Posts

Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia
As of 2018, 31.1% of Ethiopia’s gross domestic product (GDP) comes from the country’s agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors. These sectors are essential to the country and employ nearly two-thirds of Ethiopia’s workforce. Smallholder farmers in Ethiopia are vital members of the agri-business since they comprise 95% of its production and greatly contribute to poverty reduction.

However, these farmers still struggle to increase production. Climate, poor markets and lack of knowledge and resources contribute to this struggle. Additionally, Ethiopia’s population is growing, as it is the second most populated country in Africa. This makes it more difficult to own land and has resulted in smaller farm sizes.

The World Bank is aiding smallholder farmers in order to stimulate the economy and decrease poverty rates. The World Bank finances the Second Agricultural Growth Project (AGPII) as a way to help smallholder farmers in Ethiopia. AGPII helps agricultural services in many ways, such as increasing resources and technologies and aiding in marketing. With the help of projects like AGPII, agricultural productivity and commercialization can increase by managing and overcoming the adversities of farming.

Smallholder Farmers

A smallholder farmer is a person who works on a small piece of land growing crops and farming livestock. Usually, families run these farms as their main source of income. There are more than 500 million smallholder farms in the world. About 74% of Ethiopia’s farmers live on small farms, with about 67% living below the national poverty line.

Speaking on agriculture, Vikas Choudhary, team leader of AGPII and agricultural operations for Ethiopia, South Sudan and Sudan, told The Borgen Project, “smallholder farmers are the backbone of Ethiopia and its economy.”

The Difficulties of Farming

Farming is one of the riskiest and most complicated businesses to be in. As a farmer, you are dependent on many factors that are difficult to control. Here are a few of the complexities of farming in Ethiopia.

  • Climate. Climate is one issue that can largely affect crop production. Unreliable rainfall can cause agricultural production systems to be unachievable. Many smallholders depend solely on the rain to water their horticultural crops. To develop more crops and better the market, conditions must undergo diversification to offer more of a variety of crops. Additionally, focusing on agro-climate and water resources will help offer more agricultural irrigation.
  • Land Management. Land management has become a difficult factor within Ethiopia’s agricultural business. Choudhary stated, “landholding is extremely fragmented. When you are saying half a hectare, it’s not even half a hectare. It’s smaller than that. And even in that, the land parcels are extremely fragmented. One is here, one can be half a kilometer away, a third can be a fourth kilometers away, so management of those land parcels is extremely challenging.” Most farmers cultivate on land smaller than a hectare, and even then the plots can be divided into four plots.
  • Limited Technology and Education. Limited technology and education are perhaps the largest difficulties that smallholder farmers in Ethiopia struggle with. Within the country, there is a lack of improved seeds, pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation. Only 2% of smallholder land is irrigated and as little as 3.7% have access to agricultural machinery. Providing more educational services and agricultural technologies can increase agricultural productivity, and thus contribute to poverty reduction.

The Road to Poverty Reduction

AGPII has many components focused on aiding smallholder farmers with market access and productivity. In 2019, the World Bank’s Poverty Assessment for Ethiopia stated that agricultural growth was the main factor in poverty reduction. The project supports smallholder farmers by enhancing commercialization through an increase in market accessibility, promoting irrigation usage and increasing agricultural services. AGPII has helped 1.4 million smallholder farmers retrieve agricultural services, along with supplying more than 254 new agricultural technologies to assist with crop productivity and possible climate impacts.

The agricultural sector of Ethiopia is essential to improving the economy. Roughly 45% of outputs are from agriculture, and the sector employs nearly 80% of the country’s labor force. Thus, focusing on this sector is necessary, since it is the smallholder farmers in Ethiopia that are the poorest in the country. Choudhary estimated that “for every 1% increase in agricultural productivity, poverty declines by .9%.” Additionally, when asked how smallholder farmers can contribute to poverty reduction, Choudhary shared, “there’s a significant multiplier effect of increased agri-productivity and smallholder farmers are the ones who are contributing, and should be contributing, to this increase in commercialization, and thereby creating jobs, increasing income and reducing poverty.”

Moving Forward

A clear link exists between agricultural productivity and poverty reduction within Ethiopia. “Smallholder farmers are in some way synonymous with Ethiopia,” says Choudhury. Rural areas account for about 80% of the country’s population, and therefore much must happen in order to deliver better technology and education to the farming community.

