Mark Your Calendar, It’s May 21
Every year on this day, May 21, the United Nations celebrates what it calls the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.
“Cultural diversity,” says the UN, “is a driving force of development, not only with respect to economic growth, but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life.”
Lebanon’s Cornucopia: Value Chain Project Unleashes Potential of 10 Sectors
Six years ago, a DAI-led team went to Lebanon to learn everything there is to know about the country’s apples, avocados, cherries, grapes, honey, olive oil, processed foods, oregano, pine nuts, and rural tourism sectors. They recorded their findings—from identifying existing and new potential target markets, how many farmers grow the produce, which varieties they grow and how they market it, to what type of packaging they use. They also analyzed the barriers keeping these products from being sufficiently competitive and profitable in local and export markets: regional political instability affecting market access and making for unreliable export partners, the outdated varieties, generally poor reputation of Lebanese produce, inadequate planning for how to mitigate losses due to climate change and pests, no authoritative source of best practices, a lack of collective farmer associations to share those best practices and advocate for agricultural interests, and a pervasive hesitancy to invest in new technologies.
Armed with this assessment, DAI began work on the Lebanon Industry Value Chain Development (LIVCD) project, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future initiative. Three of the value chains we targeted exemplify how the USAID project tackled these market barriers and created value for Lebanese farmers and food producers.
Partnering for Social Good: What’s in It for (All of) Us?
Half the world’s 7 billion people lack access to essential health services. That’s a terrible number, and yet an enormous market opportunity. The kind of opportunity that might pique the interest of mobile tech entrepreneurs who note that while many of these underserved people lack healthcare, they nonetheless tend to have mobile phones and some internet access—even those who live in remote locales.
IntraHealth International created the SwitchPoint conference to juxtapose and address opportunities like these. An eclectic, two-day gathering—primarily but not exclusively of global health and digital practitioners—the eighth annual SwitchPoint went off last week. Some 400 attendees brought to the Saxapahaw, North Carolina festival a deep reservoir experience, fresh ideas, and no little energy. But they would be the first to admit that none has the total package of resources required to address market opportunities at scale in health services delivery.
Hold the Charcoal: Diverting Sub-Saharan Africa’s Demand for a Destructive Energy Source
Charcoal and other solid biomass fuels are still used in 70 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa, killing more than 4 million people annually and depleting forests, in turn reducing rainfall and contributing to climate change and other impacts. Luckily, it is not too late for Sub-Saharan Africa to avert a charcoal-induced public health and environmental catastrophe and in the process strengthen its energy independence and economic growth.
DAI Global Health Partner THINKMD Embarks on New Projects in Kenya and Indonesia with Save the Children
In July 2017, following three years of development and validation testing, THINKMD implemented its frontline clinical assessment and data analytics technology in Bangladesh with Save the Children. We focused our work on the Rayer Bazar settlement in Dhaka, an overpopulated informal settlement where maternal and child mortality and morbidity are high—especially from pneumonia, diarrhea, and dehydration—and where access to healthcare professionals is very limited.
Three Ways to Make Hiring More Inclusive of Vulnerable Youth: Lessons from El Salvador
Salvadorans have a reputation as entrepreneurial, hard-working, and committed. In fact, El Salvador was ranked first on employee engagement among Latin American countries in Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report. At the same time, too many young Salvadorans do not get an opportunity to work hard in their first job and demonstrate their talent because employers hesitate to hire employees with no previous work experience.
In El Salvador, Shifting Employer Perceptions While Getting Youth Work-Ready
It’s not easy being a young job-seeker when adults tend to stereotype millennials as unreliable or entitled. El Salvador is no exception. In a 2017 opinion poll of 2,000 individuals (ages 16 to 60) conducted by the USAID Bridges to Employment project across 15 high-crime municipalities, most respondents said poor work ethic and lack of motivation are the main reasons youth cannot find jobs. One young man explained that “employers think we are lazy, do drugs, and hang out on the street all day just because we have not worked before.”
In El Salvador, Outsourcing Remote Programming Jobs to Youth Outside the Capital
Jobs in computer programming can help level the playing field for talented young people. While being young is often a disadvantage in other industries, youthfulness is an advantage in the technology sector where youth are digitally savvy and have an aptitude for new technologies. Working remotely on IT projects allows greater flexibility for workers with tattoos or body piercing, which can be a hiring barrier in other industries, even for talented youth.
Getting Creative with Transportation for El Salvador’s Young Job-Seekers
An estimated 80 percent of El Salvador’s formal jobs are concentrated in greater San Salvador, according to the USAID Bridges to Employment labor market assessment. Yet close to two-thirds of the Salvadoran population lives outside of that metropolitan area.
Now More Competitive, Jordan’s Pharmaceuticals See Healthy Jump in Exports
Six Jordanian pharmaceutical companies have reported an additional US$55.6 million in exports since installing the electronic Common Technical Document (eCTD) system in December 2016. The installation allows the companies to register their drugs in foreign markets using internationally recognized standards, enabling faster and more competitive delivery. Representing sales through the eCDT, this increase is additional to pre-eCDT projections.
How to Ensure Voluntary Sustainability Standards are More Effective in Promoting Gender Equality in Global Value Chains
Voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) are guidelines that industry producers, traders, manufacturers, retailers, or service providers are asked to meet that encourage respect for basic human rights, worker health and safety, environmental impacts, community relations, land-use planning, and more. The standards include certification and ethical branding—such as organic, forest friendly or fairtrade—as well as corporate, ethical, or sustainability standards suppliers are required to meet.
VSS have proliferated over the last two decades and increasingly shape global value chains. While most standards are not designed to ensure gender equality, there is an increasing number of gender-focused VSS that are being developed and used by businesses.
INVEST: On the Frontier of Gender-Lens Investing
Gender-lens investing is gaining momentum and for good reason.
In the United States, most gender-lens investors target companies with significant numbers of female leaders and board members. Investing in these companies makes financial sense because they have proven potential to outperform the market: Numerous researchers have demonstrated lower volatility and higher returns.
In Uganda, Local Hearings Show Accountability in Action
Audits, oversight procedures, compliance protocols—the language of public accountability can seem bureaucratic and dry. The reality in Uganda is anything but.
Improving Livestock Markets to Generate Economic Growth and Resilience in East Africa
East Africa’s immense livestock resources represent the largest proportion of Africa’s livestock population. Many millions of people depend on the sector for food, income, and employment, and it contributes greatly to the region’s gross domestic product and foreign currency earnings. Strategically located near the livestock markets of the Arabian Gulf, the East Africa region is Africa’s largest exporter of live animals, generating income for producers, traders, and governments.
Will Feminized Parliaments Mean More Gender-Friendly Policies?
On January 3, 2019, a new U.S. House of Representatives was sworn in with 102 women members—a record number for the United States. All told, 127 women are serving between House and Senate, a 20 percent increase in the number of women over the previous Congress.
In Afghanistan, Women Step Up to Fill Need for Frontline Healthcare Workers
Communities across Afghanistan—especially the dispersed populations in rural areas—have long endured a lack of basic health services due to low numbers of trained health workers and chronic security issues. But this situation is improving. Today, a program to bolster women’s inclusion in Afghanistan’s mainstream economy is also serving to fill high-priority needs in maternal and infant care, vaccination, skilled nursing, and other health services.
Building Inclusivity into Inclusive Education
Since the Millennium Development Goals were established in 2000, the number of out-of-school children in the world has dropped from nearly 100 million to 65 million, and in most countries, girls have achieved equal attendance in primary schools through hard-fought wins. At the same time, however, we are still not reaching millions of out-of-school children, nor are we helping all of those we do reach.
Why the Time is Right for Access for All
Following is DAI CEO Jim Boomgard’s Foreword to Access for All, Brigit Helms’ new book on economic inclusion:
For the first time in my career as a development professional—a career that goes back to the early 1980s—informed observers are talking in credible terms about ending extreme poverty, not just within our lifetimes but within the foreseeable future. These aspirations are reflected, to take just one example, in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Four Steps to Advocate for Government Investment in Public Health
In Nigeria, as in many countries, the government faces practical hurdles to funding health systems adequately and preventing sickness and disease among its most susceptible citizens. As Health Systems Advisor for DAI Global Health on the Integrated Approach to Neglected Tropical Diseases (UNITED) programme, I advocate for increased, cost-effective health funding in Nigeria so more people can benefit from health services.
Can Online Dispute Resolution Change the Way Global MSMEs Do Business?
As a grad student in London in the 1990s, I earned a bit of extra money sourcing and exporting handcrafted furniture from India to the United States for interior designers. My U.S. customers were small businesses, but I was even smaller, so if I wanted to sell to them I had to take on most of the risk. On school breaks I would travel to India, find what my customers were looking for, purchase it, accompany it to the port, and—when I could—watch as it was loaded onto a ship.
Women and Girls Advocate for Their Place in Afghanistan’s Social and Political Mainstream
Girls and women in Afghanistan are transitioning away from Taliban-era oppression to attend school, get jobs, and fully participate in mainstream life. Afghan leaders and politicians have enacted national laws to support this movement, but the reality in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces is another matter. Girls and women in too many locales routinely endure child/forced marriage, domestic assault, and injustice, and female leaders become targeted for reprisals. In the space between the national law and local reality, various groups are working to preserve hard-earned gains and advocate for Afghan women. This is the space where the Musharikat program works.
Baseline Study Prompts School Officials to Counter Violence in Honduras
Too often, in our experience as development professionals, baseline surveys can seem like proforma exercises—dry, mechanical constructs conducted at the beginning of a project, shelved almost as soon as they are done, then dusted off for the midline survey. By the time we conduct the endline, the project is closing. Baseline findings don’t drive programming.
That is far from the case with Asegurando la Educación’s baseline survey of school-based violence in Honduras.
How Can Developing Countries Identify and Allocate Resources to Pay for Health Services?
Governments in many low- and middle-income countries have committed to provide affordable and high-quality health services to their citizens. To make good on these promises, they need to identify more money for health expenditure and need to invest it more wisely. Our recent policy paper—Financial Management Mechanisms to Support Increased Government Spending on Health—provides some guidance on how they might do that.
Demand for Private Capital Draws USAID Units to INVEST Program
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) units around the world are increasingly asking for specialized support to mobilize private capital—requests now being met by the agency’s new INVEST program. In less than one year, USAID missions, bureaus, and other operating units have hired the INVEST team to support 17 initiatives to develop market opportunities. These initiatives—to address demand for energy, food, health care, water, and other global needs—are under way or already completed in Afghanistan, Asia, Haiti, India, and North and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Afghan Women Re-Enter the Economy as Workers, Business Owners
As Afghanistan transitions toward a market-driven economy and away from one supported by foreign assistance, jobs will inevitably be lost. The Afghan Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs, Martyred, and Disabled predicts that 4 million jobs will be needed over the next five years to replace lost jobs and absorb the rising generation of graduates.
