Our Perspective

      • Bashi's journey may signal a bigger refugee crisis to come | Mohamed Yahya

        29 Oct 2015

        Young Somali men participate in a vocational training and education program in Burao, Somaliland. But as Africa’s population grows, the number of people escaping conflict in countries like Somalia will continue to rise. Photo: UNDP Somalia

        When you read news from Sicily and Calais and Greece, I hope you will remember Bashi*, a young African man among many currently in a migrants’ camp in Europe. I first met Bashi in 2011 in Kenya. He was self-assured and articulate. As I got to know him, I never thought that he would join the young Africans undertaking perilous journeys to seek new starts. Bashi’s story begins in Somalia. At age 14, he crossed the border into northern Kenya to get away from an intensifying conflict. He ended up in Dadaab, one of the largest refugee camps in Africa with more than 350,000 people. After a few years, Bashi made another audacious journey to Nairobi to seek work and education. It is illegal under Kenyan law for refugees to leave the camp, but Bashi “camouflaged” himself in the predominantly Somali neighbourhood Eastleigh. He became a waiter by day, and a student by night, keen to ensure that the circumstances of his birth did not imprison his future. 2014 was a good year for Bashi. He opened his own small shop, selling clothes and “advancing fashion in Nairobi.” Bashi was christened the hipster of Eastleigh with his fondness for tight jeans  Read More

      • The Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union’s Agenda 2063: A comparative analysis | Alessandra Casazza

        23 Oct 2015

        Photo: UNDP

        Two years ago, while Member States in the Open Working Group began to define the recently adopted universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Africa had already set its priorities for the next half a century. At the African Union (AU) Summit in May 2013, Heads of State and Government in their 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration, laid down a vision for the Africa they want to see in the next half a century. The vision later became Agenda 2063, which aims for a peaceful, integrated and prosperous continent by 2063 and is “an endogenous plan for transformation.” Another decision of the AU Summit was to set up a High-Level Committee, tasked with developing a Common African Position to inform African Member States in the Open Working Group and negotiations on the upcoming post-2015 development agenda.  This past September, world leaders signed up to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, of which the 17 SDGs are central, and which aims to address the three interconnected elements of sustainable development: economic growth, social development and environmental sustainability.  In paragraph 42, UN Member States specified that they ‘[…] reaffirm the importance of supporting the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the programme of the New Partnership for  Read More

      • How are all countries rich and poor to define poverty? | Alessandra Casazza

        18 Oct 2015

        In Rwanda, a woman works in her tailoring shop. The World Bank recently updated the absolute poverty line to US$1.90 a day, reflecting changes in the average price of the goods and services people require in 15 developing countries, including Rwanda. Photo: Alice Kayibanda/UNDP Rwanda

        The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our new development compass. Its 17 goals and 169 targets provide countries – rich and poor – with the coordinates of the new ‘development north’, which more than 190 countries have committed to reach in the next 15 years. As of 1 January 2016, countries, like big vessels, will begin sailing towards this new development north from different harbors. But how will they calibrate their ‘navigation instruments’ to set their course? The 2030 Agenda is very clear in this respect. Paragraph 55 reads: ‘[…] Targets are defined as aspirational and global, with each Government setting its own national targets guided by the global level of ambition but taking into account national circumstances.’ As an example, let us consider Sustainable Development Goal 1: ‘End poverty in all its forms everywhere’. First and foremost, countries, both rich and poor, will need poverty lines (not all countries have one) to set targets and measure progress towards this goal. Countries have different options and these largely depend on their respective level of development: Absolute poverty lines (option 1), including the recently updated World Bank global poverty line of US$1.90/day,  are widely used by developing countries, since large portions  Read More

      • The best way to rebrand Africa? Invest in entrepreneurship | Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

        17 Oct 2015


        Because of its long-standing negative image, Africa has been unable to benefit fully from increasing global investments and the advantages that globalization may have to offer. That image will be the subject of extensive discussions during the Rebranding Africa forum, an event organized in Brussels by Notre Afrik magazine on the theme: “Investing in Africa, undertaking for Africa”. Nowadays, African and international media, following in the footsteps of The Economist, are inclined to more accurately portray the continent’s remarkable economic achievements. But Africa still has very little control over its own story. For instance, the continent accounts for less than 3 percent of all Google searches. Further, the narrative on Africa’s emergence focuses narrowly on its impressive and continuous economic growth, to the tune of 5 percent per year on average, over the past 15 years. Changing Africa’s image requires us to go beyond the economic dimension so that at least two additional and fundamental aspects are taken into account: on the one hand, the rising demand from its booming urban middle class, and on the other the continued increase in Africa’s Foreign Direct Investment. These facts should serve to bolster Africa’s reputation as a prime destination for international investors and  Read More

      • Why we need to save Africa’s historical climate data | Excellent Hachileka

        14 Oct 2015

        Climate archives in Gambia. Photo: UNDP

        Climate data is the lifeblood of any early warning system and the cornerstone for any resilience building effort. It not only allows us to monitor adverse impacts across development sectors, populations and ecosystems, but also helps countries prepare for and adapt to the realities of climate change and protect national development gains and goals. Climate data generally falls into two categories: historical data and data from recent and current observations. While most people understand the importance of current and recent climate data, fewer appreciate the equal importance of historical climate data. Historical data allows us to establish long-term trends, which in turn help us understand and better plan for future changes in climate. Historical climate data records help us develop climate models, satellite-based instruments and seasonal forecasts, as well as provide foundational data for adaptation studies at local, national and regional scales. For example: Climate models are mathematical representations of the interactions between the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, ice and the sun. Once a climate model is developed, it has to be tested to find out if it works. And since we can’t wait for 30 years to see if a model is any good or not, the models have to  Read More

