Author Archives: Julia Moore

Week Seven: Moyo on Aid

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Dambisa Moyo “is a Zambian-born author and international economist who analyses the macroeconomy, foreign aid impact, and global affairs” (Wikpedia) who wrote the book Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa. In her book, Moyo “argues that foreign aid has harmed Africa and that it should be phased out” and “offers proposals for developing countries to finance development, instead of relying on foreign aid” (Wikipedia).

Dambisa Moyo

She suggested four alternative sources of funding for Africa that included using international bond markets, spreading microfinance institutions, having a large-scale direct investment in infrastructure policy (similar to China), and encouraging free trade for agricultural products.

As Moyo argues in her book, aid is simply not working. Moyo says on page 27, “Western donors are increasingly looking to anyone for guidance on how best to tackle Africa’s predicament” which refers to the fact that Bono spoke to President George W. Bush about the aid crisis in Africa. She quotes a critic of an aid model as saying, “my voice can’t compete with an electric guitar” meaning that people are more likely to listen to someone famous who they recognize over someone who might have more knowledge and a better understanding of the issue.

Moyo also talks about the vicious cycle of aid. On page 49, she says:

“Foreign aid props up corrupt governments- providing them with freely usable cash. These corrupt governments interfere with the rule of the law, the establishment of transparent civil institutions and the protection of civil liberties, making both domestic and foreign investment in poor countries attractive. Greater opacity and fewer investments reduce economic growth, which leads to fewer job opportunities and increasing poverty levels. In response to growing poverty, donors give more aid, which continues the downward spiral of poverty”.

Below is a video from 2009 where Moyo talks about Dead Aid and talks about if aid is killing Africa.

The Washington Consensus is a term “coined in 1989 by English economist John Williamson to refer to a set of 10 relatively specific economic policy prescriptions that he considered constituted the “standard” reform package promoted for crisis-wracked developing countries by Washington, D.C.–based institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the US Treasury Department” (Wikipedia). There a ten policies that are considered necessary for “first stage policy reform” (WHO).

10 Policies

  • Fiscal discipline – strict criteria for limiting budget deficits
  • Public expenditure priorities – moving them away from subsidies and administration towards previously neglected fields with high economic returns
  • Tax reform – broadening the tax base and cutting marginal tax rates
  • Financial liberalization – interest rates should ideally be market-determined
  • Exchange rates – should be managed to induce rapid growth in non-traditional exports
  • Trade liberalization
  • Increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) – by reducing barriers
  • Privatization – state enterprises should be privatized
  • Deregulation – abolition of regulations that impede the entry of new firms or restrict competition (except in the areas of safety, environment and finance)
  • Secure intellectual property rights (IPR) – without excessive costs and available to the informal sector
  • Reduced role for the state.

Sources: Wikipedia, Youtube, Wikipedia, WHO

Week Six: Exploring the Abbreviations of Aid

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This week, I noticed how many abbreviations are used in the discussion about foreign aid, loans, and other types of foreign policies. I wanted to start out by learning what each one stood for and what they meant.

Abbreviations

CAP (Consolidated Appeals Process): “an advocacy tool for humanitarian financing” where the target is long-term development

CHAP (Common Humanitarian Action Plan): “outlines humanitarian action in a given country or region. It provides: – Analysis of the context in which humanitarian takes place; – Best, worst, and most likely scenarios; – Analysis of need and a statement of priorities; – Roles and responsibilities, i.e. who does what and where; and – A clear link to longer-term objectives and goals; – A framework for monitoring the strategy and revising it if necessary”

GNI (Gross national income): “the total domestic and foreign output claimed by residents of a country”

ODA (Official development assistance): “flows to countries and territories on the DAC List of ODA Recipients and to multilateral institutions which are:

i.  provided by official agencies, including state and local governments, or by their executive agencies; and

ii.  each transaction of which:

a)  is administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective; and
b)  is concessional in character and conveys a grant element of at least 25 per cent (calculated at a rate of discount of 10 per cent)”

USAID (United States Agency for International Development): “the United States federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid”

PCD (Policy Coherence for Development): “an approach and policy tool for integrating the economic, social, environmental and governance dimensions of sustainable development at all stages of domestic and international policy making”

MDG (Millennium Development Goals): “eight international development goals that were established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration”

Liberia and Namibia

In 2007, there was a CHAP for Liberia. It was estimated that a total of $117 million dollars would be needed for humanitarian support in Liberia to help fund “healthcare, safe water and appropriate sanitation, shelter and education” (UNOCH) because these basic rights were still not available to most Liberians.