Jordan Embraces Renewables to Fuel its Economy
Jordan needs to grow its economy. More than 700,000 of its young people—39 percent of the available labor force ages 15 to 24—are without a job. Many have good educations and are holding out for high-quality employment. Jordan is also hosting an enormous influx of Syrian refugees, which has helped swell its population from 7.5 million in 2011 to 10 million today. Many of these newcomers are also seeking work. But Jordan is almost completely reliant on imported oil and gas for its energy, limiting its ability to grow the economy and create jobs.
Keep Up the Fight for High-Quality Education for All in Pakistan
After more than five years of campaigning for the right of every Pakistani child to receive a quality education, Alif Ailaan ended on August 31. Before we go, we should explain why the campaign is ending, and more importantly, we should thank the people that made this campaign as effective as it was.
Placing Women at the Center of Water Supply Management in Kenya
As Christine Kanini checks water meters on her weekly rounds, she recalls that 18 months earlier she could not aspire to this job. “We had mainly male meter readers,” Kanini said. “Then I was promoted to this position from gate keeping. I am happy with the work.” Over the past year, the Wote Water and Sewerage Company (WOWASCO), which serves the small city of Wote in south-central Kenya, has opened up opportunities for women such as Kanini in fields that were previously deemed suited for men only.
Using Market-Driven Strategies to Reduce Poverty and Human Trafficking in Nigeria
Despite having the largest economy in Africa, around half of Nigeria’s population still lives in extreme poverty. A few hundred miles east of the new skyscrapers and shopping malls of Nigeria’s commercial capital of Lagos, the Niger Delta—made up of nine oil-producing states and home to more than 31 million people—defines the country’s stark contrast in living conditions. Even though it is a major oil-producing region, much of the Delta’s population lives in remote villages and survives on subsistence farming. Exacerbating this poverty is a lack of modern agricultural equipment and supplies that farmers need to improve crop yields, as well as limited access to markets in which to sell their harvests.
Health System in Haiti Takes Key Step by Launching National Tuberculosis Tracker
Haiti’s government this year launched a national electronic platform for reporting and tracking tuberculosis (TB), a key step in its efforts to capture, monitor, and report all patient-level data across the country. Information on cases of TB—a contagious and often deadly disease plaguing the Caribbean nation—is being prepared for aggregation into the System d’Information Sanitaire Nationale Unique, or SISNU, which uses the DHIS2 open-source software platform for reporting, analyzing, and disseminating national health data.
Collaboration is Essential to Improving Maternal and Newborn Health in Indonesia
This opinion piece was first published in the Jakarta Post on August 15, 2018.
As Indonesia celebrates its 73rd year of independence, most people are aware of the country’s impressive economic development over the past few years. But perhaps fewer are aware that, every hour, across this massive archipelago, two mothers and eight newborns die.
Agriculture Finance with a Climate Lens Takes Off in Kenya
The effects of climate change in the already arid lands of Kenya are particularly tough on its economy. Think: tourism, arable agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, and livestock—all vulnerable to extreme changes in weather.
Zambia Pilot Demonstrates How to Save Lives, Scale Relief for Children Suffering from Malaria
Thousands of infants and children in rural Zambia suffer or die unnecessarily from malaria each year because they lack access to high-quality medicines and proper medical care. But a recent pilot program shows how trained local volunteers administering crucial medicine can keep a child well enough to be transported to a health care facility for further, potentially lifesaving treatment.
DFID Programme Helps Establish Business Equipment Leasing in Sub-Saharan Africa’s Largest Country
Leasing equipment—instead of finding the cash to buy it—is fundamental to the growth of small and growing businesses, yet small-business owners in Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest nation have been unable to do so, because the regulatory framework that underpins leasing transactions didn’t exist. Until now.
Liberia Launches Mobile Tax Payments, Opening Doors to Increased Revenue for Domestic Development
Imagine if you could pay taxes only by traveling to the capital and paying in person—or, by paying in cash at a tax office to a “middleman.” Until recently, this is how taxes were paid in Liberia. Additionally, due to failures by the internet, power supply, or information technology systems, taxpayers often required four trips on average to tax offices to fulfill their obligations. Even basic transactions such as paying for a birth certificate required making a trip to the capital, Monrovia. As a result, many citizens and businesses simply did not comply, depriving the government of revenues needed for services as well as of valuable data.
Africa Trading: Five Takeaways on Trade-Based Solutions for Food Security
When we harness market forces in developing countries, great things can happen—such as countries with surplus food selling to countries that need food. Over the past 15 months, teams from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) East Africa and Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hubs together facilitated three regional trade forums—in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Zambia. This convening of sellers and buyers generated impressive results: signed contracts to sell 1.21 million metric tons of staple grains, with an estimated value of $402 million. When delivered, the grains will be enough to feed 14.4 million people for 12 months.
Global Health and Tech Thinkers Come Together at SwitchPoint
At SwitchPoint, a two-day conference organized by Intrahealth International—a DAI strategic affiliate—400 global health and technology devotees came together in the North Carolina countryside to share ideas and seed partnerships for solving global health challenges, especially by using technology. The seventh annual event, held April 26–27, featured 30-plus stage speakers and 20-plus microlabs.
Four Recommendations for Strengthening Seed Systems
Most people living in rural communities in developing countries depend on crops. While donor-funded seed development programs for staple crops have improved the capacity of seed companies, as well as their market connections and distribution systems, high-quality seeds of improved varieties are simply not reaching enough smallholder farmers.
New Generation of EC Framework Contracts Offers Agile Programming for European Development Aid
We are proud to announce that DAI has once again been named one of the main implementing partners for the European Commission (EC) 2018–2022 Frameworks contracts for international development assistance.
The Frameworks represent an agile development programming tool that enables the EC to quickly source and execute short-term research and pilot projects around the world. Unlike typical multiyear, donor-funded projects that work in a particular country or region—and can take more than a year to plan, bid, and launch—EC Frameworks contracts are capable of being designed, awarded, and deployed in a matter of weeks and can dispatch project teams to any country receiving development aid from the Commission.
Addressing Jordan’s Youth Unemployment Bubble: USAID Program Aligns Workforce with Emerging Opportunities
Jordan is a relative bastion of stability in the Middle East but is struggling with an unemployment problem. More than 700,000 of its young people—36 percent of the available labor force ages 15–24—are without a job. This percentage is double that of Afghanistan and triple that of Bangladesh, even though those countries register poverty levels far worse than Jordan’s. The problem has intensified since 2011 with the influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees following the Syrian crisis.
Can We Keep the Promise? Mobilizing Business on the Refugee Frontline in Jordan
In recent years, lower- and middle-income countries have borne the brunt of the global refugee crisis, currently hosting more than 80 percent of the world’s refugees. But some host countries, like Jordan, are taking important steps to seize what opportunities they can in this situation, supporting refugee self-reliance and at the same time boosting their own economy by issuing work permits to refugees and connecting multinational companies to business opportunities with local firms and displaced people.
With U.K. Aid, Lebanon’s Social Enterprises Pilot a New Model of Development
The influx of refugees from across the Syrian border is straining Lebanon’s economy and host communities. Since 2011, Lebanon’s population has increased 30 percent to around 6 million as a result of this influx, and its young people are increasingly anxious to enter the workforce. Many even wish to start or join social enterprises to help address the country’s challenges, including problems stemming from the refugee crisis. But until recently there were few avenues for pursuing this work.
New DFID Guidance Aims to Improve Emergency Schooling for Millions of Displaced Children
An estimated 75 million children cannot go to school because they have been driven from their homes by war, crisis, and natural disaster. This deprivation in turn destabilizes vulnerable regions because uneducated children grow into at-risk teenagers and young adults.
Blended Finance in Action—How USAID Leveraged $100 Million in East Africa
Earlier this spring, the East Africa Trade and Investment Hub achieved a major milestone by surpassing the $100-million mark in commercial investment catalyzed into the region. This investment would not have found its way to these markets without the approximately $4 million nudge offered by the Hub, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) initiative implemented by DAI. Given the potential impact of the investee companies, this project shows how a donor like USAID can leverage its relatively scarce capital to crowd in more plentiful commercial funds—a process known as blended finance. The leverage factor is almost 25x.
How Can Nigeria Fulfill its Broad Economic Potential?
Nigeria is the economic heavyweight of West Africa, but it faces challenges. Approximately two-thirds of its people live in poverty and its economy suffers from low productivity and an uneven climate for trade and investment. Until recently, oil-rich Nigeria has not been a good place to make products or grow crops because it didn’t have to be—the country simply imported what it needed. But times are changing for Africa’s most populous nation.
Ethiopia Stands Poised to Lead an African Industrial Revolution
Just over 100 years ago, Henry Ford and other industrialists revolutionised manufacturing by introducing the assembly line. They built consumer goods at unprecedented scale and cost, creating millions of jobs and bringing down the price of goods to levels that workers could afford. It was so productive that Ford could double the minimum wage and shorten the working day for his workers.
Young Rural Women are Crucial to Advancing Universal Health Coverage in Northern Nigeria
This year’s World Health Day theme is Universal Health Coverage. It’s an apt rallying cry, particularly for those working in our Women for Health (W4H) programme in Northern Nigeria, where a 2013 study showed that 94 percent of live births lacked any medical personnel presence, resulting in one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.
$36 Million Investment Partnership Finances Warehouses in Malawi to Improve Food Security
Malawi has suffered from poor food production for decades—its 17 million people are mostly smallholder or subsistence farmers who have struggled to overcome drought, pests, and outdated farming practices. Even successful harvests are diminished because they have few options to process and store their crops for sale, resulting in post-harvest losses that cut deeply into already small profits. But development assistance from the United States and European Union is helping Malawi address its shortage of warehousing.
In Nigeria, Governance Champions Can Transform Resource Wealth into Development Results
Nigeria is well known for its glaring inequalities, particularly the disparity between the impoverished northern states and its oil-rich south. This disparity covers more than just wealth and economic growth, as large segments of the country’s 185 million people want for simple stability and basic public services. But just as Nigeria’s economy is powered by more than oil, so the country’s inequities stem from more than just the so-called “resource curse.”
EC Helps Position the Southern Africa Development Community for 21st Century Success
Launched in 1992, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) was based more on ideals than economics. Born of the anti-Apartheid movement, the SADC aimed to help Southern Africa countries build economic ties and reduce dependence on the Republic of South Africa. As the region changed, the SADC’s membership grew and the organization adopted lofty goals. But the SADC’s outmoded inner workings did not meet the needs of its escalating staff and ambitions.