The World Bank, through AGPII, is one example of an organization contributing to the support of smallholder farmers in Ethiopia, providing the funds to help improve irrigation usage, increase commercialization and supply more resources. Overall, this project is going to benefit 1.6 million smallholder farmers living in areas that have the best agricultural growth potential.

– Sarah Kirchner
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disaster Aid in Paraguay
The landlocked Republic of Paraguay is prone to a wide range of natural disasters. Floods and droughts affect the most benighted areas of the country. Fortunately, both national and international agencies are taking action in aiding the local population, working through COVID-19 preventive measures that have delayed the arrival of natural disaster relief packages.

Natural Disasters in Paraguay

Paraguay experienced its worst floods in 2015 and 2019. Since then, the country has confronted subsequent natural disasters in the regions of Boquerón, Presidente Hayes and Alto Paraguay, with more than 2,400 families and 80,000 individuals affected. Even though Paraguay is one of the most humid countries in the region with a fairly high precipitation rate, climate oscillations have been destabilizing already vulnerable communities. As a country relying primarily on crops and cattle raising, fluctuations in climate and natural disasters can prove fatal for the rural population, not only putting the local economy at risk but also increasing the chances of infections through water-borne diseases such as dengue and chikungunya.

As the South American country that has experienced the steepest exponential economic growth in the last thirty years, Paraguay has taken long strides to increase income per capita and reduce inequality. However, most of its economy is commodity-based, which makes it extremely sensitive to fluctuations in climate. Floods tend to be an especially dire calamity since they directly affect the agriculture, animal husbandry and hydroelectric energy industries.

Increasing Climate Resiliency

According to the World Bank, Paraguay ranks 95 out of 181 countries in the 2019 Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative. This renders the country fairly vulnerable to climate catastrophe, primarily because of a lack of response and strategic planning. Climate indexes such as this one serve to acquire relevant diagnoses and eventually form sector-specific policies that can aid development outcomes.

It is necessary for the national government to take action to increase climate resiliency by adopting adaptation implementation efforts. Policymaking is crucial in this area, prioritizing investments for more efficient climate mitigation techniques in vulnerable rural areas.

A Four-Part Plan

The Paraguayan government has been taking action against these threats. The Ministry for National Emergencies (SEN) alongside the country’s National System of the Environment (SISAM) have devised a comprehensive plan to diminish natural disaster impact in Paraguay. The plan has been included in Paraguay’s Sustainable Development Goals for disaster risk reduction and consists of four parts:

  1. Understanding the extent of damage that natural disasters may cause. This includes encouraging research for preventive purposes and using ancestral indigenous techniques in farming to reduce the environmental impact that slash-and-burn techniques have on climate catastrophe.
  2. Increase governance in areas prone to natural disasters. The government is committed to creating laws related to aid in cases of floods and droughts, and beginning to build sound infrastructure to easily aid affected areas.
  3. Invest resources in building said infrastructures, such as roads and municipal buildings that can withstand harsh environmental conditions. This goal also expects to increase cooperation between national and regional authorities for quick aid relief.
  4. Ameliorate time of response by authorities and communities. This means not only investing in disaster-proof establishments but also empowering individuals and promoting universal access to reconstruction and rehabilitation.

International Assistance

In addition to the government, international aid organizations are also providing natural disaster relief to Paraguay. For example, USAID has been active in Paraguay since 2004, providing aid in the aftermath of 10 disasters. The World Bank has also been focused on helping Paraguay improve disaster preparedness. The organization has identified research gaps within Paraguay’s climate disaster response, including climate variability and water resources. Additionally, the World Bank has led economic-environmental feasibility studies, which are currently lacking. These efforts are all designed to ensure Paraguay has the resources necessary to overcome natural disasters.

Alongside conscientious data-gathering for the prevention of natural disasters and natural disaster relief, international assistance is crucial: it has not only proven helpful during calamitous environmental instances but also during a yellow fever outbreak, the subsequent seasonal dengue epidemic and COVID-19. Moving forward, USAID, the World Bank and other international organizations must continue to prioritize addressing natural disasters in Paraguay.

Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Government
Worldwide, more people have access to mobile phones than to proper sanitation. As crazy as it sounds, mobile phone access can be advantageous. The International Telecommunication Union estimates that out of the 7 billion people on earth, around 6.5 billion have access to a mobile phone. As of 2018, 100% of the population in low- and middle-income countries had access to mobile phones, whereas 55% of the population in low-income countries owned a mobile phone. The pervasiveness of mobile technology can help build expansive government networks. Mobile Government (mGov) could provide citizens and businesses with extended benefits and stir up overall economic growth.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, several countries with pre-established digital governments have launched public services that people can access via mobile phones. The introduction of these online services could be a blessing for developing countries, where the communication between the government and the residents is almost nonexistent.