The images below show the GNI in Liberia, Namibia, and the United States (all graphs from Google).

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Liberia received $571 million in ODA in 2012, with a major portion of the aid coming from the United States and Japan.

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Liberia ODA

In comparison, Namibia received less than half of the net ODA that Liberia received in 2012. Again, a major portion of the aid came from the United States as well as Germany.

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Namibia ODA

According to the USAID government website,  USAID has aid plans in Liberia that focus on Agriculture and Food Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance, Economic Growth and Trade, Education, Environment, Global Health, and Working in Crisis and Conflict. For example, the website says, “Liberia’s war years, 1989 to 2003, decimated basic infrastructure, including water and sanitation, electricity, roads, education, and health services – factors that contribute to the spread of disease and premature mortality. GDP per capita is among the lowest in Africa, so people’s ability to pay for health care is extremely limited”. This shows the importance of why improving the health care  in Liberia is so important, especially now with the ebola epidemic.

Namibia has similar plans and goals in place, with the addition of improving water conditions. The USAID Namibia website says:

Namibia and its neighbours, Botswana and Angola, suffer from frequent floods and devastating droughts, and too many people live in abject poverty and have limited access to adequate water and sanitation services.

USAID through its Southern African Regional Environmental Program (SAREP) is addressing these issues by improving the water supply and sanitation services, as well as conserving biodiversity within the Okavango River Basin. This basin supports the livelihoods of more than 880,000 people in Namibia, Angola and Botswana.

 

Sources: CAP, CHAP, GNI, ODA, USAID, PCD, MDG, UNOCH, Liberia ODA, Namibia ODA, USAID: Liberia,

Week Thirteen: A Safe Environment for Women

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Part A

During this class, I always look forward to the times when I can apply the readings from the week’s assignment to my major and future professional goals. That is why I found the article “Why Are So Many Women Dying From Ebola?” by Lauren Wolfe so interesting. Ebola has been a hot topic in the news recently, with new stories being published each day during the peak of its media thunderstorm. The ebola outbreak got serious coverage in the media when the disease reached the United States in late September of this year, causing concern for the possibility that it could spread outside of Africa. Shortly after the first case of ebola came to the United States, links to articles talking about the disease began popping up all over social media. Some of the articles included titles like “Why We Should All Be Afraid of Ebola – A Nurse’s Perspective” or “Ebola- Just a Matter of Time Before It Becomes Airborne”. These articles frustrated me to no end. It seemed like Americans were turning a real epidemic that was happening in Africa into a new epidemic: “fear-bola”.

Fear-bola refers to the irrational fear of Ebola that has rapidly spread across the United States. According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, nearly two thirds of Americans are concerned about an epidemic outbreak in the U.S. Another recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that 45% of people are afraid that they or a family member will contract Ebola.

Although there have only been nine documented cases of Ebola in the United States in 2014, resulting in one death, the fear of an Ebola pandemic in this country is widespread. For comparison, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, on average, over 26,000 people died annually in the United States from seasonal influenza, the flu, from 1976 to 2007 (A Place of Hope).

One journalist even described the fear that Americans have for ebola being equivalent to the fear that spread during the height of the HIV/AIDS outbreak in the 1980s (Washington Post Fear-bola). Except there is one major difference: the HIV epidemic was at its highest in the 1980s, where numbers of incidences reached 130,000 but the ebola epidemic has only three known cases in the United States, where only one resulted in death (History of HIV/AIDS in US).

In this clip below from Late Night with Seth Meyers, Meyers jokes about the “fearbola” epidemic”.

What we should be focusing on and worrying about is the fact that most people who are dying from ebola in Africa are mainly women. According to Wolfe, up to 75% of ebola victims are women. Ebola spreads through contact of either bodily fluids or blood of a person who is showing symptoms of the disease. Because women are the primary caregivers in African countries like Liberia, women are usually in the first wave of people to come into contact with the sick. Many epidemics have a gender role, with some disease affecting one sex more than the other. Sometimes men are affected more as seen in the dengue fever epidemic, Wolfe points out but it is hard to predict on a biological level what gender will be affected more by certain diseases because not enough resources are being put into researching gender roles in epidemic and disease outbreaks. If more time and energy was spent on acknowledging that women are being affected by diseases such as ebola because of their role in society, then I think we could come up with a way to stop the disease from spreading.

