Thinking of this beautiful view in Durban on a rainy day here in Berkeley
- Enthusiasm for universal basic income is spreading, with new pilot projects recently announced in Scotland and Finland. An interesting argument for the positive effects of UBI is that it already exists for the 1% in the form of capital income.
“The International Community” (via Ken Opalo)
- World Politics Review has a series of ten articles covering the rise of protest movements across Africa. Another important source of information about political activism in Africa is the Afrobarometer, which currently faces cuts to its funding. If you’ve used Afrobarometer data in your research, please fill out this survey to demonstrate its importance.
Source: African Visual Data
From Gerry Simpson on Twitter: “Lebanon – size of UK’s Devon & Cornwall regions – shelters 1.5 million refugees while whole of UK has about 150,000”
- Satire: The Gospel According to Nigeria. “In the beginning the British created the Northern and Southern protectorates. Now, the nation was formless and empty and darkness covered our collective identity…” Not satire: Uganda invests US$88K in a “porn-detecting machine“
One of my personal goals for the next year of my research is to learn the basics of a widely spoken language in each of the four countries I’m visiting. (A minimal step, admittedly, but I’m only spending 2 – 3 months in each place and won’t have time to work towards greater fluency.) I’ve been pleased to see that the online resources for learning African languages have greatly improved since I first tried to do this with Kinyarwanda in 2008. Here are some of the most useful ones I’ve found.
- Nkyea makes a useful series of iOS apps, including a Twi phrasebook and Akan keyboard
- Genii Games makes iOS and Android apps meant to introduce children to Yoruba language and culture
Goats and Soda recently ran a story about IPA’s evaluation of a negotiation skills program for young women in Zambia. The program was based on a course taught at Harvard Business School. Final results aren’t out yet, but the article highlights the experience of Madalitso Mulando, who successfully negotiated with family members to get money for her school fees.
Then, [Mulando] called her older sister, who gave her nearly $70. And somehow her parents came up with the last $25.
But she still needed money for textbooks. So she called the person her mother least wanted her to call: her uncle, Neba Mbewe. … Mulando’s mother, Dorcus Mulando, says the idea of begging from her older brother was shameful. He’d refused them so many times before. … Like most of us, she saw the situation as a fixed pie. Her brother had more, she had less. Any act of asking felt shamefully like begging.
Mulando, though, had learned to see it differently. She’d learned about things like “core values” and “aligning incentives.” This 15-year-old girl didn’t feel she was asking her uncle for money. She was expressing to him how much she desired to finish her education, something he has often encouraged her to do, and what she needed to achieve that goal.
[In the end,] Mulando’s uncle shelled out the $25 that she needed to buy all of her books for the year. And Mulando was able to enroll in 10th grade.
This strikes me as the development analogue to Dani Rodrik’s idea of second-best institutions. As education interventions go, it’s fairly minimal, aimed at redistributing money from richer family members to poorer. It won’t be so useful for students whose relatives are all quite poor, and there remain large structural barriers to education for women. But it may still produce good results for many students who aren’t among the poorest of the poor, if Mulando’s example turns out to be representative, and it can be easily implemented within the existing educational system.
Lise Rakner, who’s visiting Berkeley from the University of Bergen for the year, recently gave an interesting talk on how competitive elections haven’t done much to improve development outcomes in Malawi. As a rough measure of this, I compared Malawi’s economic growth since the mid-1980s to its neighbors – Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.
(Data from the World Bank, via the Google Public Data Explorer. The graph looks different depending on whether you use current dollars or a PPP adjustment, but doesn’t change the fact that Malawi hasn’t grown as fast as the other two since 2000.)
I asked Lise what she attributed these divergent outcomes to, and her hypothesis was natural resources. This clearly accounts for Zambia’s higher GDP, but doesn’t explain why every country except Malawi saw a steady increase in GDP since 2000.
All four of these countries are considered “partially free” by Freedom House, so it’s not clear that the political environment is substantially worse in Malawi than elsewhere. They also looked very similar on the World Governance Indicators’ measures of government effectiveness, regulatory quality and rule of law in 2012. (Look at the error bars on the estimates – they’re all overlapping.)
(Data from WGI. I didn’t include data from 2000 or earlier to keep the graph easy to read, but they looked fairly similar at that point as well.)
So what’s going on? I don’t know Malawi at all, so any explanation would be appreciated!