Building BRICS of Foreign Aid: Putting the “B” in BRICS

Brazil has a solid place among the BRICS countries, but what is it about Brazil that has enabled it to stand along with the emerging economies of Russia, India, China, and South Africa? Its increased involvement in Africa may be the answer. Continue reading


Education in Africa Fails The Test

This month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced that a top goal for the rest of his term is MDG 2, which is “to achieve universal primary education”. In order to meet this goal one policy could simply call for more schools and more teachers, but in Africa, the solution will be far from that simple.   During the Brookings panel, “The State of Learning in Africa”, Justin van Fleet explained that because the quality of education in many African schools is so poor, attending class has little or no impact on a child’s potential to learn basic reading and writing skills.  Along with Dr. van Fleet were panelists Lanre Akinola, editor of This Is Africa, a Financial Times publicationand Talya Bosch, Western Union vice president of social ventures. Continue reading

African Growth: the Role of Demographics and Urbanization

It may be hard to imagine that population growth in Africa could do anything but exacerbate the continents current issues with food shortages and infectious disease.  But according to Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council’s Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, Africa’s high population growth may propel Africa’s economy forward.

The continent has a young median age of 19.7 and the predicted population growth rate hints that this median may stay low for years to come. Since 2000, Africa’s population has increased from 200 million to 1 billion and the predicted average population growth rate is 2.2 %, compared to .9 % in Asia. The young and large consumer base and workforce in Africa may be just what some African countries need to kick-start their economies. Continue reading

Living with Drought: Testing Weather-Index Based Insurance

The Center for Strategic & International Studies hosted Dr. Shukri Ahmed on August 21, 2012 for his presentation Weather-Index Based Crop Insurance for Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia: A Multi-Agency Pilot Project. Dr. Ahmed is a team leader for the Early Warning and Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis group with the Trade and Markets Division of the FAO. He is currently working on a pilot project in Ethiopia to see if weather- index based insurance can create an avenue for greater development in Ethiopia and allow for small scale farmers to reap more benefits from their hard work. Continue reading

Power Up! Geothermal Energy Development in LAC

On July 31, 2012, India experienced a power outage that left 620 million people without electricity for several hours. Both a lack of power supply along with the possibility of government corruption allowed powerful Indian states to take more than their fair share of power, thus leaving poorer states with none.

Energy shortages are not a phenomenon specific to India. Many countries in Latin America also experience rolling blackouts. However, some Latin American countries are launching projects to take advantage of a renewable energy source, geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is created by mineral decay beneath the earth’s crust and is extracted in the form of hot water and steam. Geothermal energy is measured in megawatts (MW). One thousand watts is equivalent to one kilowatt (Kw) and a megawatt is equivalent to a million watts. The average American household uses 10,000 kilowatt hours of energy a year. Thus one megawatt can fuel about 100 American households for a year. In a developing country where electricity is used less, a megawatt can fuel much more.

Greater stabilization in Latin America’s energy sector could do more than ensure clean energy. The region’s energy sector is inefficient according to The Council on Hemisphere Affairs. The region faces rolling blackouts, electricity shortages and gas price spikes. These occurrences are not just bothersome, but create social imbroglio and economic instability. The council believes that the use of geothermal energy “could secure economies in the region and free the countries from their costly oil dependencies”. Continue reading

Let the Games Begin

When one thinks of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), sport is not the first subject that comes to mind. But, according to the UN, sports can play a crucial role in a country’s development, not just for Olympic glory. In fact, some argue that athletic involvement within a country could make the MDGs more attainable.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

On July 27, 2012 Ban Ki-moon, Secretary- General of the UN, called on  “all Governments and sport organizations to provide opportunities for sport, physical activity and play.” He stated that sport “is not a luxury. It is an investment in better health, education and skills for coming generations—critical for building inclusive societies grounded in mutual tolerance and respect….when you see the magic that a ball can create among children in a shantytown or refugee camp, you see the potential that we must harness.”

The UN’s Sports for Development and Peace platform has appointed celebrity athletes as spokespersons for the causes. These individuals help the UN relay important messages about diseases, children’s rights and other issues to the greater population. Some Olympic athletes have suffered from poverty and can relate to individuals in countries attempting to reach MDGs. Paul Terget, a Kenyan marathon runner, remembers going to bed hungry often until his school adopted a school meals program. Dayron Robles, a champion hurdler from Cuba, suffered from anemia as a child due to malnutrition. These athletes, and many others, who know the value of good food and nutrition, help to bring attention to these issues and gain support for the individuals who live in poverty. Continue reading

Crafting for a Cause

A general lack of education in developing countries leads many entrepreneurs to engage in economic activities that require minimum capital investment, activities such as craftsmanship. Jewelry making, for example, allows individuals to create beautiful products for domestic and international markets. However, in a developing country there are many hurdles to overcome before one can be successful in the craftsman industry. There may be a lack of domestic demand for the crafty goods due to market saturation or a lack of expandable income to buy such products. While the option to sell the good internationally exists, gaining access to the international market for arts and crafts is a complicated task.

To reach the export market, a producer must first make the product, then transport it to an exporter, and trust the exporter to package and market the product to retailers. This is a simple procedure for a westerner who has constant internet access and a reliable exporter, but for an individual in a developing country who has limited business knowledge and few connections, the process can be daunting.

Some NGOs seek to ease these constraints and are now supporting small-scale entrepreneurs in developing countries. Project Have Hope is one such NGO that connects craftsmen to markets with a demand for the craftsman’s goods. Project Have Hope links women in Uganda, who have created beautiful handmade jewelry, to American buyers who are interested in making thoughtful purchases. There are many similar NGOs, such as Aid to Artisans, with missions to connect arts and crafts makers to foreign buyers whose purchases will help jewelry-makers, painters, and weavers support their families and gain greater economic independence. Continue reading