New Zealand Aid Helps Rwandan Smallholders Enter Fortified Foods Supply Chain
Small-scale farmers in Rwanda struggle to capture the full value of their maize harvests. Farmers typically process their maize manually or using basic tools. With limited infrastructure available for threshing, cleaning, and drying, the full harvest and post-harvest process takes six weeks, on average. Apart from being burdensome for farm families, the lengthy process exposes their maize to rotting, pest infestation, and mould. As a result, the farmers lose an estimated 30 percent of their yields, and traders capture much of the profit generated.
Afghan Cities Assisted by USAID Project Achieve Highest Ratings in Citizen Survey
In a citizen assessment of government services in nine Afghan municipalities, the four that ranked the highest—Chaharikar, Hirat, Mazar-e-Sharif, and Jalalabad—are all partners with a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) project working to improve the capacity of Afghan municipal officials to meet citizen priorities and service delivery needs.
Philippines’ New Tax Bill Promises More Revenue for Social Programs, Infrastructure
It has been more than 15 years since the Government of the Philippines undertook its last comprehensive tax policy reform. Over that period, tax revenues have seen a steady decline, from a high of nearly 17 percent of GDP in 1997 to only 13.6 percent in 2016. This decline can be attributed to both domestic and external factors. On the international front, the Asian financial crisis of 1997–1998 and the global recession of 2008–2009 certainly contributed to sharp drop-offs. But the Government of the Philippines’ limited ability to enforce fiscal discipline also was a factor, allowing special interests to introduce loopholes, weaken tax laws, and chip away at previous reforms. These factors were compounded by lower import duties (motivated by the prospect of improving trade) and flaws in the 1997 excise tax reform.
With Elections Looming, Can Pakistan Fulfill Its Education Promise to Unschooled Children?
More than 23 million children in Pakistan do not attend school. More than half of children who start at government schools drop out before completing primary school. These stark facts are harming a rising generation of Pakistanis already vulnerable to unemployment, instability, and extremism. And while upper-class Pakistanis enjoy excellent private schools and universities, much of the rest of the country has become resigned to derelict classrooms and substandard government-provided education.
Until recently, that is.
Liberia Moves to Reduce Donor Dependence by Improving its Ability to Invest in Itself
Liberia has endured much turmoil in recent decades. Civil wars in the 1990s and 2000s saw the mass destruction of dams, bridges, power lines, and other infrastructure. Many of Liberia’s best and brightest citizens emigrated. Suffering from a large budget deficit, its government developed a deeper dependence on foreign aid. Furthermore, the Ebola virus epidemic of 2014–2015 killed more than 4,800 Liberians and terrified the country.
Yet, after all this, people today in Liberia generally look forward with hope.
Gathering the Evidence to Mobilize Domestic Resources for Health Care
Two key areas of development assistance have been merging quickly: health care and domestic resource mobilization. The goal is to help developing countries afford to invest in their national health systems and institutions and do so wisely. Many countries want to do more to fund their own development, and donors are on board to assist. But there is little evidence on how to do so effectively in the pursuit of greater health security.
To Realize the Promise of Renewables, Address the Concerns of Local People
In 2009, in rural Pennsylvania, as head of the Renewable Energy Center, I attended a community meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers about a proposed wind farm in Ogletown, in Somerset County. I was told that previous meetings on the topic had been heated enough that a police presence was necessary—and welcomed.
New Orangutan Species Discovered in Forest Supported by USAID Conservation Program
More than eight years ago, DAI staff tromped through the Batang Toru forest of North Sumatra, Indonesia, counting nests, observing behavior, and collecting field evidence on one of the oldest members of the great ape family—the orangutan. What they did not realize was that this group of orangutans was an entirely unrecognized species—the Tapanuli orangutan—that we now know is endemic to 475 square miles of upland forest in the Batang Toru Ecosystem south of Lake Toba.
EU Funds Totaling €4.1 Billion Aim to Boost Investment, Private Sector Engagement in Africa and European Neighbourhood Countries
Nowhere do entrepreneurs and investors face more risk than in fragile states where jobs and economic growth are most needed. To mitigate this risk, the EU is launching the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD), part of the External Investment Plan (EIP). The EFSD brings together €2.6 billion from the existing blended-finance operations in Africa and the European Neighbourhood region and the new guarantee for €1.5 billion. The EIP will be formally announced at the 6th African-EU Business Forum 27–28 November in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Q&A with DAI’s Susan Scribner: Preparedness, Response, and Global Health Security
Pandemics begin with a single case but don’t stay that way: since 2000, avian influenza has killed 440 people in 14 countries, Ebola more than 11,000 people in 10 countries, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) 770 people in 37 countries. The first deaths were reported locally in Hong Kong (1997), Guinea (2013), and China (2002), respectively. HIV/AIDS was first contracted by a human from a primate in West Africa—since 1981, AIDS has killed 35 million people, including 675,000 in the United States.
Sourcing the Wadi: How Palestinian Workers Are Filling Niche Needs in Israel’s IT Sector
The Middle East hosts one of the fastest-growing high-tech industries in the world: Israel’s Silicon Wadi. But the very speed of this growth means Israel’s tech sector also faces a shortage of skilled engineers. To deal with this shortage, Israel has turned largely to Eastern Europe as a source for IT workers. Though there is plenty of talent in Eastern Europe, the time difference is not ideal for collaborating and that talent is becoming costlier as global demand increases. This combination of circumstances means opportunities for Palestinians.
Turning Restrictive Social Norms in the Middle East into Job Opportunities for Women
When deep-rooted social norms appear to limit the roles of women, one of the best tactics we can take in development assistance is to look for opportunities to turn those norms to women’s advantage.
Helping Eastern Partnership Countries Meet Their Commitments to Address Climate Change
The economies of Eastern Europe have grown in recent decades largely on the backs of heavy industry, mechanisation, and agriculture. In many countries, this has led to significant greenhouse gas emissions, a reliance on inefficient technologies, and a policy environment that did not support green growth. As part of their commitments to global climate change agreements, signatory countries pledged to reduce emissions. After committing to cleaner ways, however, these countries faced a common challenge: where to start?
Messe Frankfurt’s Purchase of Source Africa Trade Show Exemplifies the Potential of Market Systems Development
Seven years ago, DAI began implementing the value chain portion of Southern Africa Trade Hub (SATH), a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). SATH’s goal was to promote economic growth by fostering intraregional trade between select member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Q&A: Unlocking Inclusive Economic Growth for Mozambicans by Building a Market for Digital Financial Inclusion
While Mozambique’s economy is emerging—notably through the extractives sector—most Mozambicans remain very poor. Eighty percent still make a living from subsistence farming. One cause for their marginalization is that most have no connection to the wider economy or to basic financial services such as saving, borrowing, and electronic payments. This limits the ability of Mozambique’s 12 million rural poor to grow their livelihoods and perpetuates their isolation and poverty.
More Than Developing Apps: USAID Program Propels Cambodian Girls Into Global Technology Finals
Women are far underrepresented in the tech world globally from bottom to top. The all-encompassing industry is looking into the mirror and seeing men and boys dominating technology jobs, classrooms, and expert panels, a bias now widely noticed.
Q&A: Barry Finette on the Hopes and Challenges for THINKMD’s Life-Saving mHealth Platform
DAI and THINKMD connected in 2016 through DAI’s Innovation into Action Challenge. Our strategic partnership will leverage DAI’s international development network to bring THINKMD’s digital health products to new markets, while THINKMD’s technology will enhance DAI’s global health toolkit. As part of this partnership, DAI led THINKMD’s latest financing round.
Founded in 2014, THINKMD soon introduced its first product, MEDSINC—a mobile health platform that enables non-healthcare professionals in marginalized locales lacking doctors, nurses, and clinics—to perform clinical assessment, triage, early treatment, and follow-up, especially on infants and young children. THINKMD’s second product, DATASINC, aggregates and analyzes public health and epidemiology data for a variety of uses.
Cold Storage Expansion Drives Market Development in Uzbekistan
We were amazed to see a packed audience in 2010 when our team from the Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) traveled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Our Uzbek trainees came from many backgrounds—teachers, builders, businessmen—eager to learn about this vital link in the agricultural value chain. Most did not have experience in the cold chain, let alone a refrigeration facility to manage, yet they soon formed the foundation for the country’s remarkable cold chain development.
Using Development Assistance to Catalyze Sound Investments in Emerging and Developing Markets
Investment opportunities in manufacturing, agriculture, and health are as abundant globally as the capital to fund them, but investors in these and other sectors are rightly cautious about entering new countries and taking risks on small and growing businesses and productive infrastructure. Fortunately, there are many examples in these teeming markets of how capital supported by local development expertise and entrepreneurial energy has generated both financial returns and development results.
PolSEFF’s Legacy: Lower Energy Bills for Businesses Across Poland; a Financing Model to Scale and Replicate
While Poland’s private sector grew steadily in the post-Soviet era, its reliance on old energy equipment and poorly insulated facilities contributed to the country becoming one of the highest energy consumers in Europe. In 2010, when the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) launched the Polish Sustainable Energy Financing Facility (PolSEFF), few business owners had invested in energy efficiency measures compared with the European Union average, and Polish lending institutions were not prepared to finance these types of upgrades. As a result, business owners continued to pay unnecessarily high energy bills and emit unnecessarily high amounts of carbon.
Philippines Increases Tax Collections by $1.1 Billion Year Over Year—Without Raising Rates
What would you do with an extra $1.1 billion? That amount represents the additional taxes collected by the Philippines government during the first quarter of 2017 versus the same period in 2016. This 12.2 percent increase—during the country’s tax-collecting season—followed the rapid adoption by taxpayers of an electronic tax-filing system introduced by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Facilitating Public Investment (FPI) program, implemented by DAI.
Generation Rising: Young, Educated Afghan Women Enter the Workforce
It is hard to believe in the wake of the past few decades that 1960s and ’70s Afghanistan was relatively progressive for women, with many women and girls freely attending school, working professionally, and dressing fashionably. Since the 1990s, warlords and, later, the conquering Taliban subjugated females—forbidding girls from going to school and women from working.
$93 Million Grain Deal Between East African Countries Demonstrates How the Region Can Feed Itself
If East Africa grows enough food to feed itself, which it generally does, why are so many of its people going hungry? This question lies at the nexus of two of Africa’s key development challenges—food security and trade—where a recent milestone event may signal a massive change in fortunes for one of the most food insecure regions of the world.
The Whole Spectrum: A Holistic Approach to Climate Resilience
Climate change is a growing threat to global stability and national security. Decades of fossil fuel combustion and unsustainable land use have contributed to carbon dioxide levels in the planet’s atmosphere that are higher than in the past 4 million years. With so much carbon dioxide trapping heat in the atmosphere, the planet is getting warmer. Last year—2016—was the hottest year on record and seas around the world have already risen an average of nearly 3 inches. We are already experiencing increased impacts from extreme events, such as floods and drought: while it is difficult to attribute any one event to the broader phenomenon of climate change, Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines caused 6,100 deaths, displaced 4 million people, and damaged 1.1 million houses in 2013, with an estimated financial cost exceeding US$7 billion.