Part B

In many African societies, it is hard to break the old way of thinking that women cannot be a head-of-household and get an education and work in an office like men do. IEEWEP (Initiative for the Economic Empowerment of Women Entrepreneurs Project) is trying to break that mold.

In the video, it explains how funds are being provided by ExxonMobil for women to increase their income and involvement in local businesses. Projects like this are important because they provide a way for women to become self-sufficient. The example of the widowed mother in the video is the perfect testimony as to why it is important for women to be able to provide for themselves and their families and not be solely dependent on men or others in the community.

Sources: A Place of Hope “Fear-bola”, Washington Post Fear-bola, History of HIV/AIDS in US,

Week Twelve: Girl Power

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Knowledge is power

There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says “Women hold up half the sky”. This was the inspiration for the book turned documentary Half the Sky, which talks about women across the world and how we can turn oppression into opportunity. The movement “focuses on sex trafficking, maternal mortality, sexual violence, microfinance and girls’ education” (Wikipedia) across the world to raise awareness for these issues.  Many of the countries discussed in the book and documentary we have also talked about in class. The video below highlights the documentary and gives the viewer an idea about the purpose of the book.

The documentary features influential women, including Hillary Clinton, Mary Robinson, Dr. Helene Gayle, and celebrities like Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, and America Ferrera.

 

They all talk about the same thing: the importance of empowering women. Hillary Clinton says, “How we treat women and girls is absolutely essential to who we are as a people” (Youtube) and Dr. Helene Gayle expands by saying empowering women and helping them succeed is “the way that we can bring greater peace and balance in this world” (Youtube).

One of my favorite images from the documentary comes from when Eva Mendes travelled to Sierra Leone and wrote this on the blackboard:

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“Girl power” by Eva Mendes

I feel like this images captures the goal of the Half the Sky movement and highlights the importance of focusing on women as a way to build a brighter future.

The country I was assigned this semester was Liberia so I wanted to focus on that country and explore any policies they had to empower or protect women. In the video below, both women and men discuss the issue of domestic violence in Liberia.

According to this article from Rescue.org, women across the board agreed that a national law was needed “that would criminalize domestic violence and spell out sanctions, including imprisonment” (Rescue.org Liberia Domestic Violence) and urged President Sirleaf to pass a bill that would criminalize domestic violence because “at present, there is no law in Liberia that explicitly forbids domestic violence or that prescribes any punishment for perpetrators” (Rescue.org). (Shortly into her term as president, President Sirleaf enacted a national law against rape).

In a later article from VOAnews, it says how “Liberia has become the latest nation to sign a pledge to end violence against women and girls” and shared some statistics about domestic violence in the country, such as how “the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO) show 33 percent of married women in Liberia have reported experiencing domestic violence.  Up to 77 percent of Liberian women say they have been the victim of sexual violence” (VOAnews). In February of 2013, “President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf took a step forward in addressing the issue when she signed a U.N. pledge to end violence against women and girls.  She is only the 19th head of state to do so” (VOAnews), which is definitely a step in the right direction for the women of Liberia.

Bring Back Our Girls

Earlier this year in April of 2014, the “Bring Back Our Girls” movement swept the world. According to the website, “on April 15th, 273 School girls were kidnapped from the Chibok Government Secondary School by Boko Haram Terrorists in Nigeria. Approximately 230 are still missing”. Much like how celebrities became involved with the Half the Sky movement, many celebrities began showing their support for the missing girls with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls.

This social media movement was an effort to try to spread awareness for the missing girls and get not only the Nigerian government to put more resources into finding the girls, but also the United States and United Nations into helping bring these girls home (NYTimes Bring Back Our Girls). (As an interesting side note, the author of this NY Times article is also the author of the book Half the Sky and was also featured in the documentary).

 

Sources: Wikipedia, Youtube Half the Sky, Youtube Liberia Domestic Violence, Rescue.org Liberia, Bring Back Our Girls, NYTimes

 

Week 9: Sachs on Aid

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Chapter 15

Sachs talks about five different reasons why the level of required money and donations needed to help the poor is relatively modest.