      • A lifetime opportunity to bid fairwell to poverty | Bishow Parajuli

        29 Sep 2015


        Today marks a historic moment as world leaders adopted the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 SDGs constitute a vision to put people and our planet on a sustainable path by 2030. These goals will form the bedrock of a new development agenda designed to set the world on a course of action to end poverty, transform lives and protect the planet. In general, enormous progress has been made under the MDGs, showing the value of a unifying agenda underpinned by goals and targets. Yet despite the progress, the indignity of hunger and poverty remains as reality for over 800 million people. I have learned, from over 30 years of work in humanitarian and development spheres as well as with the United Nations, that setting goals and targets works. Here in Zimbabwe, the MDGs were implemented during a difficult economic period. Zimbabwe has recorded progress in halting and reducing HIV prevalence, which fell from 29.6 percent in 1998 to 14 percent in 2014; increase in anti-retroviral therapy coverage for adults as well as increased coverage of prevention of mother-to-child transmission. With Government engagement and support from our specialised agencies such as WHO, UNFPA and UNICEF as well as with generous  Read More

      • Africa: beyond growth | Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

        15 Sep 2015


        Sub-Saharan Africa has been growing faster than most regions. A third of all countries on the continent grew by 6 percent between 2012 and 2013. The Democratic Republic of Congo, once considered an economic failure, posted 9 percent growth in 2014. Nowadays, even China would envy such a rate. But GDP growth says very little about people’s well-being, or how sustainable a country’s economic expansion can be. In fact, Africa faces a number of serious structural issues, suggesting there should be a fundamental rethink about the way its economies operate. There is widespread unemployment – as high as 48 percent in South Africa. Around 41 percent of the population still lives in poverty. And Africa has the highest level of inequality after Latin America. What kind of growth can reduce poverty and inequality, but benefit everyone at the same time? Many economies in Africa are pinning their hopes on extractive industries. Though an important source of economic oxygen, these are famous for producing few jobs, isolating other sectors of the economy and concentrating wealth in the hands of a few. Africa needs to nurture the sectors where a majority of poor people earn their living. Agriculture, which employs 65 percent of  Read More

      • How to ensure large infrastructure projects enhance people's health | by Benjamin Ofosu-Koranteng

        10 Sep 2015

        Construction workers clearing land in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: UNDP.

        Infrastructure is central to Africa’s growth and its integration with the global economy, but according to the African Development Bank, the continent faces an annual funding shortfall of USD 96 billion. Closing this gap is critical if the continent is to reach its full potential, boost the creation of jobs and eliminate poverty. However, there are huge social and environmental costs associated with large infrastructure projects. Construction sites attract large numbers of workers, particularly men, for long periods, far away from their homes. The workers’ close living quarters are potential drivers of infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis. Workers often spend their income on alcohol and sex in nearby communities, increasing the possible spread of HIV through unprotected sex and other diseases. Poor sanitation and water management and workers’ limited access to healthcare further drives up the incidence of malaria. As African countries embark on large infrastructure projects including those in the extractive sector, it is critical that they also take into account their impact on the health of workers and nearby communities. Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (EIA) are legally required in almost all African countries. They aim to mitigate the negative consequences of such projects on people and the environment.   Read More

      • Learning from adaptation experience means breaking down the context | by Jennifer Baumwoll

        07 Sep 2015

        In Tarrafal, Cabo Verde, Ms. Maria “Katy” Zaidy Soares Barbosa is one of the farmers working with extension workers to apply the agricultural research. Photo: UNDP/Jennifer Baumwoll

        In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their perspective on issues of climate change, in the lead up to COP21 in December. When it comes to climate change adaptation, it is often said that we must identify the lessons learned and share these lessons with other practitioners. Given the enormous challenge posed by climate change, we must constantly ask ourselves: how can we replicate or scale up what works? And yet, adaptation couldn’t be more context specific. What I’ve learned from working with adaptation initiatives across the world is that not only are adaptation priorities different—from agricultural and water management to health and tourism—but measures that work in one location often will not work in another. For example, both Cabo Verde and Niger are dealing with water shortages, but the reservoir and water canal systems being built on a mountainous island in Cabo Verde are not feasible in the savannahs of Niger. To complicate things further, adaptation is fundamentally a question of behavioral and social change, both of which are deeply rooted in specific cultural values and practices. In Cabo Verde, researchers from the National Institute for Agricultural Research and Development explained to me that they were finding it  Read More

      • Africa: Halfway Through its Glorious Thirty Years | by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye

        11 Aug 2015


        Sub-Saharan Africa is the only place in the world where living standards stagnated and even declined throughout the 1980s and 1990s.   But things are now very different. Africa’s prospects began to change radically in the late 1990s, with its growth rate close to five percent per year ever since.   Africa has made concomitant gains in the social sphere. It has made remarkable progress on primary education, child mortality, slowing down HIV and Aids or increasing the numbers of women in parliament.   These trends are encouraging but transformation of Africa’s economies and harmonious, balanced development are still a long shot away. By 2030, however, when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) come to an end, it may be possible to say that Africa has concluded its Glorious Thirty Years. To fulfill that vision, the continent would have to consolidate and bring to scale the achievements of the last fifteen years, focusing on five crucial dynamics.   First, Africa urgently needs to close, and even eliminate, the gender gap. The continent is losing on average $73bn – around 4 percent of its GDP -- every year because women are being excluded from development and politics. Ending that exclusion would also allow  Read More