Posts

Emily Oster
Emily Oster, a University of Chicago economist, uses the dismal science to rethink conventional wisdom, from her Harvard doctoral thesis that took on famed economist Amartya Sen to her recent work debunking assumptions on HIV prevalence in Africa.

Emily Oster re-examines the stats on AIDS in Africa from an economic perspective and reaches a stunning conclusion: Everything we know about the spread of HIV on the continent is wrong.

She brought up an opinion that more exports means more AIDS and that effect is really big, by testing new data and information about prevalence over time. The data that Emily Oster offers suggests that if you double export volume, it will lead to a quadrupling of the new HIV infection. And this has important implications both for forecasting and for policy. From a forecasting perspective, if we know where trade is likely to change, we can actually think about which areas are likely to be heavily infected with HIV and we can go and try to deploy pre-emptive preventive measures there. Likewise, as we are developing policies to try to encourage exports, if we know there is this externality, we can think about what the right kinds of policies are.
But it also tells us that even though poverty is linked to AIDS in the sense that Africa is poor and they have a lot of AIDS, it is not necessarily the case that impoving poverty in the very short run is going to lead a decline in HIV prevalence.

And she also questioned the HIV prevention case in Uganda, the only country in Sub-Saharan Africa with successful prevention. It is true that there was a decline in prevalence in Uganda in 1990s and they had an education campaign for it. But there was actually something else that happened in Uganda in that period. Their exports went down a lot in the early 1990s and actually that decline lines up really closely to HIV infections at that time, according to Emily Oster.

– Caiqing Jin (Kelly)

Source:Ted Talk
Photo:Flickr

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

$70 Million Proposal for Food Security in UgandaIn an ambitious bid to invest in the roads, rice production, and village infrastructure necessary for future food security in Uganda, Parliament has requested over 70 million dollars from several African, Middle Eastern, and U.S. development banks. This money would go on to fund the Millennium Villages Project and the Masaka-Bukakata road project which will allow for better transportation of goods and supplies further bolstering commerce and economic opportunities.

Broken up into four separate requests which include $44 million from the IDB (Islamic Development Bank), $12 million from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (ABEDA), and $15 million from the OPEC Fund for International Development, the loans were laid out by the Minister for Finance to Parliament on February 12. Prior to moving forward with the loan requests, Members of Parliament expressed their desire for an official report on the performance of the current loans. Furthermore, the performance report must be presented to Parliament by Christmas as a prerequisite for any additional financing towards food security in Uganda.

If passed, these loans have the potential to increase both rice production and transportation and contribute greatly to overall development and food security in Uganda. Financial investments such as these are always good news, and serve as another step forward in the progressive march towards global food security.

– Brian Turner

Source: New Vision
Photo: AllAfrica

Imagine living in a slum. There is little food to split between you and your family and you are a minority in your age group because you have regularly attended school before. This was exactly the situation that teenager Phiona Mutesi found herself in when she started learning chess.

The slum where Phiona lives is called Katwe, and it is located right in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, where veteran and refugee Robert Katende began a chess program for children, giving them food in return for completing a lesson. Of his program, Katende has said that he had started it hoping to teach analytic and problem-solving skills that the children could apply to succeed in their own lives.

This was the program that would come to change Phiona’s life and turn her into “The Queen of Katwe”.

“I was living a hard life, where I was sleeping on the streets, and you couldn’t have anything to eat in the streets. So that’s when I decided for my brother to get a cup of porridge,” Mutesi told CNN.

Although she was unfamiliar with the game, as is most of Uganda, Phiona worked hard, practicing every day for a year. Eventually, she began to win against older children and compete for titles. Since those early days, Phiona has represented her country in several international chess competitions in countries such as Sudan, Siberia, and Istanbul.

Although life for her is still hard – she still lives in the Katwe slum with her family – winning competitions and working hard to one day become a Grandmaster keeps her hopeful. A grant that she has received through her competing has even allowed her to go back to school and develop her reading and writing skills.

While Phiona’s story of success has yet to win her the chess title of Grandmaster, she has gained another, unofficial reputation as the ultimate underdog. She is an underdog on the global chess stage both because she comes from Africa, a continent where chess is culturally absent in most countries, and because she is from Uganda specifically, a nation that is one of the poorest on the continent. The fact that she is from Katwe, a slum, is a strike against her even to other Ugandans. However, despite these odds, she has achieved enormous success given her circumstances.

Phiona Mutesi’s inspiring story was written into a book called “The Queen of Katwe,” by Tim Crothers, and was published in October of 2012. Since then, Disney has bought the rights to the story and has started making a movie to chronicle Phiona’s journey to the international chess stage. The Queen of Katwe remains steadfast in attaining her dream of becoming a Grandmaster and is an inspiration to us all.

– Nina Narang

Source: CNN