How Tax and Budget Assistance Helps Developing Countries Help Themselves
In the United States, April brings warm weather, budding flowers, baseball season and … Tax Day. While not a joyful occasion for most, it is an opportune moment to reaffirm the value of assisting developing countries to improve their tax systems.
Despite Regional Instability, Lebanon’s Honey Sector Reaches New Heights
Even before more than 1 million Syrian refugees crossed into Lebanon, the nation’s agriculture sector was struggling to serve its 4.5 million citizens.
Unlocking Capital: How USAID Pushed the Frontier of Financial Services and Built a Foundation for Economic Growth in Kenya
In 2010, as part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) designed the Kenya Financial Inclusion for Rural Microenterprises (FIRM) project. FIRM aimed to push the frontier of financial services into the agricultural sector where smallholder farmers—the bulk of Kenya’s 45 million people—were mired in poverty.
Big Gains in Access to Safe Drinking Water: How Four African Countries Did It … and How Others Can, Too
In 1990, the East African nation of Ethiopia stood among the nations in most dire need of water development. Seventeen years of war had left its government and systems in disarray. Only 11 percent of its more than 48 million people had access to piped or other improved water sources; the rest used unimproved sources such as unprotected wells and carted drums. Predictably, Ethiopia and countries in similar straits suffered through high rates of communicable, pandemic, and vector-borne disease, child mortality, and other challenges tied to water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Afghan Municipalities Raise More Revenues, Deliver Better Services, Enhance Stability
The long-running conflicts in Afghanistan have threatened to reduce its municipalities to mere clusters of people rather than organized cities operating for the local good. But this is changing. Many municipalities are now gaining strength, establishing financial systems, increasing revenues, and improving service delivery by virtue of technical assistance funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Six Ways to Mitigate Instability in Central America
Some people might be surprised to know that most of the migrants trying to cross the U.S. southern border come not from Mexico but from countries to Mexico’s south.
Eighty percent of the unaccompanied child migrants detained at the border in the year ending September 2016—roughly 47,000 out of 59,000—came from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Migration from these “Northern Triangle” countries has spiked since 2013, with many migrants forced from their homes because their families are impoverished, their communities overrun by gangs, and their countries’ governments ill-equipped to fix such problems.
Sexual Harassment Law Passes Afghan Houses
Harassment in the workplace in Afghanistan is a major deterrent to women’s participation. In the private sector, women regularly suffer verbal and physical abuse, blackmail, and the use of authority to coerce sex. But this treatment extends beyond the private sector.
We Need More Women on the Frontlines of the War on Hunger
In developing countries, something is missing in the war on hunger: an equal voice for women.
Onshore Fish Farms Flourish in Gaza
In less than a year, an onshore fish farm in Gaza has more than tripled the amount of fish it grows and sells by applying technology and assistance from The Compete Project (Compete), a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program implemented by DAI.
Simple Solutions: Nutrition and Garden Training in Afghanistan Improves Food Security for Thousands
As in many developing countries, mothers and children in rural Afghanistan suffer from chronic undernutrition, often because they lack knowledge. Thousands of families in northern Afghanistan are now enjoying improved nutrition and food security thanks to work by a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) economic growth program.
Market Systems Development Boosts Farming, Nutrition in Bangladesh’s Southern Delta
Bangladesh’s Southern Delta—home to 30 million people—is afflicted by inefficient farming, persistent poverty, and poor nutrition. But a market systems approach applied by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Agricultural Value Chains Program (AVC), a Feed the Future initiative, is beginning to show great promise for the region.
Establishing a Model at the Local Level for Science-Driven Climate Adaptation
Countries in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB)—Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam—are home to rural populations that are chronically poor or vulnerable. Many of these families still produce much of their own food and are acutely sensitive to weather events such as floods, droughts, and extreme storms that cause crop failures and serious hardships. In recent years, rural communities in the LMB have experienced their share of extreme weather.
National Governments Hold the Key to Sustainable Local Climate Change Adaptation in the Mekong Basin
Over the past few years, farmers in the Lower Mekong Basin have had to change how they win their livelihoods: diversifying crops, reconfiguring livestock husbandry practices, addressing water quality and quantity, even moving their planting schedules. Utilizing local knowledge and experience, these farmers and communities are adapting to the changing climate; they also mark the beginning of a movement.
Chevron’s Nigerian Initiative Found to Decrease Business Risk, Attract Local Investment, and "Bring Hope"
When Chevron launched the Niger Delta Partnership Initiatives (NDPI) Foundation in 2010, it knew there were no easy solutions to the instability felt by Nigeria’s youth, poor, and unemployed. Ethnic and religious conflicts had long festered and flared, including in the Niger Delta, where Chevron has extensive oil and gas operations. Taking a regional approach while still complementing other Chevron Nigeria social investments such as the Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMOU), the company sought to address the fundamental issues confronting local communities: the struggle for economic opportunity, the sources of the underlying conflict, and the capacity shortfalls constraining the Delta’s development.
Unveiling a New Methodology for Measuring Market Systems and Their Impact on Local Development
When the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) was launched with Chevron’s backing in 2010, it also meant that a time would come to assess whether the team was achieving its goals—primarily, to open doors for broad-based economic opportunity in the conflict-affected Delta.
New Opportunities Emerge to Support Meaningful Democratic Reform in Sri Lanka
By 2014, DAI was winding down the Reintegration and Stabilization in the East and North (RISEN) program in Sri Lanka on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Office of Transition Initiatives. Over more than four years of operations, the program worked locally with people in civil society and government, implementing grants totaling $14 million to restore communities and support reconciliation between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamil populations following 26 years of destructive war.
Agriculture Goes Prime Time: Enthralling a TV Audience of Future Farmers
Each Wednesday night, up to 11 million viewers tune into Makutano Junction, a hit TV series that airs on Citizen Television in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. It is the most-watched locally produced program in Kenya, but Makutano Junction is not just any soap opera. Africa Lead II, a Feed the Future program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is helping fund production and craft scripts that deliver a much-needed message: agriculture is cool.
Domestic Resource Mobilization Takes Root in El Salvador ... and Beyond?
An encouraging trend in development is gaining speed: more countries want to do more to fund their own development, and donors are on board. At the July 2015 Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, attended by more than 110 heads of state, ministers, and officials from 38 countries, donors pledged a doubling of assistance by 2020 for programs to increase domestic resource mobilization.
Plugging In to Jordan’s Rising Demand for Electric Cars
Just shy of Amman’s “7th Circle” on Zahran Street stands a car showroom featuring a different kind of sedan. Take one walk around the Renault Zoe and you will spot the difference. This 88-horsepower super-mini features all the design elements of a car twice its size, except one: a gas tank.
Zika and the Americas—A Call to Action for Surveillance and Preparedness
More than 30 countries in the Americas have reported Zika virus infections, with up to 4 million people projected to be infected in 2016. The mosquito-borne virus has now also been linked to sexual transmission, causing public health experts to predict that the virus could spread locally in the United States and elsewhere. U.S. agencies are responding quickly, prompted by the Level 1 alert issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s emergency control unit.
USAID-Backed Fellow Inspires Malaysian Renewable Energy Policy
When people think of solar energy, they often envision banks of solar panels producing electricity that powers lights and household appliances. While the use of photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity can contribute to reducing carbon emissions, another important and simpler use of the sun’s rays often goes overlooked: the generation of usable heat.
Clean Water for All by 2030. No, Really.
The audacity of United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No. 6—to ensure clean water and sanitation for all by 2030—is balanced by a few encouraging realities: there are myriad ways to attack the goal collectively, there is real clout behind global water initiatives, and—most promisingly—the world has already achieved notable results in water development. Since 1990, for example, more than 1.9 billion people have gained access to piped drinking water and 2.1 billion to improved sanitation, according to the UN.
SERVIR Demand Activity: A Key Link in Connecting Space to Village
Alerting rural villages to floods, detecting remote forest fires, and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions are some of the capabilities of SERVIR Global, a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). SERVIR integrates imagery and data from Earth-observing satellites and geospatial technologies to give policy makers around the world critical information on climate-sensitive topics such as natural disasters, agriculture, water, ecosystems, and land use. While the technology from space that SERVIR relies on is impressive, its greatest potential might lie in facilitating human connections down on earth.
A Good Use of U.S. Taxpayer Money: Helping Countries Mobilize Domestic Resources
Tax Day—April 18 this year in the United States—is a day that sparks controversy for many constituencies. For tax opponents, it is a reminder of the burdens borne by the taxpayer. For foreign aid skeptics, it is an opportunity to bemoan the sums spent on international development. For aid advocates, it is a moment to point out how tiny those sums are in the big picture of government expenditures.
When Tax Reform Leads to Increased Funding for Health Services
For people across El Salvador, it can be difficult to find medical treatment. Local health facilities in marginalized and rural areas often run short of basic medicines such as antibiotics. A doctor or nurse—if available—might have difficulty locating supplies and tools such as syringes and stethoscopes. But this scenario is brightening.
Energizing the Support Network for People with Disabilities in Vietnam
As in most countries, people with disabilities in Vietnam lead disadvantaged lives. Their plight has been exacerbated by the facts that until recently Vietnam was a very poor country without strong government social services, and the wars from the 1940s through the 1970s left many victims, adding substantially to the disability burden. The legacy of what the Vietnamese call the American War includes large numbers of unexploded ordnance and dioxin contamination where Agent Orange was sprayed or spilled that continue to affect lives and relations between the two countries today. There are an estimated 12 million people and families in Vietnam affected by disabilities.
Positively Mobilizing Urban Communities for WASH
Despite gains elsewhere in the country, urban Indonesia suffers from the lowest rate of access to improved sanitation and the second lowest rate of access to safe water among all ASEAN member nations. Only 32 percent of Indonesia’s urban population has access to piped water and only 73 percent to basic sanitation, which translates into higher rates of waterborne diseases, particularly among the most vulnerable: children and the poor.
Scaling Up Mobile Health Services to Expectant and New Mothers in Cambodia
Working in Cambodia, the Czech organization People in Need (PIN) had already produced a pilot maternal health product. Its mobile phone-based service—named Baby Care Village—was reaching select mothers and caregivers with messages on how to care for newborns. While the new service proved valuable, surveys indicated its messages were meeting just a fraction of the demand.
Engaging Both Men and Women to Link Nutrition to Agriculture
Severe food insecurity and a lack of diversified farming systems present serious challenges to Malawi’s government and development community. One great obstacle is misinformation. Many Malawians hold deep misconceptions about food—for example, that eating oranges or other citrus will shrivel a mother’s breasts. This misinformation works against a population whose rates of malnutrition and stunting—while declining in recent years—remain alarmingly high at nearly 50 percent.