What is a Mobile Government (mGov)?

Mobile Government is a government-led platform that uses mobile technology to increase active participation in government operations while offering several government services and applications that individuals can access electronically. It provides quick and easy access to integrated data and location-based services and helps to empower citizens. Here are different ways Mobile Government can make a positive impact.

Increased Financial Inclusion

As per World Bank reports, by 2018, the number of people holding bank accounts shrank from 2.5 billion to 1.2 billion in just seven years. As a result, less than 50% of the adult population did not have a link to traditional banking systems. Therefore, to increase the financial inclusion of the citizens, governments all across the globe are undertaking initiatives to encourage and support the development of financial technologies.

In India, Jio, an Indian telecommunications company, in collaboration with the government, stirred a socio-economic revolution by providing subsidized 4G service to more than 200 million subscribers in under two years. Likewise, the mobile currency has transformed the Kenyan economy. More than three-fourths of the population have gained access to mobile wallets (M-Pesa) and can participate in financial transactions.

Similarly, online services can be useful in distributing money among the poor since only a small fraction have operational bank accounts. About 1.2 billion users across 95 countries use mobile money. Many countries use mobile payment services to provide monetary assistance through Government-to-person (G2P) payment systems.

In Bangladesh, the government is providing 5 million families with economic support by transferring money online, ensuring that families have a stable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The usage of mobile has helped reduce corruption dramatically, improve access to financial services and boost participation in economic activities.

Better Access to Essential Services

Mobiles have made access to health, education, agriculture and other services trouble-free for the general public. In the same way, mobile phones are going toward addressing serious health problems. Increased communication can bring awareness about safe drinking water, birth control, maternal health and malnutrition amongst many others.

Globally, 774 million people are unable to read or write. Out of that group, 123 million are youth. One can frequently trace illiteracy to a lack of books. Studies have revealed a positive correlation between high illiteracy rates and a shortage of books. The majority of people in sub-Saharan African do not have access to books and the schools in the region rarely do anything about it. As a solution, several developing countries have replaced physical texts with online books, allowing a larger proportion to access books. For instance, educators in schools in countries like Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria and Pakistan read stories to the children from mobile phones.

Mobile phones can also combat dengue fever in Pakistan. Sanitary workers use smartphones to send geo-tagged images of swamps to the central health experts. Afterward, health experts monitor the images.

The agriculture sector in Ethiopia and Uganda also utilizes mobile phones in a significant way. It employs mobile phones to deliver early alerts on droughts, food shortages, pests and weather-related calamities.

Enables Social Accountability

The governments in developing countries are using mobile technology to promote the use of SMS texts to enhance social accountability among the citizens. A study that took place in 46 African countries unearthed a correlation between high mobile penetration and low corruption rates.

In several developing countries, citizens receive encouragement to notify their governments of any matters that require addressing. In Pakistan, the Director-General of the Passport Office sends a message to the visitors inquiring about any bribery encounters or any other issues.

Mobile Government can be a powerful tool, useful in extending access to existing services, developing further innovative, inclusive services and increasing citizen participation in all realms of the public sector. Mobiles can dynamically foster civic engagement, facilitate transparent democracy, reform the outdated educational systems and create advanced healthcare infrastructure in developing countries. The use of mobile technology can tackle the growing digital divide between low-income and high-income countries. Hopefully, this will uplift the economies and literacy rates in developing countries.

– Prathamesh Mantri
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Nigeria
With more than 80 million citizens living without electricity, renewable energy in Nigeria helps fight energy poverty. Demand for electricity rose throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but the country’s notoriously unreliable energy grid struggled to accommodate the strains of remote work. The Nigerian government’s new Economic Sustainability Plan solves this problem and promises to deliver renewable energy to 25 million Nigerians.

The Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) is Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The country first passed it in July 2020 and it outlines 12 months of government spending in the 2021 fiscal year. The government created this plan to stimulate the Nigerian economy through strategic investments in sectors that it hopes will bring the most lasting growth. This is why Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil and gas producer, is choosing to invest in renewable energy. Here are five ways this plan helps to reduce poverty in Nigeria.

