By William Kabagambe
In the twenty-first century, access to energy is vital to society’s basic needs. Modern energy sources are critical inputs to economic development, yet 1.2 billion people around the world live without access to electricity. In Africa alone, 600 million people do not have access to electricity, and even those with access use a fraction of the power that US citizens do.
Demand for energy in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in particular is growing; the region is projected to consume close to 1,600 terawatt hours by 2040, four times the amount used in 2010. Despite the increasing demand, more than half of SSA’s nations are currently experiencing power shortages and rolling blackouts. Without reliable energy from the grid, most business and families must rely on generators. In SSA, generators can cost between three to six times more than they do in the rest of the world. Given the high costs of electricity generation, development objectives are increasingly difficult to attain, resulting in unemployment and economic stagnation. With growing populations and declining economic growth, the challenges to improved energy access are numerous. SSA must create critical infrastructure, implement effective policy and promote new sources of investments if it is to unlock its development potential.
A woman uses fuel to cook in Burkina Faso. The WHO estimates that around 3 billion people globally still cook and heat their homes using solid fuels in open fires and leaky stoves. Image courtesy of Flickr user TREEAID under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.
For much of the 20th century U.S. foreign policy aimed, in the words of George Kennan, “to protect the security of the nation, by which is meant the continued ability of this country to pursue the development of its internal life without serious interference, or threat of interference, from foreign powers.” This approach continues to evolve as globalization increasingly ties the fate of the United States to the fates of other nations, and particularly those in the developing world. Engagement beyond our borders is now more critical than ever. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 aimed to solidify the idea that the impetus behind foreign assistance, beyond any duty to help fellow human beings, is that a fairer and more prosperous world is in the interest of the U.S. and its citizens. Over a half century later, the Foreign Assistance Act is unwieldy, out of touch with many of today’s realities, and badly in need of an update.
President John F Kennedy signing the Foreign Assistance Act with Senators and Congressman looking on
Despite broad recognition that foreign assistance serves as a valuable and strategic foreign policy tool, its budget allocation remains small and disjointed. Resources are divided among many agencies operating independently in the international development sphere and there is a lack of data-driven analysis on how assistance dollars can best be spent. There have been a number of efforts to update the Foreign Assistance Act, including a high profile bill introduced by Representative Howard Berman in 2012. Unfortunately, these attempts have been unsuccessful, and core U.S. foreign assistance policy is still badly in need of a top to bottom review. Continue reading
By Caitlin Allmaier
The Millennium Challenge Corporation’s 5-year compact with the Government of Burkina Faso concluded in July and has set the stage for the next chapter in Burkinabè agricultural development. The compact focused on the reduction of poverty and the stimulation of economic growth through strategic investment, with one of four projects focusing on improving rural productivity through land tenure security and environmentally-sound land management. However, some issues related to land rights and tenure remain.
Burkina Faso’s economy is mainly agrarian, with 85 percent of Burkinabè carving out livelihoods in agriculture, livestock rearing, or forestry. Traditional Burkinabè methods of land tenure place great authority in the hands of a chef de terre, who allocates community-accepted land and establishes a colloquial model of plot ownership. However, the efficacy of such a system has been challenged by Burkinabè officials, who have repeatedly facilitated international industrial agricultural investment to attempt to improve livelihoods and spur economic growth. These actions have had the unforeseen consequence of further marginalizing smallholders as well as jeopardizing the long-term health of land, soil, and water resources.
Photo courtesy of CIDSE Flickr photostream