Savings Groups Enabling Hundreds of Smallholders in Mozambique to Buy Certified Seed
Dressed in the splendour of her finest cotton capulana, Angira and her friends sit in the 40-degree heat, shaded by the leafy branches of an old mango tree. Together, they eagerly await the arrival of the village leader so they can proceed to unlock a wooden box containing their seasonal accrual of cash savings.
Spurring the Malawi Judiciary to Re-Hear Death Sentence Cases, Free Prisoners Unjustly Held
In the 2007 case of Kafantayeni and Others v. Attorney General, the Malawi High Court invalidated the mandatory death penalty and ruled that all prisoners given these sentences were entitled to a new sentence hearing. In November 2010, the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal confirmed this right. But by 2013, none of the affected death-row prisoners—188 men and four women—had received their hearing.
How Savings Groups Assist the Poor and Support Broader Development Goals
In November, DAI inclusive economic growth specialists Colleen Green and Kirsten Weeks attended the SG2015 Savings Groups Conference in Lusaka, Zambia, where approximately 350 practitioners from 44 countries shared experiences and opinions. Green and Weeks recently discussed savings groups and how DAI uses them across its programming with John Jepsen, DAI’s Global Practice Lead for financial services.
DAI’s Newest Collaboration: The Innovation into Action Challenge
Innovation has been a core DAI principle since our founding 45 years ago. The firm’s very name, Development Alternatives, speaks to the company’s fundamental aspiration to provide customers with solutions that push the boundaries of the discipline. At DAI, we define innovation as the combination of products, services, processes, and business models that collectively create a new growth trajectory for the company. For DAI, innovation must yield value.
Feed the Future Project Builds Freekeh Industry in Lebanon
Quinoa can be hard to pronounce but has won the hearts of health-conscious consumers in international food markets. Supporters hope one day to say the same for the middle-eastern grain, freekeh. This ancient whole grain is made from green wheat that is then roasted. In foodie circles, it is gaining in popularity alongside millet, farro, and others.
For Thailand’s Civil Society, Capacity Building Now Begins at Home
Well functioning democracies typically rest on three pillars: the state, the market economy, and civil society. Although nongovernmental organizations have existed in Thailand since the Vietnam War, management in the country’s civil society sector has lagged. During Thailand’s modernization and rapid growth, the state and private sectors have dominated development, with universities limited to preparing Thai people for employment in these sectors. Until recently, there were no university programs dedicated to nonprofit management.
Discovering Pathways to Economic Growth in Somalia, Discreetly
Somalis have suffered through a generation of conflict and political instability, with no formal national government since the outbreak of civil war in 1991. An estimated 500,000 Somalis died during the conflict, which left Somalia unable to support its people and an economy in dire straits. Yet following the formation in 2012 of the first federal national government since the war began, signs of progress have begun to emerge. A more settled political landscape and improving security—thanks to continuing action against Al-Shabaab—have seen Somalia graduate from a failed to a fragile state.
Improving Nutrition While Easing the Workload on Women
When the villagers of Makhoyo in southern Malawi were introduced to the concept of backyard gardens, few of them gave it much thought. Residents had farmed soy and groundnuts for generations in this area. It seemed too simple to be true: to grow vegetables easily at home, especially during the dry offseason.
The Future of Mobile Money: Traditional Banks, B2B, and the User’s Perspective
Brigit Helms, who leads the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Support Program for Economic and Enterprise Development in Mozambique, is a thought leader on extending financial services to poor households and small businesses in developing countries. Helms recently spoke with John Jepsen, DAI’s Global Practice Leader for Financial Services, about trends and opportunities in digital financial services.
In Vietnam, Creating Opportunities for Children with Disabilities
Even though their right to an education is mandated by law, thousands of school-age children in Vietnam stay at home or sit uninvolved in classrooms because they have disabilities. Helping these children has been a priority of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s disability program in Vietnam, including its Persons with Disabilities Support Program (PDSP), launched in 2012 and led by DAI.
300,000 Downloads and Counting: How I Created a Top Khmer Smartphone App
By 2013, smartphone usage among Cambodia’s young people was booming in urban areas. Many users, however, could not text or express themselves in Khmer, Cambodia’s most widely spoken language. Their smartphone software did not readily support the Khmer alphabet, and the few add-on apps available were hard to use and unreliable.
Nurturing a Culture of Law and Justice in the DRC
Decades of war and political unrest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) left a void of law and justice for Congolese citizens. Too often, security and police forces are part of the problem rather than the solution, operating in a culture of impunity and self-enrichment enabled by the absence of judicial and public oversight. Citizens in the DRC have limited understanding of the role of the police as public servants, or of how police and citizens should interact in a democracy.
Getting Back to Business in Post-Conflict Gaza
When a business is put out of commission by war, it can take only a small investment—done rapidly in a post-conflict environment—to put it back on its feet, creating employment and making sales.
Growing a Global Network of Microfinance Practitioners
The European Commission (EC) is one of the world’s leading exponents of access-to-finance programming, known particularly for initiatives such as mentoring local banks and developing loan programmes for small businesses and green energy investment. Equally noteworthy is an EC programme dedicated to promoting microfinance in developing countries, a programme that recently closed after vitalizing a global network of local microfinance practitioners who in turn reached some 3.5 million people.
Building Community Climate Stories and Adaptation Plans from the Ground Up
A complex web of ecosystems, the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB) is acutely sensitive to climate change. More than 60 million people depend on this vast interconnected system to support their livelihoods. While there is an urgent need for these communities to begin adapting to rising temperatures, heavier precipitation, and more frequent flooding, residents of the Basin—mostly people connected to rice, livestock, and fish farming—do not have the knowledge, tools, or resources to better prepare themselves for the future climate.
Training Videographers for Development in Cambodia
When Australian-Cambodian videographer Bunhom Chhorn returned to his native Cambodia in the early 2000s, he found the country nearly stripped of basic video expertise. There were no facilities, instruction, or equipment available to most people. Cambodian media overall had been greatly diminished by years of poverty and instability.
Philippines Experiences Nearly Seven-Fold Increase in Electronic Tax Filing
Despite the Philippines being among the first countries to introduce electronic tax filing opportunities more than 15 years ago, only 8 percent of its tax returns in 2013 were e-filed. By comparison, e-filing rates in peer countries range from 70 to 100 percent. But the Philippines is catching up.
Measuring the Effectiveness of Government in Thailand’s Provinces
Thailand enjoyed strong economic gains through the 1980s and 1990s, but political crises and civil unrest that have escalated since 2005 have damaged the country domestically. The prolonged constitutional crisis—culminating in the May 2014 military coup d’etat—has punished Thailand’s 67 million citizens by diminishing governance and public services. Civic pride, engagement, and trust in government are at historic lows, with ordinary people taking to the streets in protest and riot.
From Desert, Mountain, and Plain: Afghanistan’s First-Ever Nomad Gathering
Known collectively as “Kuchi,” the nomadic peoples of Afghanistan recently convened in Kabul for a historic assembly to address longstanding issues specific to their community.
Interview with Joel Carter, CEO of Afghanistan’s Agricultural Development Fund
For generations, Afghanistan’s commercial farmers and agribusinesses had no way to borrow money to invest in their businesses. In 2010, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in partnership with the Afghanistan Ministry for Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock (MAIL), established the Agricultural Development Fund (ADF). USAID’s initial fund contribution of $100 million would be complemented by a technical assistance contract—the Agricultural Credit Enhancement Program—awarded to DAI.
Uniting Tajikistan’s Farmers to Fix Broken Irrigation Systems
Tajikistan’s rugged alpine mountain ranges hold many glaciers; these feed hundreds of streams that flow down to the fertile river valleys, where many people work on farms. Despite this pretty picture, Tajikistan is severely food challenged. The poorest country in Central Asia, Tajikistan imports more than half its food. Many of its most vulnerable families go all day without eating.
In Sierra Leone: Enhancing Traditional Law and Justice Services
Despite significant improvements in the delivery of statutory justice services, most rural people in Sierra Leone lack the time, money, or literacy needed to access formal justice structures such as police, courts, or legal services. Instead, they rely on traditional mechanisms such as the Chiefdom structure, which are perceived as quicker, less expensive (in time and money), and more accessible.
The Birth of a New Credit Culture in Afghanistan
Fifty-four months. That’s how long it took to conceive, launch, and hand over the Agricultural Development Fund (ADF) in Afghanistan. Through the Agricultural Credit Enhancement (ACE) Program, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) established a standalone financial institution to administer the ADF, with a clearly defined governance structure and guided by rigorous policies and procedures.
Building Trust while Rebuilding Somalia
Somalia has one of the most insecure, complicated, and harsh operating environments in the world. Much of the country is in ruins, with conflict between rival clans, continued attacks by Al Shabaab, and violent power struggles amplifying humanitarian disasters such as refugee crises, famine, and poverty. In the past two decades, millions of dollars in international aid directed to Somalia has had mixed results, with many Somalis believing that well intentioned assistance has exacerbated conflict and increased corruption.
Invigorating Business Reform in Resource-Rich Mozambique
When the Support Program for Economic and Enterprise Development (SPEED) was launched, Mozambique was at a crossroads: it was one of the poorest countries in the world, but about to realize a multibillion-dollar boom from oil and natural gas.
Serving the Missing Middle
Not long ago, Aynalem Gebryes had nowhere to turn to borrow money, despite having a steady income from fattening cattle, producing milk, growing potatoes, and selling directly to local hotels and restaurants.
This changed in January 2014, when the 56-year-old widowed mother of three from Addis Ababa became the first woman to receive a loan through the Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Programme (WEDP). Gebryes used her $7,500 loan to add two cows to her operation and build a government-backed biogas unit, from which she plans to sell any fuel she doesn’t use herself.
Fiscal Reform and the Struggle for Stability in Jordan
Much ink has been spilt by academics, analysts, diplomats, and the military regarding the causes of instability. But a broad consensus holds that environments with scant economic opportunities are fertile grounds for recruiting alienated and aggrieved young people to the cause of violent extremism. Taking that as a premise, it makes sense to pursue programming that bolsters economic resilience as part of an integrated strategy to counter extremism. In Jordan, we have an example where macroeconomic assistance—in particular, fiscal reform—has played an important role in sustaining the stability of a country at the heart of one of the world’s most volatile regions.
Working Together? We’re Working On It
For DAI, one of the great advantages of implementing an extensive and diverse group of projects is the opportunity it affords us to learn and collaborate across a multiclient portfolio—to bring insights from U.K Department for International Development (DFID) programming into our U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) work, for example, and vice versa; or to coordinate mutually beneficial activities that cross project and client lines.
Improved Pig Pens Help Northern Thailand Communities Brace for Effects of Climate Change
For villagers in northern Thailand’s Hae Ko hill tribe community, raising pigs is an integral part of their lives. Not only do the livestock serve as a critical protein source for the community and provide supplementary income, they are also culturally important as ceremonial gifts.