5 Ways the Economic Sustainability Plan Reduces Poverty in Nigeria

  1.  Powering Businesses and Homes: The World Bank estimates that Nigeria loses $26.2 billion in economic production due to insufficient electrification. Renewable energy in Nigeria has the potential to change that. Off-grid sources in particular, such as solar panels that directly power homes and businesses, circumvent the frequent power outages that plague Nigeria’s energy grid. The Economic Sustainability Plan helps promote off-grid renewable energy in Nigeria by committing $619 million to the installation of new solar panels directly onto homes that do not currently have a connection to the power grid. The government is also providing subsidies for private firms in the solar industry to encourage even more off-grid solar energy. Not only will this plan give new electricity access to millions of Nigerians, but the government hopes more jobs in the renewable energy sector will give citizens permanent paths out of poverty.
  2. Reducing Dangerous Power Sources: The Economic Sustainability Plan replaces household power sources that endanger Nigerian homes with more efficient renewable solutions. Many who remain disconnected from the energy grid in Nigeria rely on kerosene lanterns for light, which poses toxicity and fire risk to those families. With a plan to install solar in more than 5 million homes, the Economic Sustainability Plan provides safer ways to lift Nigerians out of energy poverty.
  3. Creating Jobs: Nigeria’s plan creates 250,000 new jobs in the booming energy sector to grow the country’s economy. Not only will renewable energy in Nigeria empower communities that do not have access to the energy grid, but this plan stimulates the domestic manufacturing industry. These jobs have the potential to pull thousands of Nigerians out of poverty.
  4. Growing International Partnerships: While the Economic Sustainability Plan focuses on improving the lives of Nigerians, the formulation of the plan strengthens Nigeria’s ties to the international community. Approximately 15% of the funding for this plan comes from external sources, primarily from the World Bank. Making use of foreign aid strengthens the ties that the Nigerian economy has with international partners and generates more opportunities for future projects that help battle global poverty. An example of this is the States Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) program that Nigeria signed with the World Bank. This program gave $750 million in credits to Nigerian states in 2018, and now the federal government is encouraging states to negotiate additional funding from the World Bank to supplement the Economic Sustainability Plan in 2021 using the guidelines of the SFTAS.
  5. COVID-19 Economic Recovery: Due to the country’s dependence on oil and gas exports, the pandemic severely weakened Nigeria’s economy. The Brookings Institute estimates that the oil sector alone accounts for half of all government revenue in Nigeria, but the impact of COVID-19 led to an approximately 30% drop in oil prices. This means that Nigeria’s oil GDP has consistently declined over the past year, leading to significant damage to the Nigerian economy overall. The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic requires the Nigerian government to stimulate the economy. Part of the Economic Sustainability Plan targets assistance to renewable energy companies in hopes that the Nigerian economy will become less dependent on oil. Low-interest government loans, equipment financing and revenue-based repayment plans will grow the industry and contribute to the broader Nigerian economy.

Looking Ahead

Renewable energy in Nigeria provides a foundation for economic growth that includes underserved parts of the country. The Economic Sustainability Plan capitalizes on this potential and expands energy access, jobs and economic recovery with the power of renewables. Nigerians who could not benefit from the economic advantages of electricity access due to systematic exclusion from the grid should be able to leave poverty as a result.

– Viola Chow
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Chad's Food Security
Chad’s food security is a persistent issue and challenge. More than 2 million people suffer from malnutrition, and 43% of children under 5-years-old have developed stunting due to malnutrition. In total, 3.7 million people experience food insecurity in Chad. Fortunately, many great organizations work to reduce food insecurity. These organizations include The World Food Programme (WFP), The World Bank and The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United States (FAO).

The World Food Programme (WFP)

The World Food Programme has provided food assistance to 1.4 million people in Chad. Furthermore, this organization has provided food assistance and school meals to 370,000 refugees and 135,000 children.

WFP worked with other nonprofits on a project in Farchana, a refugee camp in Chad in 2018. This project allowed about 30,000 people to unite and help build a more self-reliant, food-secure community. The project consisted of reworking the landscape and providing workers with money to purchase food or other necessities. According to WFP, “The work done by both host communities and refugees expands the availability and diversity of food produced and consumed locally, and ensures that local food production and income-generating activities can continue through shocks and crises.”

Furthermore, WFP has developed a strategic plan for 2019-2023 that includes how the organization plans to aid in improving Chad’s food security. The nonprofit will help ensure that people in targeted areas have access to food year-round, meet their basic food needs and have more self-sustaining ways of obtaining food. WFP also hopes to increase the nutritional levels in the population and make sure the government can help feed the population.

