About the reading list
As the new year begins, we have noticed the publication of multiple annual reports and other articles which look broadly at the most pressing issues for development this year, and suggest pathways forward for recovering from COVID-19 (both in terms of health and economy), climate change action and (re)building international relations.
- State and Trends in Adaptation Report 2021: Africa – This report by the GCA combines in-depth analyses, case studies, and viewpoints from those on the frontlines of climate change impacts in Africa. It presents a detailed blueprint for action: offering innovative adaptation and resilience ideas, solutions, and policy recommendations. The results are clear and compelling. Adaptation measures can be enormously cost effective and have the potential to start a positively reinforcing cycle of benefits. As these measures protect people and communities from floods, droughts, and others impacts, they also help lift people out of poverty, reduce hunger and undernourishment, raise incomes and living standards, fight diseases, create jobs, reduce inequality, mitigate the risk of conflicts, and give voice to the most vulnerable. These realizable results, in turn, further increase resilience to climate impacts.
- Global economic prospects: Sub-Saharan Africa – Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa reached an estimated 3.5 percent in 2021, supported by a rebound in commodity prices and a gradual easing of social restrictions. World Bank prediction forecast growth of 3.7 percent a year on average in 2022-23 – somewhat above last June’s projections but insufficient to reverse increases in poverty and losses in per capita income. Amplified by the pandemic, previous weakness such as vulnerabilities to climate change, poverty, food insecurity and violence weigh heavily on recoveries across the region as well.
- The World Inequality Report 2022 – This report presents the most up-to-date synthesis of international research efforts to track global inequalities. The data and analysis presented in the report is based on the work of over a hundred researchers over four years, located across all continents and contributing to the World Inequality Database (WID.world), maintained by the World Inequality Lab. This vast network collaborates with tax authorities, statistical institutions, universities and international organizations to harmonize, analyze and disseminate comparable international inequality data.
- Africa Growth Initiative’s top 5 figures of 2021 – Each week, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative team highlights figures related to African economic growth and development. These include visuals from recently published reports that reveal something significant or interesting about trends on the continent. In the final “Figure of the Week” of 2021, they review the five most-read posts from this year: 1. Addressing Africa’s extreme water inequality, 2. Africa’s renewable energy potential, 3. Mobile money dominates fintech investments in Africa, 3. Industries without smokestacks in South Africa and Uganda, and 5. COVID-19 impacts on foreign direct investments in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Educator incentives and educational triage in rural primary schools – In low-income countries, primary school student achievement is often far below grade level and dropout rates remain high. Further, some educators actively encourage weaker students to drop out before reaching the end of primary school to avoid the negative attention that a school receives when its students perform poorly on their national primary leaving exams. An experiment in rural Uganda sought to both promote learning and reduce dropout rates by offering bonus payments to grade six (P6) teachers that rewarded each teacher for the math performance of each of her students relative to comparable students in other schools. This Pay for Percentile (PFP) incentive scheme did not improve overall P6 math performance, but it did reduce dropout rates.
- Delivering quality and affordable health services: Kenya’s road to Universal Health Coverage (UHC) – Currently ranked third in Africa in the Global Health Security (GHS) index 2021, Kenya is reported to have the best healthcare system in East Africa. The Kenyan Constitution from 2010 gave prominence to health and guaranteed the citizens the right to the highest, attainable standards of health. This article by socialprotection.org highlights the design and success of the UHC program in Kenya, as well as the challenges it faces and recommendations for improving it further.
- How Can We Deepen Transparency in Nigeria’s Digital Financial Services? – IPA and the Inclusion for All Initiative conducted an audit study measuring the costs of using digital financial services in Nigeria and compared those with both providers’ officially stated prices and the regulatory cap on fees set by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Their audit exercise focused on three relatively uncontroversial tenets of consumer protection: customers should have access to pricing information, pricing information should be correct, and prices should comply with government regulations. They found opportunities for improvement in each of these areas.
- Social protection and resilience: the case of the productive safety net program in Ethiopia – Improving household resilience is becoming one of the key focus and target of social protection programs in Africa. The IFPRI used five rounds of panel data to examine rural households’ resilience outcomes associated with participation in Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP). They present five key findings, which together imply that effectively boosting household resilience may require significant transfers over multiple years, and that national safety nets programs that transfer small amounts to beneficiaries over limited time horizons may not be very effective.
- Two years of COVID-19 in Africa: lessons for the world – In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa’s rapid and coordinated response, informed by emerging data, was remarkable. Now, in 2022, as vast vaccination campaigns have enabled the global north to gain some control over the pandemic, Africa lags behind. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how easily international cooperation and multilateral agreements can dissolve, especially in the face of a global crisis — and just how vulnerable this dependence leaves Africa.
- Time for Africa to future-proof, starting with COVID-19 – Wealthier countries continue to monopolise the global share of vaccines. Africa has been disproportionately affected by this vaccine nationalism. A WHO target of achieving full primary immunisation in 40% of the global population by the end of December, 2021, was reached in only seven African countries, with just under 9% of people on the continent being fully vaccinated by the end of 2021. The inequity in COVID-19 vaccine distribution is prolonging the pandemic, facilitating the emergence of new variants with potential for immune evasion, increased disease severity, and global spread. Yet, world leaders refuse to learn from experience or heed the warnings and recommendations of experts.
- Inequality kills: The unparalleled action needed to combat unprecedented inequality in the wake of COVID-19 – The wealth of the world’s 10 richest men has doubled since the pandemic began. The incomes of 99% of humanity are worse off because of COVID-19, widening economic, gender, and racial inequalities—as well as the inequality that exists between countries. This is not by chance, but choice: “economic violence” is perpetrated when structural policy choices are made for the richest and most powerful people. This causes direct harm to us all, and to the poorest people, women and girls, and racialized groups most. But, according to this report by Oxfam Novib, we can radically redesign our economies to be centered on equality.
- The EU-Africa Summit series – On 17th February, the long-awaited summit between the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU), delayed since 2020, finally began. It is becoming increasingly clear that Europe’s future wellbeing will depend more and more on the future wellbeing of its closest neighbour, Africa. So, can this summit still do what it originally set out to—and what it must set a course for— and reset the EU’s relationship with Africa as a “true partnership of equals”? In this blog series, CGD colleagues present proposals on the joint priorities set out by the AU and the EU and offer commentary on whether a meaningful reconstruction of the relationships between the two continents is likely to materialise.
- African democracy in 2022: 3 elections to watch – Over the last 12 months, Africa’s democratic trajectory has been extremely volatile, ranging from protests in Eswatini (Swaziland) demanding an end to the country’s absolute monarchy, a peaceful turnover of power in Zambia, and a military coup in Sudan that undercut the country’s fragile political transition. In 2022, developments in three key countries—Angola, Kenya, and Senegal—will provide an important bellwether for where the continent is heading. All three countries face important local and national elections. The outcome of these elections will significantly impact prospects for reversing democratic erosion, the extent to which civil society and countervailing institutions can keep leaders accountable, and the future range of tactics that incumbents employ to retain power.
- The African Continental Free Trade Area’s impact on income and wages – On January 1, 2021 the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) went into force after a 6-month delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The overarching goal of the AfCFTA is to facilitate intraregional and international trade among African nations by reducing costly barriers to that trade. The World Bank estimates that the AfCFTA’s positive impact on wages for men, women, and skilled labor will be most prominent in North Africa, wage gains for unskilled workers will be highest in East Africa, and West Africa is projected to experience the weakest wage gains. However, these regional averages do mask within-region variations.