Women in Development: An Inside View
In international development, one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that increasing women’s engagement in society has diverse and wide-reaching development benefits. Many people are familiar with some version of the adage: “If you educate a boy, you train a man. If you educate a girl, you train a village.” Expanding opportunities for women’s education, access to health services, economic participation, and leadership can have ripple effects that spur economic growth, promote political stability and peace, and improve public health.
Women in Development: Intissar Hemim
Editor’s Note: This interview is part of a series on Women in Development highlighting the role women play in DAI’s work around the globe. The Q&A was conducted by DAI Communications Specialist Sara Lehman.
Women in Development: Endah Agustiana
Editor’s Note: This interview is part of a series on Women in Development highlighting the role women play in DAI’s work around the globe. The Q&A was conducted by DAI Communications Specialist Sara Lehman.
Women in Development: Ruba Al’Zubi
Editor’s Note: This interview is part of a series on Women in Development highlighting the role women play in DAI’s work around the globe. The Q&A was conducted by DAI Communications Specialist Sara Lehman.
Women in Development: Jessica Heinzelman
Women in Development: Alia Afshar-Gandhi
How Banks Can Help Businesses Reduce Their Energy Costs
Energy consumption can account for up to half the cost of doing business for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These businesses of 250 or fewer employees make up 95 percent of enterprises across the world; they also account for approximately 60 percent of all private sector employment. Globally, there is great potential to reduce their energy costs and carbon emissions.
Mutually Profitable Bonding of Suppliers and Farmers via SMS
For prevention of weeds (Shen Guli), cut stems of weeds before producing seeds and put salty solution on cut stems. Abdul, Jalalabad, 0700555555
This is what marketing looks like in rural Afghanistan.
Better Data Transfer Reinforces Kenya’s Hunger Safety Net, Enables Emergency Payments
The traditional pastoralists of northern Kenya are increasingly challenged by the changing climate.
Most of the land they inhabit is classified arid or semi-arid and prone to droughts which, in recent years, have become almost annual. Seventy-four percent of the people—much higher than the national average—live below the national poverty line, with poverty rates highest in the most arid counties of Wajir, Mandera, Marsabit, and Turkana. The struggles for those in Wajir and Mandera are compounded by the effects of insecurity from neighboring Somalia.
Sustaining the Facebook Revolution
The nexus of social media, Internet access, and smartphone technology has spawned a revolution in political activism. Ordinary people using new technology and digital media platforms—people whose voices would otherwise be drowned out by dominant political forces—are now contributing to or joining political debates. And their price for admission is almost zero.
Monitoring Our Assumptions
For many of the world’s poor, usable land is in short supply. In Africa, for example, more than 90 percent of rural land is undocumented and vulnerable to land-grabbing and expropriation. This leaves smallholder farmers and pastoralists—people trying to eke out an existence—vulnerable, especially in countries where land governance is weak.
Group Savings in Tanzania Helping the HIV-Affected Poor
Fifty years after independence, Tanzania still struggles to secure a resilient future. HIV/AIDS compounds the problems caused by poverty and scarcity, creating deep fissures in the national and local economies and leaving HIV-affected households highly vulnerable in the face of rising costs for food, schooling, and medical care.
The Phantom Team Leader
Most industry observers believe the leaders of increasingly complex development projects must combine subject matter expertise with strong executive skills—a rare combination. Do the leaders we are searching for exist?
Stepping Up to the Innovation Challenge
On the morning of October 29, a panel of distinguished judges gathered in Bethesda, Maryland, to hear the final pitches from five DAI projects competing for the title of DAI “Innovation of the Year.”
They heard powerful, impassioned cases made by project staff working to improve education in Pakistan, facilitate land titling in Ethiopia, recognize the land rights of indigenous people in Honduras, and mitigate the effects of climate change in the Pacific Islands.
The proceedings were broadcast live to DAI staff by videoconference, and at a lunch-time celebration the Transforming Education in Pakistan project’s online clearinghouse for education data was named the winner.
The announcement marked the culmination of a five-month Innovation Challenge that is the focal point for this issue of Developments.
DAI’s 2014 Innovation Challenge: Lessons and Legacy
International development donors are increasingly asking their partners for more than just “good development.” Inspired in part by the example of the information and communications technology sector, they want new thinking and better approaches to address global poverty, poor governance, climate change, environmental degradation, and inadequate health care. They want solutions that are transformative (vs. incremental), scalable, more efficient, and cost-effective. They want, in a word, innovation.
Is Everyone Really Innovating?
Innovation seems to be ubiquitous—or, at least, talk about innovation. A 2012 Wall Street Journal review of reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows companies used some form of the word “innovation” 33,528 times in 2011, a 64 percent increase from five years before. At the same time, one doesn’t have to look hard to find growing cynicism regarding over use of the concept.
Innovation’s Missing Link
In the critically acclaimed film, The Spanish Prisoner, Steve Martin plays a confidence man trying to swindle an unsuspecting engineer out of “the process,” a super-secret industrial formula that generates boatloads of cash. Martin and his co-conspirators are sent away in handcuffs with the process safe and sound as the credits roll. What remains mysteriously unresolved is how the process works and what makes it so lucrative.
Can the Development Set Reinvent Itself?
Innovation is “in.” In 2014, the U.S. Agency for International Development and U.K. Department for International Development have both launched sizable initiatives: the U.S. Global Development Lab and the Global Innovation Fund, respectively. Innovation hubs, incubators, and accelerators are popping up like mushrooms. Partnerships—especially with the private sector—are widely seen as essential to the innovation of solutions with scale.
Disruption for Good
Despite the advances in human development in the 20th century, humanitarian aid remains as relevant as ever. While our ability to respond to disaster has improved, factors such as climate change and the burgeoning global population mean that the number and severity of disasters have also increased. Could “big data” help humanitarian relief actors keep up with this escalating challenge?
Humanitarians in the Sky
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capture images faster, cheaper, and at a far higher resolution than satellite imagery. And as John DeRiggi speculates in “Drones for Development?” these attributes will likely lead to a host of applications in development work. In the humanitarian field that future is already upon us—so we need to take a rights-based approach to advance the discussion, improve coordination of UAV flights, and to promote regulation that will ensure safety while supporting innovation.
Drones for Development?
Recent advances in drone technology have come in tandem with advances in artificial intelligence. These converging technologies will give rise to fully autonomous drones that could play an important role in a host of applications, from commercial delivery systems to municipal governance–and quite possibly in international development activities.
We Need Disruption in Financial Inclusion
Microcredit was a business model disruption in the banking sector. Today, to offer the full range of high-quality financial services required by the majority of the world’s people, we need to find the next major business model to disrupt microcredit.
An Innovation in Governance
Pro Mujer is a nonprofit organisation serving communities in Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru. It delivers an integrated package of financial services, business, and empowerment training through its communal banks, which are groups of 20-30 women who receive small business loans through Pro Mujer.
“Fail fast” is a mantra in Silicon Valley. While the development sector is starting to accept more failure—through “Fail Fairs” and reports centred around learning from failure—it is still far from achieving the speed of failure practiced in, for instance, the tech sector. Most development programmes don’t know if their program is failing months or even years after launch, whereas tech ideas can recognise failure within days. Can the development sector catch up?
Design Thinking and Development
DAI’s Jessica Heinzelman recently sat down with Mike Rios of 17 Triggers to discuss how we can make development projects more 'delightful'.
Big Data for Big Impact
Food-related conversations on Twitter have shown strong correlations with food price inflation. Patterns of mobile phone usage are being analysed to predict the magnitude of a disease outbreak. When airtime top-off amounts shrink in a certain region, it tends to indicate a loss of income in that population.
Made in Africa
As the current Ebola outbreak vividly illustrates, the ability of developing countries to detect and contain outbreaks of infectious disease is a matter of concern to us all. That ability depends upon capacities across a wide variety of areas. Among these is the capacity of laboratories to quickly and accurately perform modern diagnostic tests — and that requires equipment.
Following the Fukushima nuclear accident, many Japanese people were concerned about radioactive contamination in their environment. Radiation data from the government and the private sector were out of date and widely viewed with skepticism. Were citizens safe in their homes, schools, and offices? Was the clean up effort effective?
Timorese Farmers Take Advantage of Demand for High-Value Produce
In 2007, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) invested in a hydroponic greenhouse facility that enabled 20 Timorese farmers to grow high-value vegetables such as capsicum and tomatoes. These high-quality products for local supermarkets replaced vegetables that previously had to be imported, jumpstarting production in Timor-Leste’s Aileu District and increasing cash income for its farmers. Since then, the Developing Agricultural Communities, or Dezenvolve Agricultura Comunitária (DAC, 2010–2015) project and its predecessor Dezenvolve Setor Privadu (2006–2010) have engaged more than 400 farmers in greenhouse and outdoor vegetable production and helped build a stronger fresh produce value chain.
Supporting the Transition to Peace in Sri Lanka
When armed conflict in eastern Sri Lanka ended in 2007, the Government of Sri Lanka was afforded an opportunity to begin repairing the damage. Two years later when the government captured the last-remaining stronghold of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the north, the 26-year civil war finally ended, promising better days ahead and the hope for lasting peace. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched the Reintegration and Stabilization in the East (RISE) project to prepare communities in the most conflict-affected areas in the east for the changes peace would bring, including the eventual reintegration of former combatants back into their villages.
Supporting Active Citizenship Across Pakistan
Danish Bibi was to be married off illiterate and homebound to a husband not of her choosing. Usman Ghani saw neighborhood children routinely die for lack of health services. Brothers Ishaq and Saleem feuded for years over the same plot of land.
DAI Solutions: Thinking Outside the Organizational Box
In January 2013, DAI launched a new corporate structure designed to optimize the firm’s deployment of technical and operational expertise across the world. The restructured organization includes a new Solutions team, led by Jim Packard Winkler and staffed by 40 of the firm’s leading technical specialists. A former Chief of Party for U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) projects based in Bangkok, Hanoi, Jerusalem, and Zagreb, Jim was tapped to lead Solutions following five years at the helm of the USAID/Vietnam Competitiveness Initiative. Developments asked Jim to discuss the thinking behind Solutions and the lessons learned in its first year or so of work.
Reforming Business Policy in Mozambique from the Inside
Mozambique’s recent discoveries of coal and gas make it a resource-rich country and potential world player. But it remains one of the world’s poorest countries as reflected by global indices such as the UN Human Development Index.
Innovative Fund Enables Philippine Water Utilities to Invest, Deliver Safe Water to New Customers
More than a decade ago, the Philippine Government committed to achieving Millennium Development Goals for water supply by expanding access to safe water to 16 million Filipinos—about one-fifth of the country’s population. This expansion would require an annual investment of PhP6-7 billion (US$150-$175 million); however, public sector financing remained stuck at PhP3-4 billion per year with no increase in sight. The only way to achieve the goal would be to mobilize private sector financing and investment. But how?