The World Bank

The World Bank has supported over 50 projects in Chad and is currently working on 19 projects. This organization launched the Emergency Food and Livestock Crisis Response AF project in 2017. The project aimed to “improve the availability of and access to food and livestock productive capacity for targeted beneficiaries.” Additionally, the project received an $11.6 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA) that focuses on social protection, agriculture, fishing and forestry, livestock and crops.

The World Bank approved a $75 million grant from the IDA to continue the Refugees and Host Communities Support Project for Chad (PARCA) in September 2020. PARCA has helped improve the lives of impoverished and vulnerable people in the country. The project is set to end in 2025 and has received a rating of “moderately satisfactory” as of October 2020.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO)

The FAO has been working hard to improve Chad’s food security for the past several years. Furthermore, the World Bank published an analysis of a project that the FAO and other organizations contributed to in 2019. This project consisted of providing agricultural knowledge and tools to people in Goré, a town in Southern Chad. In addition, the project aided almost 500,000 people and established a process for the community to feed itself year-round at an affordable price.

The FAO provided “emergency agricultural assistance to vulnerable populations” in 2019. Additionally, the organization helped just under 300,000 people improve their agricultural output and prevented them from suffering from future climate inconsistencies or disasters.

The FAO completed the Sustainable Revitalization of Agricultural Systems project which aided about 4,000 people in 2020. In addition, it provided irrigation systems and fences to protect crops. The project succeeded in increasing agricultural yields.

Chad rates 187/189 on the Human Development Index and 66.2% of the population lives in severe poverty.  Despite these struggles, organizations are helping improve the lives of the people. The government of Chad has also been working to help improve the lives of its population. Chad created a plan to improve Chadians’ quality of life by developing human and social capital, social protection and economic empowerment by the end of 2021.

– Sophie Shippe
Photo: Flickr

Bank Access in Afghanistan
Bank access in Afghanistan is a step toward financial inclusion for the rural poor. According to Jan Chipchase and Panthea Lee’s research on the nascent mobile-phone-based financial services that were available in Afghanistan in 2010, theft and bribery plagued the banking system. Person-to-person transfers were not widely available until the creation of the M-Paisa mobile money transfer service. Roshan launched the M-Paisa mobile money transfer banking in Kabul in 2010 when 83 bank accounts existed per 1,000. Through this service and other programs, improvements in the availability and quality of bank access in Afghanistan have been a major contributor towards reducing income inequality and poverty.

Gradually Improving Access

With limited credit available, Afghans were hiding money at home under the mattress, and forms of money ranged anywhere from banknotes to gold jewelry to livestock. The rural poor did not trust the banking system, and the use of the word “Paisa” helped to make the service seem more trustworthy, although it posed access challenges for the rural poor. By 2014, banking access improved for 40% of Afghanistan’s population, with a 7% increase in the availability of financial services. However, access to credit was still out of reach to the rural poor as most of the banks were located in Kabul province, an urban area. This made it more difficult for rural people to get loans to start businesses.

In 2015, a project to bolster bank access in Afghanistan made a step toward financial inclusion for the rural poor with the start of the Afghan Rural Enterprise Development. The project sought to integrate rural agricultural communities into the economy. Employment opportunities emerged in poor rural villages by the creation of savings and enterprise groups along with loan associations. According to The World Bank, the rural poor received assistance in building their own businesses, which increased the value of trade, ensuring new opportunities. This created access to credit through internal lending, which focused on small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs. This program was so important because it targeted people who traditionally could not access the banking system.

The Reason it Matter

As of November 2019, more data exists to support the successes of bank access in Afghanistan that The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific published. The goal of the report was to assess the status of financial inclusion for all adults in Afghanistan age 15 to 64 including women. Financial inclusion in a “broad range of quality and affordable financial services including but not limited to account, payment, saving, and credit provided by formal financial institutions in a fair, transparent, and sustainable manner.” According to this presentation, 15,000 bank accounts exist per 100,000 adults, and in 2021, projections determined them to be 20,000. Expectations have determined that mobile money accounts and accounts that women hold will also grow during the same period. Although the success of banking the unbanked in Afghanistan has been slow, steady progress has occurred toward financial inclusion of the rural poor and women.

It is clear that bank access in Afghanistan and credit is allowing the rural poor in Afghanistan to do better financially. However, according to the World Bank Afghanistan, “the COVID-19 crisis will have a serious and sustained impact on Afghanistan’s economy. Recovery is expected to take several years, with new investment constrained by political uncertainties, continued insecurity, and questions around ongoing international support.” It is important to maintain international support for improving banking access to preserve opportunities for Afghanistan’s rural population.