The numbers of extreme poor have declined to a relatively small proportion of the world’s population
The goal is to end extreme poverty, not to end all poverty, and still less to equalize world incomes or to close the gap between the rich and the poor
Success in ending the poverty trap will be much easier than it appears
The rich world today is so vastly rich
Our tools are more powerful than ever

All of this sounds positive, right? Think about how far technology has come in the past decade. Ten years ago I was texting on my push-button flip phone and now I can post a photo to Instagram, Google where a restaurant is located, and receive step-by-step navigation instructions all on one device. In this blog post, I talk about how technology is helping increase neonatal health care in Ghana. Sachs also says how rich the rich world is. On page 289, he says that more responsibility should be assigned “to the richest of the rich, not the average taxpayers, but taxpayers with incomes at the very top of the charts. The rich can manage to pay for a significant proportion of what needs to be done, either through a modest increase in taxation or burst of large-scale philanthropy commensurate with their vast wealth”.

Although Sachs talks about taxing the rich and using that money to help end extreme poverty, he does not think that direct cash transfers are the way to go. He believes that investments in infrastructure and human capital empower “the poor to be more productive on their own account, and putting the poor countries on a path of self-sustaining growth” (page 291). This Ted Talk by Andrew Mwenda supports Sachs’ claim that aid should just not be given but investments should be mad instead.

On page 291, Sachs talks about a six-step approach that has been used by the WHO and has been proven extremely useful.

1. Identify the package of basic needs
2. Identify, for each country, the current unmet needs of the population
3. Calculate the costs of meeting the unmet needs through investment, taking into account future population growths
4. Calculate the part of the investments that can be financed by the country itself
5. Calculate the Millennium Development Goals Financing Gap that must be covered by donors
6. Asses the size of the donor contributions relative to donor income

 Chapter 16

Sachs talks about the myth that if we continue to give money to Africa then extreme poverty on that continent will be eradicated. The truth of the matter is that that money would go right down the drain, at least says Sachs on page 309. He says that because African education levels are so low that money and programs implemented in Africa, while they might work in other countries, would fail in Africa. I think this goes back to his point in Chapter 15 that money should not just be given but invested in order to fully help Africa succeed.

Sources: Ted Talk, Sachs

Week 10: To Give Aid or Not To Give Aid? That is the Question

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How does aid relate to me?

A little bit about me: I am planning on going into the health care field after graduation. I want to be a physician assistant and work with patients and help the sick get better and help them become healthy. I know that by simply living in America and working in a hospital in the United States, the resources that will be available to me are extremely different than the resources in other countries across the world. That is why when I hear about aid going to countries in Africa, one of my first questions is how that aid will help increase the health of that particular country.

When I first visited the Grameen Foundation website, I was immediately drawn to their work in Ghana. According to their website, the Grameen Foundation “has been working with the Ghana Health Service since 2008 to improve the maternal and neonatal care in rural communities through the Mobile Technology for Community Health (MOTECH) initiative”.  MOTECH was designed with the purpose of providing increased neonatal care in Ghana and especially in rural areas.

Under MOTECH Ghana, two mobile applications were developed to improve access to maternal health education. The Mobile Midwife Application enables pregnant women, new mothers and their families to receive SMS and/or voice messages that provide time-specific information about their pregnancies and childcare each week. Community nurses use the Nurses Application to collect patient data and upload records to a centralized database, enabling them to track the care of their patients and identify those who are due for care.

Another Sub-Sahara African location where the Grameen Foundation was working that interested me was Nigeria. Like Ghana, a lot of the focus was on increasing health outcomes. Part of a group of organizations that make up Africa Health Markets for Equity (AHME), the Grameen Foundation works with other organizations such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to “improve health outcomes through the provision of quality private sector health care targeted at the poor in Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana”.  According to the website,

The African Health Markets for Equity (AHME) initiative is a five-year, multi-country program co-funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Department for International Development (DFID). The program is designed to increase the coverage of quality care within private provider systems and to address priority health issues that most affect the poor. The program will operate in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria and will focus on a broad range of health issues, including reproductive health, infectious diseases and nutrition.

In Ghana, it is clear that mobile technology is imperative in reaching the desired goals of increasing neonatal health and care. In Nigeria, although not directly mentioned, I assume that technology will also be very important and be used for keeping track of medical records and organizing the private health care systems.

In the TED Talk by Andrew Mwenda, he argues that Africa (and the aid it receives) is not covered accurately by the media. He says, “Africa has 53 nations. We have civil wars only in six countries, which means that the media are covering only six countries”.  It seems to me that a majority of the time I hear or read about Africa in the news, it is always something negative which does not accurately represent what is actually happening across the Atlantic Ocean. Mwenda says that because Westerners have such a skewed view of what is going on in Africa because of the media, we are asking ourselves “What should we do with it? We should give food to the hungry. We should deliver medicines to those who are ill. We should send peacekeeping troops to serve those who are facing a civil war” and we have caused Africa to lose self-initiative.