Poverty, Partnership, and the Pursuit of Innovation
In February of this year, I had the honor of being appointed to the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid. ACVFA was established after World War II as a link between the U.S. Government and private organizations active in humanitarian and development work overseas.
Calculating the Fiscal Cost to Jordan of the Syrian Refugee Crisis
Since 2011, the Syrian conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and destroyed countless homes and businesses, forcing Syrians by the thousands to seek refuge in the region. Jordan generously opened its borders to these refugees, who settled in camps established by the United Nations and in northern cities such as Irbid, Ramtha, and Mafraq, resulting in a rapid, nearly 10 percent increase in the population.
Fertilizing Method Delivers Results for Liberian Rice Farmers
When the 300 farmers at the Fuamah District Multipurpose Cooperative reviewed results from the rice farm’s trials using a new fertilization method, the farmers sang and danced in celebration. Plots using this method—where briquettes of fertilizer are buried in the ground next to rice seedlings—returned 17 percent higher rice yields than simply throwing fertilizer granules onto the field and 30 percent higher yields than sites using no fertilizer at all.
Going Social on Avian Influenza
In March 2013, mobile phone subscriptions in Indonesia—a country of approximately 245 million people—topped 285 million. That’s a penetration rate of 117 percent—higher than in China, India, or even Japan. As the cost of phones and service plans dropped, social networks and community media grew enormously, fueled by texting and phone-enabled video.
The Partnership Fund
Prior to the fall of Siad Barre’s dictatorship in Somalia, all banks were owned by the state. When Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991, the nascent government did not prioritize the establishment of a banking sector or regulatory environment to develop financial services. Today, Somaliland remains one of the few places in the world with no established commercial banking sector—resulting in a lack of access to capital that constrains the private sector.
DFID Project Assists Local Groups in Sending Thousands of Pakistani Boys and Girls to School
In Pakistan, the constitution makes education for all children age 5-16 compulsory and requires that the state provide that education for free. Yet more than 9 million Pakistani boys and girls do not go to school. Even though this crisis feeds unemployment, poverty, and extremism, the Pakistani government is not giving it due attention.
Natural Resource Conservation through Electronic Hotel Reservations
When Gabriel Lopez rented out two rooms in his apartment in 2004 to earn income while working on his MBA, he never intended to become a small-business owner.
Fiscal Project Helps Jordan Issue $1.25 Billion Bond, Saving Millions for Development
On October 31, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan closed on its offering of a $1.25 billion sovereign bond issuance guaranteed by the United States.
Incentive for Moroccan Farmers to Conserve Water? Increased Incomes
While the full implications of global climate change on rainfall and the world’s water supply are still largely speculative, the day that demand for water outstrips supply has already arrived in Morocco.
Mining for Answers: Mozambique Weighs Options for a Practical, Profitable Local Content Policy
Mozambique finds itself at a critical juncture in its economic development. New gas deposits found offshore could bring the country significant revenue through natural gas extraction and export. This discovery will add to the ongoing heavy investments from abroad aimed at extracting and exporting Mozambique’s coal and other precious metals.
Facilitating e-Banking in the Philippines
Most Filipino households and small businesses operate in a cash economy. Because many lack access to banks or formal financial services, they face a major barrier to economic advancement.
After Typhoon Haiyan: How Do We Build Back Better?
On November 7, typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Philippines. While rescue and relief personnel have worked valiantly to meet the most urgent needs of the estimated 4.3 million people displaced, full recovery will take years and test the substance of the Philippines national and local governments and the international development community. The estimated impacts of this storm are huge, particularly in Leyte Province:
Evidence Kits Turning the Tide on Sexual Violence
The rape kit–or forensic evidence collection kit, to use its sanitized title–is something people in the West might take for granted. Not so in Sri Lanka where, until the advent of the sexual assault forensic examination (SAFE) program, there were no readily available rape kits. Instead, perpetrators of sexual violence acted with impunity.
To Unlock Job Growth in Egypt, Fix the “Micro-BEE”
Political crisis or no, Egypt’s government cannot afford to keep ignoring the issues that sparked two popular revolts in as many years. Issue number one for most Egyptians, especially young Egyptians, is employment. To meet the need for jobs, policy makers must do more to improve Egypt’s business enabling environment (BEE), not only at the national level, but also in the local administration trenches.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, It’s Time to Recognize Customary Land Rights
Delivering on the promises of economic, social, and cultural rights set out in international covenants is difficult for many developing countries given their lack of wealth and high levels of poverty.
Bottom-Up Decentralization: New Local Autonomy Kickstarts Community Governing in the DRC
When the new constitution for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was written, its main aim was to resolve the conflicts between warring factions that had brought the country to its knees. In the peace talks of 2002 and 2003, convened to assuage the demands of multiple interest and ethnic groups, it was agreed that the DRC would adopt something approaching a federal model. Each province would have its own government, elected assembly, revenue-raising powers, and a governor appointed by the provincial assembly. The existing 11 provinces were to be subdivided to make 26. These agreements were all incorporated in the final constitution of 2006.
Ensuring that Forest Communities Own REDD+ Projects — Not the Other Way Around
Forests and climate change have never been more closely entwined in global climate policy discussions, and for good reason: the more forest, the less climate disruption. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation + Conservation (REDD+) initiatives aim to reward communities in and around forests for not converting forests to other land uses, and millions of dollars have been invested to this end. Done well, REDD+ projects can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the clearing or burning of forests, promote development in communities around forests, strengthen land tenure, conserve carbon-storing forests, and safeguard biodiversity. Done poorly, these projects can increase emissions through meaningless offsets, boost deforestation in adjacent areas, and displace indigenous people.
Three Things That Really Mattered to Developing the Youth Workforce in Serbia’s Down Economy
Workforce development was a relatively late addition to the $25 million Preparedness, Planning and Economic Security (PPES) project implemented by DAI from 2006 to early 2013. Added to the project by the client, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in mid-2008, the activities eventually became known as the “Youth Support” sub-component and addressed one of the most common issues raised by many small and medium sized enterprises—a dearth of qualified talent in Serbia. When we asked these firms what were some of the key barriers to growth one of the most common answers was: “I can’t find people with the skills I need for my business.”
Foreseeing a “Grave Crisis,” Will India Embrace Greater Water-Use Efficiency?
Long before any popular environmental movement existed, Mahatma Ghandhi said, “The earth, the air, the land, and the water are not an inheritance from our forefathers but on loan from our children.” Today, India faces many challenges, few of them more fundamental to long-term development than fresh water availability. The centrality of water to human health, agriculture, manufacturing, and ecosystems makes it imperative that India’s decision makers improve the stewardship of water resources.
Competitiveness-Driven Growth: CIBER Process Breaks Barriers for Moldovan Entrepreneurs
Moldova used to be the garden of the Soviet Union. It shipped wine, cereals, fruit, and vegetables to the other Soviet Republics. The collapse of the Soviet Union also meant the near-collapse of its agricultural sector, in particular the high-value horticultural segment. The country is now engaged in an intensive effort to reclaim its position as a strong competitor in agricultural exports, both in the traditional markets to the east but also to the European Union. However, Moldovan entrepreneurs and policy makers face hurdles in their quest.
Financial Inclusion: A Wealth of Perspectives
The Financial Inclusion Series—convened by DAI and originally published on the Guardian Development Professionals Network—has explored various themes in the “financial inclusion” agenda, from mobile money and poor people’s financial capabilities to innovative supply models and agricultural finance, among others. The range of subject matter and diversity of authors testify to the breadth of the field and the need to pull from different disciplines and perspectives if we are to meet the challenge of financial inclusion.
Microinsurance: Does it Pay Off for the Poor?
Microinsurance, much like microcredit, seeks to bring financial products and services typically reserved for middle and upper classes to the poor. Its particular promise is to offer low-income consumers protection from financial shocks more effectively than existing coping mechanisms such as credit, savings, pooling of community resources, public sector support, or asset sales.
Mobile Services for the Unbanked: Finding a Viable Commercial Model
Providing mobile financial services to improve financial inclusion is an exciting proposition. Banks and non-banks alike see enormous promise in the ubiquitous mobile phone.
Savings Groups and Financial Inclusion
In villages across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, millions of people are meeting regularly in groups of 10 to 30 people to save and borrow small amounts of money, and provide each other with the moral support needed to meet each member's individual financial goals.
How to Unlock the Potential of Mobile Money
It's hard to imagine a more explosive, transformative, and empowering trend than the growth of the mobile phone sector in Africa. In 1998 there were fewer than 4 million phones on the continent; today there are around 800 million—a whopping 80 percent penetration. Compare this to the meager 24 percent of African adults with bank accounts. Experts expect there will be around 1.1 billion mobile phone subscribers by 2017.
The Service Provider Spectrum: From Microfinance to Financial Inclusion
The microfinance industry has come under withering attack in recent years, pilloried among other things for its high interest rates and its coverage, which is often estimated to reach less than 10 percent of the population. But practitioners, the media, and the public should understand that microfinance is a broad term for a highly differentiated financial sector that is not without its successes. Each type of provider—from banks to savings groups—plays a particular role in providing the continuum of services typically needed to promote "financial inclusion" in underserved areas.
Financial Education: Time for a Re-Think?
Financial education is often touted as being essential for low-income people. But traditional financial education in both poor and rich contexts too often takes a didactic, classroom-based approach to conveying analytical financial concepts such as budgeting, saving, managing debt, and calculating interest rates. We need to re-think the process of financial education to merge it with product marketing, thereby making it more relevant for customers and more cost-effective for financial institutions.
Does Microfinance Work?
Does microfinance work? This question has been intensively researched and hotly debated in the development community over the past few years. The answer depends on what you mean by the words 'microfinance' and 'works.' I'll explain more, but in a nutshell, if your answer is probably not, you're likely using a narrow definition of microfinance and a specific notion of what's meant by 'works.' Getting to yes involves a broader definition of microfinance and a more holistic interpretation of what constitutes success, and you need to draw on several strands of research.
Beyond Financial Inclusion
The term 'financial inclusion' has rapidly entered the mainstream policy discourse in the past seven years. Outside of its natural home in the development community and the financial sector, it now features regularly even in tightly worded G20 Summit communiques.
Benefits of Bringing Mobile Banking to the Unbanked
There is no doubting the growth in popularity of mobile banking. According to Juniper Research, the market for mobile payments is expected to reach more than $600 billon (£393 billion) globally this year–double the figure of February 2011. And many development organisations are riding that telecom wave to reach people who don't have access to financial institutions.
Are the Pacific Islands Ripe for Mobile Money?