Kathleen Shepherd-Segura
Photo: Flickr

Distributing Foreign Aid
No unitary world body is responsible for coordinating and distributing foreign aid. Foreign aid efforts generally consist of bilateral or multilateral aid. One country directly grants bilateral aid to another, while several countries pool resources together before joint-delivering multilateral aid. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an example of a bilateral aid organization because only the United States is part of its decision-making process. A strong example of a multilateral aid donor would be the United Nations or the World Bank, where the organizations themselves exercise a strong degree of autonomy over distributing foreign aid.

International Cooperation in Foreign Aid

The World Bank, United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are some of the biggest agenda-setters in foreign aid. While they all operate independently, each contributes to a shared effort and common understanding in achieving their goals.

In 2012, the United Nations convened a large conference to set targets and an agenda for goals in sustainable development by 2030. Of its 17 development goals and 169 targets, poverty topped the list and contained seven targets. The conference determined the most significant and salient issues relating to sustainable development until 2030. In support of this common objective, OECD also incorporated a platform regarding the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This exemplifies how one organization’s agenda can cross over and influence agendas that others set.

The Coordination Efforts of the OECD

The OECD advises the distribution and implementation of effective foreign aid flow among the aid members of its Development Assistant Committee (DAC). Within many different frameworks and groups, OECD utilizes a “gold standard” for foreign aid called Official Development Assistance (ODA). Since 1969, the largest countries convened within the DAC have adopted ODA as their primary source of distributing foreign aid. The definition of ODA is a complicated matter, because, for instance, the countries that are eligible for ODA change over time. Regardless, distributing foreign aid undergoes careful optimization to promote and target economic development and welfare in developing countries. These repercussions are wide-ranging. International bodies from the World Bank to the U.N. respect the standards that the OECD sets.

The OECD utilizes a top-down approach to achieving broader development and aid objectives. The organization regularly measures and assesses its progress in implementing its objectives. This includes providing advice to member countries. In its report on “Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets,” it provided member countries with an assistive overview of strengths and weaknesses when it comes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that the U.N. set. Such feedback helps countries stay on track to best reach the goals. Overall, the study revealed uneven progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. Some targets, such as infrastructure experienced near achievement, but other targets rated medium to low progress.

The World Bank

The World Bank is something of a twin to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, instead of preventing and dealing with financial catastrophes like the IMF, “the [World] Bank is primarily a development institution.” One can see the international links when the World Bank discusses ODA while considering foreign aid flows.

In 2021, one of the World Bank’s primary objectives is to soften the economic blow of COVID-19. It plans to deploy up to $160 billion by June 2021 in support of countries’ responses to the virus. For example, the World Bank provided nearly 7,000 infection, prevention and control supplies and more than 31,000 personal protective equipment to Papua New Guinea. In Ghana, it supported the training of thousands of health professionals and technicians. Today, the World Bank is the largest external financier of education in developing countries. In its 2020 annual report, the World Bank estimated that the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group, would contribute to the creation of at least 1.9 million jobs through the projects it financed in the fiscal year 2020.

Looking Forward

Thanks to organizations such as the World Bank, the U.N. and OECD, foreign aid benefits from higher levels of cooperation than ever. While no unitary body exists to overlook aid distribution, these organizations are filling the gap. Their efforts foster hope for even greater effectiveness in distributing foreign aid.

– Marshall Wu
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Women’s Rights in Kosovo
Since its independence, Kosovo has made efforts to progress gender equality. Its written laws and Constitution declare women as equal to men and one can see such equality at the highest levels with the recent promotion of a woman as acting president and the multiple females operating in high-level cabinet positions, including deputy prime minister. Kosovo law obliges all public institutions to ensure equal gender representation, including in leadership positions, as well. From the outside looking in, the laws in place and the fact that women are in leadership roles in government appear to showcase the promotion of women’s rights in Kosovo. However, the country requires more work to ensure full equality between men and women.

The Reality

Despite what looks like outstanding progress towards gender equality and the strengthening of women’s rights in Kosovo, the reality is that women face insurmountable struggles compared to their male counterparts in everyday life. Women experience discrimination regarding access to property and social resources, and problems of personal security and cultural equality. What many see from the outside is not representative of the traditional patriarchal society that exists in Kosovo, in which men have primary access to economic and social resources. It seems that not even law can uproot cultural traditions, which continue to dominate people’s perceptions of female rights and roles in society.