In his presentation, Mwenda says,

But what is the international aid community doing with Africa today? They are throwing large sums of money for primary health, for primary education, for food relief. The entire continent has been turned intoa place of despair, in need of charity. Ladies and gentlemen, can any one of you tell me a neighbor, a friend, a relative that you know, who became rich by receiving charity? By holding the begging bowl and receiving alms? Does any one of you in the audience have that person? Does any one of you know a country that developed because of the generosity and kindness of another? Well, since I’m not seeing the hand, it appears that what I’m stating is true.

After hearing him argue this point, aid in Africa has never seemed so unproductive. Of course, we all dream that one day we will win millions of dollars from winning the lottery but in reality, that will likely never happen just like how if we continue to provide aid to Africa the way we have been in the past Africa will never be able to grow on its own economically or democratically.

Sources: Grameen Foundation, Grameen Ghana, MOTECH, AHME, Mwenda TED Talk

Week 11: Empowering Women Through Economic Development

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MicroLoans and Women

MicroLoans and Women: that is what I Googled before I started this blog post. Numerous websites were listed that linked me to a website where I could donate $25 to help save and change a woman’s life. The first link I clicked on sent me to a website that provided business start-up loans to women living in rural East Africa. There is a video highlighting the Women’s Microfinance Initiative, or WMI, that shows women in an outdoor class learning about how to start a business from the money they are borrowing and how to support a growing business.

The website talks about its goal of providing loans to impoverished women and then addresses why women should receive these loans, saying:

WMI is tackling global poverty and the disenfranchisement of impoverished, rural women. Launched in 2008 in rural Buyobo, Uganda, WMI has provided over 15,000 microloans to chronically poor women in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, many supporting AIDS orphans. Borrowers start small businesses and use their profits to pay for school fees, food and healthcare. Communities benefit as borrowers hire helpers and advocate for local improvements.

Empowering women living in desperate poverty in rural East Africa promotes in-country development from the bottom up. Women become involved in grass roots movements and advocate for far-reaching social and economic changes in their own country. The borrowers’ priorities for the use of their profits are: better nutrition, healthcare and paying school fees for their children. WMI provides outreach in all of these areas by empowering women with options to provide better care for their families.

 

After learning about this particular project, I decided to learn more about the organization who is providing all of these loans. Women’s Microfinance Initiative works with three countries in East Africa: Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. According to the website, features of the loans include:

-Loan amounts of $50 – $150 (increase to $250 after 18 months
-No collateral required
-Distribution through existing village-level organization
-Term of 6 months
-Interest rate of 10% flat for the loan term
-No late fees
-Successful borrowers are eligible for follow up loans
-Loan groups of 20 borrowers
-Weekly Support Group meetings
-Training, technical assistance, follow-up support
-Local Coordinators visit borrowers on a regular basis
-Regular reports provided to WMI
-After 24 months, borrowers transition to a bank loan or become self-financing

All of this seems good, right? Well Hugh Sinclair, author of Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic: How Microlending Lost Its Way and Betrayed the Poor, isn’t so sure. Sinclair spoke with the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 about his book and why microfinance does not always work.

Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic: How Microlending Lost Its Way and Betrayed the Poor

Sinclair talks about “mission drift” or “the idea that microfinance has forgotten its mission to serve the poor and really exists to make a profit for the officials running the programs” and how people borrow money from one bank at a high interest rate and then end up having to borrow from a second bank to pay off the first which leads to serious debt and vicious cycle. This is obviously the most prominent problem with microfinance. Although a lot of theoretical  good can come from donations, most of the time the people who are doing the donating do not actually know where their money is going, where it ends up, or if it actually leads to a profitable business.

(A link to Sinclair’s interview can be found here).

The country I have been focused on most this semester in Liberia so I wanted to know how much money they had received through microfinance loans. According to MixMarket.org, Liberia has received $14.2 million in microfinance loans since 2009. I had no idea if that was an astronomical amount or was less than average compared to other African countries so I looked up a few more countries for a comparison. From the same website I found that Uganda has received $607.2 million, Tanzania has received $1.1 billion, and Kenya has received $3.1 billion (note that these are the three countries supported by WMI). The $14.2 million that Liberia receives seems like nothing compared to these numbers. Are these other figures so big because there are more people who are receiving loans or are the people who have received loans in the past taking out other loans to pay off their first loans?

Sources: MixMarket, WMI, Sinclair Interview