Our Perspective

      • The Addis Ababa Action Agenda: A step forward on financing for development? |Gail Hurley

        29 Jul 2015


        The Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) lays out the steps the international community promises to take to fund the world’s new sustainable development agenda – to be agreed in New York in September. This new document must also chart a path for how we can address the challenges which have emerged – or become more pronounced – since the 2002 Monterrey Consensus (PDF), such as climate change, accelerated environmental degradation and inequality. So did we get our ‘Monterrey Plus’ in Addis Ababa? As with all international processes, the outcome is stronger in some areas than in others. On the plus side, there is a commitment to a new ‘social compact’ in which countries commit to set up social protection systems, with national spending targets for essential services like health and education. If countries cannot funds these through domestic resources, the international community pledges to provide international assistance. Countries also agreed to work together to fund infrastructure for energy, transport, and water and sanitation, as well as step-up investments in agriculture and nutrition. There was also a commitment to establish a ‘facilitation mechanism’ to promote innovation and scientific cooperation, identify technology needs and gaps, and support capacity building on technology. The special  Read More

      • The gender gap in extractive dependent countries | Degol Hailu

        28 Jul 2015


        Can we use the revenues generated from oil, gas and minerals to reduce the gender gap in countries with abundant natural resources? We found a statistically significant negative correlation between our Extractives Dependence Index (EDI) that ranks countries on their dependence on the extractive sector (where 0 equals no dependence and 100 equals highest dependence) and the Global Gender Gap Index (where 1 equals equality and 0 equals inequality). The Global Gender Gap Index for countries with the highest dependence on the extractive sector is 0.60 while it is 0.70 for the lowest dependent countries. We further examined the difference between women and men in leadership positions and employment. In countries with high dependence on extractives, women make up 8.7% of ministerial level positions; they take up 9.5% of seats in national parliaments and hold 18.4% of senior and managerial positions. In countries with low dependence on extractives, the numbers are almost twice as high at 16.9%, 17.9% and 32.7%, respectively. In high extractive dependent countries, the average unemployment rate for women is 15% and 8% for men. In the low extractive dependent countries, there is parity in a bad outcome; the unemployment rates are 8% for women and 7% for  Read More

      • A sidelined youth: The soft underbelly of ‘Africa rising’ | Mo Yahya

        16 Jul 2015


        Africa is experiencing a period of exceptional economic performance, but impressive growth rates are not yet translating into higher human development for all. Put simply, the growth is not inclusive. A key obstacle to Africa's long-term prosperity, productivity and stability is the crisis facing the continent’s youth. Young people in Africa are economically, socially and politically marginalized. This failure to deliver for a growing and restless youth is the soft underbelly of the “Africa rising” narrative. The lack of opportunity for many of Africa’s youth is manifested in three ways: Unemployment: Africa’s transformative agenda is threatened by high level of unemployment, particularly among the youth. The situation is compounded by an increasing mismatch between the skills workers offer and those demanded by the labour market. This points to the fast pace of technological progress causing disruptions in the labour market, but also to education systems that produce unemployable graduates. Migration: The recent horrifying incidents of mass drowning of young Africans in the Mediterranean Sea is a vivid testimony of their loss of confidence in the ability of the continent to deliver for them. In 2000, about 13% of international migrants, 22.8 million people, originated from Africa. In 2013, the numbers had  Read More

      • Seven things to consider when managing non-renewable natural resources

        19 Mar 2015


        Natural resource wealth offers enormous potential for achieving development goals. But without effective management, the wealth can be squandered. UNDP works with governments, the private sector and civil society to minimize the risks associated with building an oil, gas and mineral economy and optimize the benefits. Here are seven tips on how the development impact of these finite resources can be enhanced. Know your wealth. Most of the oil, gas and mineral resources in developing countries are yet to be discovered. Consequently, foreign companies that carry out exploration activities have pertinent geological information before governments do, creating bargaining asymmetry during contract negotiations. As the African Mining Vision notes, governments need to fully know their resource wealth to be able to negotiate as equals. Establish comprehensive legal frameworks. Several contracts and mining codes have been revised in recent years, usually when governments realize, sometimes under pressure from civil society, that tax rates are low, environmental protection is weak and re-settlement schemes are inadequate. Participatory and consultative measures are indispensable when drafting key legislation. Maximize revenues for development. The income earned from taxing resource extraction can be low, first, because of weak contract negotiating capacity, and second, due to lack of transparency and  Read More

      • Development for the people, by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

        11 Dec 2014

        A laundry basket vendor on the streets of Monrovia, Liberia (Photo: Carly Learson/UNDP)

        If the Ebola outbreak is not contained soon, most of the economic and social gains achieved since peace was restored in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and since Guinea’s democratic transition began, could be reversed. In Liberia, 60% of markets are now closed; in Sierra Leone, only one-fifth of the 10,000 HIV patients who are on anti-retroviral treatments are still receiving them; and Guinea’s government is reporting a $220 million financing gap because of the crisis. All three countries remain fragile, divided, and, as the current crisis highlights, uniquely prone to shocks. More broadly, the region’s current crisis should inspire reflection about how the world supports and advances development. One important reason for these countries’ vulnerability is the consistent lack of investment in their populations, which has prevented ordinary citizens from reaping the benefits of economic growth. The threat that Ebola poses in all three countries extends beyond health care. Throughout the region, a history of conflict and a legacy of poor governance have fueled a deep distrust of governments and state institutions, as indicated in a 2012 Afrobarometer survey. Indeed, these countries’ lack of an established social contract has been the main obstacle to establishing political authority and effective governance. With  Read More