Property Rights

The situation regarding property rights illustrates the mirage of gender equality and the deeply ingrained cultural traditions that limit women’s rights in Kosovo. Despite inheritance law, which grants equal inheritance rights to men and women, women own only 17% of property in Kosovo; far below other Balkan states. Much of the reason for this roots in the power of traditional societal norms and roles that originated from the Albanian code of ethics, the Kanun. This ancient code subverts women to second-class citizenship. It suggests that a woman must move into her husband’s ancestral home. Meanwhile, it dictates that if her husband dies, the property rights should go to her brother or a male cousin.

What does this mean for poverty? The idea that women cannot own property can trickle into other areas that dictate women’s rights in Kosovo and female access to opportunities and resources. The norms perpetuate the stereotyping of gendered roles, with female associated roles as domestic and males as the breadwinners. Such stereotyping reduces the ability of women to be an equal member of the family and society in terms of economics. It also results in significant dependency on male family members as well as the government for women to financially survive.

Even where women want to pursue their dreams and break the glass ceiling, property rights disrupt their progress. Without property, women cannot gain access to loans, and without loans, many women have no means of becoming entrepreneurs or training in new occupations. This is evident in the business sector where females own only 6% of businesses. Clearly, cultural norms are significant and greatly limit female chances of economic and social progression.

Looking Forward

Despite deeply embedded cultural and social norms, women’s rights in Kosovo are improving. In January 2014, UN Women in Kosovo financed the production of a report to look into property rights and the legal structures that govern them. Other organizations and human rights NGOs have followed suit and undertaken and supported campaigns aimed at researching, spreading awareness and pressuring the domestic government to enforce equal property rights.

Aside from advocacy and government pressure to act to better implement policies to protect women’s rights regarding owning property, the Kosovo Cadastre Agency (KCA), which the World Bank co-created with the Agency for Gender Equality, has created a program to register joint ownership of marital property between spouses. Such schemes are helping women gain the rights they deserve and that Kosovo’s Constitution gives them. The creation of new programs and the pressuring of the Kosovar government are going towards ensuring equal access to property rights, and as a result, equal access to financial and social resources and opportunities to allow women to flourish.

– Elizabeth Alexander
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in 2020
“Everyone is growing.” At the end of 2019, this was the World Bank’s outlook of the economic trajectory for the year 2020. The global economy was steadily growing and strengthening, and only a select few countries were facing GDP and economic contractions. Here is a look at the countries that experienced economic growth in 2020.

COVID-19’s Impact on the Economy

At the end of 2020, the World Bank sang a much different tune than what it did at the end of 2019. After the onset of a global pandemic, the majority of the world’s economies have taken a turn for the worst, the year turning out to be one of the worst in terms of economic growth and development. A far cry from the projected global GDP growth of 2.5%, as in June 2020, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that the world would close out the year with a GDP growth rate of -4.9%.

For some countries such as Spain, the U.K. and Tunisia, economic growth in 2020 had already fallen by around 20% by the year’s second quarter compared to the same period of 2019, a record quarterly fall for many countries. In other countries such as Taiwan, Finland, Lithuania and South Korea, the economic impact was much less than 5% contractions in GDP.

However, while the problem of economic recession was common for most nations, there were a select few that were not only able to ward off a negative growth pattern but steadily grew in the face of a global crisis. According to reports from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in October 2020, only 16 countries would sustain economic growth in 2020 of more than 1%, and 11 would grow at a rate between zero and 1%. That leaves a whopping 167 nations facing economic contraction.

