By Rohit Sudarshan
The future of traditional foreign assistance is in a precarious situation. Over the past five years, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries that contribute the largest share of international aid—namely Australia, France, and the U.S.—have seen a downward trend in official development assistance (ODA) as a percentage of gross national income (GNI). Additionally, the United Kingdom’s development agency, DFID, is currently handling a surge of fraud investigations regarding their foreign aid. Countries that are global leaders must promote other financial means for international development. Few options are as important and efficient as remittances.
Remittances are payments made by immigrants to families and friends in their country of origin and represent an effective method for those in developing countries to continue to improve their standard of living. While ODA requires the coordination of government agencies as well as policymakers from many countries, remittances do not face that same constraint. The difficulty in ensuring accountability has meant that governments have misused and absorbed aid money. For these reasons, remittances can be an appealing alternative; they can move expediently and directly to a recipient that needs it.
By Erin Nealer
Microfinance was the trendiest new player in economic development for the first decade of the 2000s. In 2004 Vinod Khosla, founder and CEO of Sun Microsystems, called microfinance “one of the most important economic phenomena since the advent of capitalism.” In 2006 Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Bangladesh-based Grameen Bank, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in establishing micro-loans for entrepreneurs struggling to rise out of poverty. Microlending programs such as Kiva, World Vision Micro, and Zidisha have sprung up to take advantage of the internet, creating peer-to-peer lending programs where individuals can supply small loans or pool funds for larger loans for entrepreneurs all over the world. The ability of microfinance institutions (MFIs) to reach those experiencing the greatest need and to provide long-term solutions for extreme poverty, however, remains uncertain.
The term “microfinance” refers to a broad umbrella of economic opportunities with one common objective: increasing access to financial services for those who are unable to access traditional banks. The theory is that small loans, savings accounts, insurance programs, and other basic financial services will provide the structure necessary for low-income individuals to lift themselves out of poverty, begin businesses, and provide for their families. MFIs that focus on underserved populations – particularly women, those living with HIV/AIDS, and populations in inaccessible rural areas – have the potential to enact great change in the lives of individuals, enabling them to participate in the local and global economy.
Women submit applications for microloans in Ghana. While microfinance is a popular and relatively new vehicle for increasing access to financial services, the lasting impact of microloans on business profits and overall income is negligible. Photo by Rachel Strohm via Flickr.
By Motoki Aoki
In the past five years, the Kingdom of Morocco has been the most rapidly transforming economy in the unstable North African region—and arguably even in the world. Morocco has made an incredible leap in the World Bank’s 2015 Doing Business index, ranking 71 out of 189 economies compared to 130 in 2009. This dramatic improvement attracted the attention of the private sector, drawing even more foreign cash into the kingdom. In 2014, Morocco became the second-largest destination for FDI in North Africa and the third-largest recipient of FDI on the African continent. This year, Morocco continues to win foreign investors’ attention.
Last month, French aircraft company Figeac Aéro announced plans to invest $29 million to open a production plant in Morocco, generating 500 direct jobs. The French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen will invest $632 million in a low-cost vehicle assembly factory, with production scheduled to start in 2019. This is estimated to create 4,500 direct jobs and 20,000 indirect jobs by the time the factory is operational. Additionally, Japanese company Furukawa Electric, the world’s third-largest fiber-optics manufacturer, is poised to invest $8 million to build a Moroccan plant and tap into the growing demand for communications infrastructure in Africa. Not only do these private investments create jobs, they also boost exports of vehicular, aeronautic, and electronic equipment.
Casablanca is an important trade and financial hub for both Morocco and the African continent.
By Samantha Prior
Asia has been a key driver of global economic growth in the 21st century, and will remain a key theatre for development in the coming decades as one of the fastest developing regions in the world. Economies in the region grew at a rate of 6.1% in 2013 and 2014, and growth is forecasted to increase to 6.2% for 2015. However, poverty levels remain troubling, with nearly one-third of the population of Asia living on less than $1.51 per day in 2010.
ADB Headquarters in Manila. Photo available under the public domain.
The President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Takehiko Nakao, recently put out his “Eight Key Actions for Economic Development in Asia”. Citing Asia’s “remarkable progress in development and poverty reduction,” Nakao seeks to explain why some Asian countries have developed more rapidly than others. He outlined eight key action areas that lead to success: infrastructure, human capital, macro-economy, investment and trade, governance, equality, vision for the future, and security and stability. While all eight categories of action are crucial for development, four of Nakao’s points should be highlighted: Continue reading
By Milos Purkovic
On November 5, the United Nations concluded its second conference on landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and produced a 10-year action plan designed to address their bottlenecks related to transit, trade, and infrastructure. According to the 2014 Human Development Report, nine of the poorest performing 15 countries are landlocked and face additional burdens in these areas critical for economic growth. Further, the UN conference highlights growing international recognition of “landlockedness” as a development issue and an opportunity for broad based economic growth. Below are key takeaways from the conference, and implications for development in LLDCs.
1. Trade processes in LLDCs are more expensive, take more time, and have more steps than in average transit countries
In 2013, the cost for LLDCs to export and import a standard 20 foot container was over twice the average cost of shipping in transit countries. Additionally, export costs from 2006-2013 grew at a faster rate in LLDCs than in transit developing countries — roughly 38 percent compared to 26 percent. Import costs over the same period increased about 35 percent in LLDCs versus 22 percent in transit countries.