      • Innovation: The new currency for emergence in Africa | By Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

        03 Nov 2014


        Across Africa, many nations are aspiring to become emerging countries. Beyond growth, they want to transform and diversify their economies, rapidly improve the standards of living of their people, and assert internationally their economic and political clout. As participants in the African Economic Conference, which concluded today, observed, innovation is necessary to achieving that objective. Why? First, because high economic growth rates over the long run can only be sustained with innovation. With diminishing returns, jobs and livelihoods will only continue to grow if more productive sectors are sought. And only innovation – understood as the application of new and existing knowledge to improve processes – can do that systematically. For instance, when irrigation and fertilizer use improved in Asia in the 1960s, there was initially little gain in agricultural productivity because crops were growing bigger and leafier, but yields didn’t increase. However, with the help of science and technology, Asia eventually experienced the Green Revolution. Despite impressive efforts in countries like Ethiopia – which established an Agricultural Transformation Agency that is improving farming practices – a similar breakthrough is needed at the continental level. Boosting agricultural productivity will require adopting new practices. Innovation also matters in the delivery of social  Read More

      • The Ebola crisis: reversing development gains in Liberia | Antonio Vigilante

        13 Sep 2014


        As the Ebola crisis continues to take a toll on people’s lives and livelihoods in West Africa, the focus is increasingly not just on the health aspects of the crisis, but also on its social and economic consequences. Sure, the human and medical aspects of the crisis are still on the front burner, as they should be. The public health care system has all but collapsed, while the number of Ebola cases is increasing exponentially. Before the current crisis, Liberia’s economy experienced impressive growth rates of up to 8.7 per cent (2013). Future growth figures will now have to be revised, as economic activities have slowed down dramatically in most sectors. But the impressive recent growth in Liberia has not been equitable or inclusive. About 57 per cent of the country’s approximately 4 million inhabitants live below the poverty line and 48 per cent live in conditions of extreme poverty. The lack of equitable, inclusive development means that more than half of the country’s population—especially women and children--is particularly vulnerable to shocks and crises, ultimately making the whole country less robust, less stable, and less able to handle a crisis of any magnitude. Reduced tax revenues as a result of reduced  Read More

      • Africa is transforming itself: How do we turn intentions into reality?

        15 Aug 2014

        Better investment in infrastructure could help Africa's transformation. Photo: Benoit Almeras Martino/UNDP DRC

        Recently I attended an event from the Global Compact, a UN initiative to encourage businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies. Entitled "Advancing Partnerships and Responsible Business Leadership", it was held for the first time in Africa, bringing over 300 participants together from businesses, Global Compact networks, UN agencies and governments. Africa's economic transformation with various partners from China, Europe and the US was among the key topics discussed. But, while multinational companies do play a role, it is increasingly clear that African policy makers and business people are setting the continent’s agenda. Participants largely agreed that Africa’s transformation requires investment in better infrastructure, education, skills, jobs, policies and more. The WHAT was better articulated than the HOW. Africa is expected to be one of the world's fastest growing regions, with 4.8 percent growth in 2014 and over 5 percent in 2015, according to the recent African Economic Outlook 2014. However, this transformation goes well beyond economic growth. Development practitioners talk more and more about ‘inclusive growth’, agreeing that businesses should go beyond philanthropy and corporate social responsibility towards making their core activities better suited for societies and the environment.  As UNDP's Resident Coordinator in Ethiopia, Eugene Owusu stated: "Inclusive  Read More

      • Sao Tome: A tiny nation mobilizes for change

        08 Aug 2014

        Photo: WFP Sao Tome

        In September, people in Sao Tome e Principe, a tiny Central African nation situated in the Gulf of Guinea, will go to the polls to elect a new parliament and local governments. Intense efforts are underway to organize the vote. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been supporting the National Electoral Commission to enroll new voters amongst the country --, many of them youth and women,  -- using biometric technology. Beyond the technical aspects of the ballot itself, my top priority as the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations is to encourage the country to come together and see these elections as a huge opportunity. It is an opportunity to represent the aspirations of the people, to involve women and men in decision-making and to boost the development process, through cohesion, determination and openness.  The country’s  national dialogue, initiated by the President at the end of last year, has been aiming to advance that agenda. The dialogue built on a series of nationwide, UNDP-sponsored consultations on the post-2015 development agenda and has tabled a number of key concerns and aspirations. Sao Tome, where 60 percent of the population is living in poverty, is pinning its hopes on oil exploration to  Read More

      • Turning subsistence farmers into market suppliers in Africa

        31 Jul 2014

        Although agriculture is a major source of income in Africa, smallholder farmers face many challenges. Photo: Benoit Almeras-Martino/UNDP DRC

        As I sat down for my first dinner in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after a bit more than one year since my last visit, I suddenly remembered that something is very wrong with food prices here. How can a simple margarita pizza with only cheese, tomato, oil and flour, be USD 20? How can local fish be USD 30? Admittedly I did not eat in the cheapest local restaurant, yet the prices are 4 to 5 times more expensive in comparison to similar dishes in Addis Ababa, where I live. Indeed, food in the DRC is at least twice as expensive as the average world food price for basic commodities. Why is that? A combination of poor farmer productivity, lack of infrastructure and a difficult business environment, mean that the cost of producing goods and taking them to markets is high, and imports are often more readily available or cheaper than local products. In 2008, Bralima, one of DRC’s leading brewers, sourced 16% of its rice from outside the country, due to its inability to source it from the local market. With 80 million ha of arable land and 90 percent of it not cultivated, DRC offers huge untapped  Read More