2011, the World Bank Group launched its Community Investment in Rural Areas (PICAR) initiative in Bolivia, seeking to broaden impoverished rural access “to basic and productive infrastructure.”

Thus far, the project has maintained an effective track record, financing 612 sub-projects as of April 2015, including water and sanitation, irrigation, infrastructure and livestock protection initiatives. These sub-projects have a 75 percent completion rate, impacting 132,219 rural Bolivian inhabitants. The World Bank estimates that the project will surpass all target numbers, impacting more than 35,000 rural households in the country’s poorest communities.

After a successful start, the World Bank Group has extended an additional $60 million credit on top of the original $40 million loan for PICAR’s implementation. The funding increase is anticipated to facilitate the implementation of poverty reduction and rural development initiatives in 750 new communities, also providing 120 communities with a second round of grants.

By increasing funding, the World Bank Group expects PICAR to positively impact an additional 200,000 rural, primarily indigenous Bolivians, bringing PICAR’s number of beneficiaries to an estimated 350,000.

Along with indigenous groups, rural women are most strongly affected by poverty. Impoverished people face greater levels of food insecurity, limited access to basic services and depressed economic opportunities.

PICAR has been designed to take into account the importance of providing economic opportunities and necessary services to rural women, with 40 percent of sub-projects prioritized and implemented under female directive. The World Bank also reports that at the community level, PICAR has helped to develop 660 female leaders.

“We expect that at least 45 percent of PICAR beneficiaries will be women,” World Bank Resident Representative in Bolivia Nicola Pontara said, “with at least 20 percent being female heads of household, the most vulnerable group among the poor.”

Handing over the reins of agency to those most impacted by poverty is a common theme. PICAR functions by providing communities with financial resources to meet the issues the community members identify with solutions they define based on small projects, completed with local labor and materials.

Through direct transfers of resources to the communities in which the funds will be invested, PICAR seeks to give Bolivia’s most impoverished regions the capital and support to not only participate in, but actually manage their own advancement.

Alberto Rodriguez, World Bank Country Director for Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, spoke on this aspect of empowerment: “[Bolivia’s most vulnerable communities] are able to search for collective solutions to their basic and productive needs, lead projects and manage their own resources, enabling them to control their own development.”

Although Bolivia still faces significant challenges — 30 percent of the population lives in poverty — the country has taken strides toward economic growth. With assistance and initiatives like PICAR, substantial poverty reduction promises to continue.

Emma-Claire LaSaine

Sources: World Bank, UNICEF
Photo: World Bank

In rural Zambia, schools have no access to electricity and work is often done in dimly lit rooms. This is a story lived out by thousands of teachers in the country, including Josephine Munkombwe, the head teacher at a rural primary school in Naluja village.

Munkombwe has taught in darkness for over 15 years, often waking up with painful red eyes due to the emissions caused from the paraffin and diesel lanterns made from old tin cans. Consequently, she has developed poor eyesight.

The life of Munkombwe and her pupils has been drastically changed with the introduction of the $1.5 million World Bank-funded project working to bring electricity to Najula.

The government of Zambia has partnered with the World Bank’s Increased Access to Electricity Services (IAES) project to electrify areas across rural Zambia that currently have no access to the national grid. The project will be delivering solar power and other alternative energy sources to four rural areas in three provinces including Kalomo 1 and 2, Lukulu, and Isoka provinces.

At the completion of the project, 23,000 households and 88 public facilities will have access to electricity. 202 public streetlights will also be lit, as well as 367 staff houses belonging to schools, health centers, and other public facilities.

This project is a beacon of hope to a country in which a mere 3 percent of people have access to electricity.

Munkombwe noted, “When the equipment arrived and our village was transformed from darkness to light, our whole community was energized.”

The project has greatly motivated both teachers and students, causing some to enroll in long distance education to further their studies now that they can read at night.

Naruja is the first of many villages to celebrate the arrival of electricity.

Secretary for the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Water, Charity Mwansa, recently toured the new solar facilities and exclaimed excitedly, “This is no doubt a winning ticket in development.”

Mollie O’Brien

Sources: World Bank, Lusaka Times
Photo: Flickr via photopin CC

Landesa Helps People Gain Property Rights

Landesa is a rural development institute devoted to securing land for the world’s poor.  The company “partners with developing country governments to design and implement laws, policies, and programs.”  These various partnerships work to provide opportunities for economic growth and social justice.

Landesa’s ultimate goal is to live in a world free of poverty.  There are many facets of poverty.  The institute focuses on property rights.  According to Landesa, “Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas where land is a key asset.”  Poverty cycles persist because people lack legal rights to land they use.

The company was the world’s first non-governmental organization designed specifically for land rights disputes.  Then known as the Rural Development Institute (RDI), the institute was the first to focus exclusively on the world’s poor.

Roy Prosterman founded the company out of a deep passion for global development.  Prosterman is a law professor at the University of Washington and a renown land-rights advocate.  He began his lifelong devotion to property rights after stumbling upon a troublesome article.  In 1966, he read a law review article “that promoted land confiscation as a tool for land reform in Latin America.”  Prosterman recognized the policy’s ills immediately.   He quickly authored his own articles on how land acquisitions must involve full compensation.

These articles led him to the floor of Congress and eventually the fields of Vietnam.  Prosterman helped provide land rights to one million Vietnamese farmers during the later part of the Vietnam War.  The New York Times claimed that his land reform law was “probably the most ambitious and progressive non-Communist land reform of the 20th century.”

Prosterman traveled the world to deliver pro-poor land laws and programs.  His most notable work was in Latin America, the Philippines, and Pakistan before founding the institute.  Today, Landesa focuses mostly on China, India, and Uganda.

He aims to “elevate the world’s poorest people without instigating violence.”  The company negotiates land deals with the government and landowners who received market rates.  Landesa helps people gain property rights, so people can focus on health and education efforts instead.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: The Seattle Times