5 Countries that Experienced the Highest Economic Growth in 2020

  1. Guyana: Guyana currently has the fastest growing economy globally, with an economic growth rate of approximately 26.21% in 2020. The mainland country serves as home to one of the most promising newly discovered oil basins globally and a vast supply of other natural resources. The recent oil discoveries and new production began in late 2019. Guyana’s economy is expanding fast and expects the GDP to more than double by 2025. Therefore, while it is likely that the Guyanese economy did face setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the explosion of its oil industry has been able to keep the country’s economy heading in the right direction.
    2. South Sudan: After facing stunted economic growth in the 2010s due to civil unrest, the relatively newly independent South Sudan faced harsh humanitarian and food insecurity crises. However, in 2018, the country signed a new peace agreement, followed by the reopening of many of its oil wells, boosting its main revenue source. Between 2018 and 2019, the country gradually maneuvered itself back into a steady growth pattern that maintained a 4.11% growth in GDP in 2020.
    3. Bangladesh: Over the years 2016 to 2020, the Bangladesh economy has recorded a 7.6% growth in GDP. Such rapid expansion has allowed the country to graduate from the U.N.’s list of Least Developed Countries (LDC). Because of its now stable macroeconomic environment, buoyant domestic demand and export-oriented industry-led growth, Bangladesh has been able to maintain an approximate 5.2% growth rate during 2020, with predictions that it will see an increasing growth rate of 6.8% in 2021 and the coming years.
    4. Egypt: Similar to Guyana, the Egyptian economy has recently benefitted greatly from lucrative natural gas discoveries. Though the pandemic and global economic crisis hit the country’s economic growth in 2020 due to a sudden fall in tourism, remittances and exports, its previous main sources of income, the revenue from its oil discoveries, was enough to stabilize growth in the economy. Already, the Egyptian economy is on the path to recovery with a projected 2.76% growth in 2021, before returning to its previous growth levels averaging at 5.28% in the coming years.
    5. Benin: Due to intentional and effective key economic and structural reforms in recent years, Benin reached a growth rate of 6.41% between the years 2017 and 2019. Therefore, while economic activity did slow for the country heavily dependent on re-export and transit trade, it was able to sustain economic growth in 2020 at a rate of approximately 2%. As the world adapts to and moves towards the end of the pandemic and global economic crisis, expectations have determined that Benin’s economy will return to faster growth rates of around 5% to 7% in the upcoming years.

Looking Forward

It was low- and middle-income emerging economies that were better able to sustain a growth trajectory throughout the 2020 global economic crisis. In fact, China, which the COVID-19 pandemic hit first, has been the only trillion-dollar economy that sustained positive economic growth in 2020. Economic growth is crucial for reducing and eradicating poverty and can lead to social improvements in affected countries. Therefore, the hope is that the countries that are not on the above list will return to pre-pandemic growth rates, and the five fastest-growing nations of 2020 keep developing at this level.

– Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

James WolfensohnJames Wolfensohn, the ninth World Bank president, passed away at the age of 86 on November 25, 2020. During his decade of leadership, the World Bank became a preeminent leader in addressing global poverty as one of the world’s largest financiers of education, health, HIV/AIDS programs and the environment. His legacy as a champion of poverty reduction is worth remembering and is one that future leaders should emulate.

Early Life of James Wolfensohn

Growing up in Edgecliff, New South Wales, Wolfensohn’s father struggled financially. According to his autobiography, “A Global Life,” the financial insecurity that challenged his family through his childhood had a profound impact on his life and was something he would carry with him through his tenure as president of the World Bank.

After graduating from the University of Sydney with an LLB Law degree and later earning an MBA at Harvard Business School, Wolfensohn worked for multiple firms and investment banks. He eventually created his own investment firm in New York in 1981.

Joining the World Bank

When Wolfensohn first came onboard at the World Bank, the Bank was under intense scrutiny. Facing mass protests, a number of failed projects as well as increasing criticism from the investment banking industry and NGOs, many felt the World Bank had lost sight of its mission and objectives.

When Wolfensohn received the appointment of the ninth World Bank president in 1995, the world was facing the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, an intensifying war in the Balkans and around 31% of the world’s population was living at or below $1.90 per day.

Facing a complex set of challenges as World Bank president, Wolfensohn rose to the challenge and began implementing new initiatives and started retooling projects. Under his leadership, the Bank took steps to refocus on social-sector lending programs instead of the ineffective and expensive infrastructure initiatives of the past. Simply put, he reinstated the World Bank’s central goal: helping the world’s most impoverished nations defeat poverty.

Initiatives and Legacy

Wolfensohn’s policy regarding the debt that many African and South American countries incurred best exemplifies this shift in organizational focus. It is the Debt Initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC), a framework for all creditors to provide debt relief to the most heavily indebted low-income countries. The goal of the initiative was to address halted economic growth and slowed poverty reduction due to debt accumulation.

Further policies aimed at reducing poverty included the Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF) and the 1999 Poverty Reduction Strategy. The CDF provided a strategy and vehicle for the Bank to implement the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The World Bank committed to achieving the goals, placing the MDGs at the center of its poverty reduction efforts.

Wolfensohn also committed to increasing engagement with disenfranchised communities such as impoverished youth, the Roma and those with disabilities. He also took steps to help make HIV/AIDS treatment affordable.

Remembering James Wolfensohn

The impact of global poverty reduction efforts that James Wolfensohn spearheaded will forever remain. According to Wolfensohn, “If we want stability on our planet, we must fight to end poverty.” His powerful statements on global poverty will guide future poverty reduction efforts of the World Bank.

Andrew Eckas
Photo: Flickr