Characterised by a young, poor, and isolated population with a strong need for basic financial services and fast-growing usage of mobile phones, the Pacific island countries-14 islands spread over 30 million square kilometres-seemed to be a perfect place to develop mobile financial services when the Pacific Financial Inclusion programme (PFIP) started in 2008. Successive assessments found that:
Agricultural Credit: Delivering the Development Promise in Afghanistan
Economic growth is a necessary condition for long-term stability, especially in conflict-affected environments. In Afghanistan, where more than half of the gross domestic product comes from agriculture and 75 percent of the population lives in rural areas, the growth of the agriculture sector is critical to economic prosperity and social stability.
A New Financial Model: Putting the Individual at the Centre
Ten years ago, a low-income Filipina woman described her life to me as "one long risk." Today, I suspect her life is little different. For all the successes of the microcredit experiment, we have yet to take full account of the individual experience at the center of a life lived in poverty—a life where medical crises, theft, crop losses, or any one of innumerable random shocks can readily erode the hard-won gains of saving, building assets, and participation in the financial system.
A Cash-Lite World: Safe, Cheap, and Convenient Payments for All
In the past two decades, the world's information grid has expanded massively. Digital signals are all around us. In developed markets, many of these digital exchanges involve electronic payments, but most people in developing countries are still stuck moving paper. Financial transactions lie at the heart of doing commerce, selling goods and services, managing a business, and taking care of one's family. Making these transactions safer, cheaper, and more convenient should be on the development agenda of every developing country. Yet building a digital payments fabric linking all citizens and businesses in a country is rarely a development priority, in part because the benefits are intangible and diverse.
Rwandan National Park Project Honored as World’s Best by British Travel Writers
The Nyungwe Nziza project in Rwanda has been named winner of the prestigious British Guild of Travel Writers’ Best Overseas and Best Global Project Awards. At the recent annual awards dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London, Guild Chair Roger Bray said: “Nyungwe Nziza is a model tourism project for developing countries.”
Philippine City Launches Mobile Payment Pilot
The city of Valenzuela, Philippines, has embarked on a program to promote the use of mobile money for payment of government services.
Unleashing Cambodian Technical Knowledge
One of DAI’s most wide-reaching economic growth projects marked its close at the end of 2012 with a remarkable tally of results that speak to the success of an approach based on unleashing the technical knowhow and market linkages already latent in the Cambodian economy.
Using Hard Data to Inform HIV/AIDS Interventions for Economic Strengthening
In Tanzania, the health and development challenges are chronic and widespread. The country has been hit hard by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and 15 million people (one third of the population) live below the poverty line, making them particularly vulnerable. While there are no simple solutions to Tanzania’s problems, a household survey implemented by DAI promises to shed new light on interventions to assist these HIV-vulnerable populations.
Linking Soldiers, Civilians Across West-Central Africa to Increase Stability, Security
Chad’s desert expanse—nearly twice the size of Texas—presents enormous challenges to its government.
Inexpensive Mobile Platform Connects Agribusinesses to Work Together Better
For more than 10 years, DAI has been integrating information, communication, and geospatial technology into our work around the globe.
In recent years, DAI has made a conscious recommitment to serve the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID). As a result, after a lot of hard work and significant investment, we are beginning to establish ourselves as one of the department’s leading implementing partners. We currently manage 10 major projects on DFID’s behalf, including education initiatives, governance projects covering the spectrum of work from voice and accountability to security sector and justice reform, and several economic growth assignments in Africa.
Development Insights on the Frontlines of Asymmetric Warfare
Since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, perhaps the greatest—and least understood—security threats faced by countries are asymmetric, not force on force.
Business Booms for Farmers Who Solved Supply Problem for Top Regional Business
The hillsides of Gurue District in northern Mozambique should be perfect for farming, but it takes hard work, know-how, and resources to turn land into farmland, farmland into crops, and crops into cash.
Youth Music and Popular Voice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
In many emerging democracies, youth are absent from the political stage and civil society. Last year’s “Arab Spring” proved a promising exception, demonstrating the power of youth to galvanize popular demand and help redefine their political landscape. Sub-Saharan populations, many being immediate neighbors of Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, followed these dramatic events with fascination and some envy.
Economic Empowerment Strategies for Afghan Women
It was just a generation ago that many women in Afghanistan thrived in academia and the professional workplace. Their standing in society, like that of less privileged Afghan women, has since been destroyed.
USAID STAR Project Helped Propel Vietnam into the Global Economy
In 2000, Vietnam was anxious to pump life into its economy. Less than a generation removed from a crippling war, the country faced challenges such as reducing poverty and creating enough jobs to absorb some 1.5 million people entering the labor force each year.
Thousands Worldwide Find Environmental Solutions at FRAMEWeb
Biogas projects in Africa have a worthy goal—to cheaply convert waste into fuel—but a discouraging record of failure. Reliable biogas operations require specific conditions and careful maintenance. So when Alvaro Gutierrez from Colombia set out to launch a biogas program in Kenya, he reached out for advice and found it, for free, from colleagues all over the world.
The Case for Supplier Development
Here in South Africa, the recently approved merger between Walmart and local retailer Massmart has made supplier development a hot topic. Opponents of the merger argue that it will hurt small suppliers by denying them access to the combined company’s supply chain. But the sobering truth is that even before the merger, small companies—particularly black companies—had little chance of penetrating the supply chains of most large South African corporates. International consolidation is a red herring; the more pressing problem is the structural exclusion of nearly 6 million small businesses in the local market.
Providing an Afghan Village with Lights and Electricity
Imagine the difference electricity would make to a village where every night the street and homes go dark because there is no choice.
In Arid Jordan, IDARA Motivated Citizens, Government to Conserve Precious Water
Five years ago, the Kingdom of Jordan took a critically important step to conserve its scarce water resources by approving a Water Demand Management (WDM) Policy. While many middle-income and advanced economies have overemphasized supply-side solutions—a costly, myopic, and ultimately inadequate response–water-starved Jordan is beginning to see the benefits of a more balanced strategy.
Herat Economic Corridor Could Catalyze Growth in Western Afghanistan
Doing business in Afghanistan is tough. The last 30 years of conflict aside, private-sector growth is obstructed by perpetual mistrust, poor transportation and energy infrastructure, a lack of market information, and a business disabling environment. Infrastructure has been destroyed, investment discouraged, and industrial capacity depleted. Many professionals have left the country, while labor forces have been displaced or are untrained.
Helping a South African Mining Giant Invest for Results in its Local Communities
The Sishen Iron Ore Company Community Development Trust faced a fabulous opportunity—and a daunting challenge. A beneficiary of mining giant Anglo American’s Kumba Iron Ore Company, the trust recently came into a sooner-than-expected windfall of dividend income. This annuity could continue for 20 years or more, depending on the life of the company assets, efficient operation of the mine, and global demand for iron ore.
DAI Security Chief Discusses Importance of Local Security and Training
Army Special Forces Colonel (Retired) Barry Shapiro joined DAI in 2009 after a distinguished military career specializing in training and liaising with the security forces of Central Asian and Southeast Asian countries. He has extensive experience training local police, special, and military forces in countries such as Afghanistan, Cambodia, Pakistan, and Thailand. As DAI’s Vice President of Global Security, Barry ensures DAI project teams worldwide can mitigate the risks associated with working in many of our locations and integrates security into all aspects of corporate operations and planning. He recently shared some thoughts with Developments about building the capacity of local security forces.
Why are local security forces important to local people and, ultimately, to their country?
In many places in the developing world, security forces, whether local militia or uniformed police or soldiers, are often the first tangible example of government in action. I have always felt that the average citizen of the world will support the side that is seen as their protector, or at least does the least harm to them and their families. That local security force is the government’s first and lasting chance to make a positive impression.
In developing countries and countries in transition, what kind of capacity building do security forces typically need?
The typical challenge is changing traditional concepts of local militias into security units marked by discipline and teamwork. Bravado and fighting experience are not what make a unit effective. Being able to orchestrate diverse functions during extreme situations is what separates a trained security unit from a bunch of guys with guns.
The concept of performing a dangerous task for the sake of public service is another concept that needs to be developed and maintained.
During your army career, what did you find were some of the main tenets for successful capacity building for local security forces?
The most important thing was to establish the right rapport with our clients. Understanding their cultural perspective is, of course, one aspect of this rapport, but knowing how to use that understanding to your advantage is key. To say it is a nuanced relationship is an understatement. For instance, even though there may be a cultural tendency to show respect to a teacher, we had to also demonstrate we had something worthwhile to teach.
What are some of the common mistakes made in this line of work?
The policies of our government tend to support programs aimed at building “gold-plated” military or police units. By that I mean we create a high-functioning unit for a specific function that requires the type of equipment and expertise that few countries other than the United States can provide. Unfortunately, when we do it that way and finish the job, the host nation often does not have the capacity to maintain that band of excellence, so the unit either disbands or becomes far less effective.
Competitiveness Initiative Simplifies Business in Vietnam
As USAID STAR helped open doors for Vietnam to global trade, another project is helping the country cut red tape across its 63 provinces so its citizens can transact business more smoothly. The USAID Vietnam Competitiveness Initiative (USAID VNCI), also implemented by DAI, supports the government’s Project 30 reforms.
Project Improves Business Environment in Morocco in Midst of Political Upheaval
In just three and a half years, the Morocco Economic Competitiveness (MEC) program accomplished an ambitious scope of work: reducing barriers to trade and investment in two rural regions at a time when economic turmoil—particularly in Europe—and political change across the Middle East and North Africa had a profound impact on Morocco.
Project Helps Vietnam Cut Red Tape, Hone Competitiveness, and Boost Economic Growth
A DAI-led project in Vietnam that touched the lives of 60,000 private businesspeople, partnered with five government entities, and many more institutions and groups has come to a close after 10 years.
Haitian Farmers See Increased Income While Better Managing Their Natural Resources
A wide-ranging project aimed at improving Haiti’s natural resource management and the lives of hillside farmers marked its close last month with a number of major successes—including higher incomes for farmers and the formation of a regional forum to carry on improving farm production while protecting natural resources.
Project Brings Together Divergent Ethnic Groups in Sri Lanka
A film documenting an annual pilgrimage in Sri Lanka shows the promise of peace for an island too long torn apart by war. The film was produced by the DAI-led Reintegration and Stabilization in the East and North (RISEN) project, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI).
Market-Driven Approach Delivers Far-Reaching Results in Burundi
At the beginning of the Burundi Agribusiness Program (BAP), women participants would stand in the back of training sessions and remain quiet. But as time went on, they gradually began moving to the front. By the end of the program, they felt empowered to speak on issues without permission from men.
The Re-Greening of Iraq: Restoring Marshlands
Driven from their land by a despot bent on retaliation, the Marsh Arabs of Iraq had little choice but to abandon the wetlands that were once home to billions of birds, a source of fish and dairy products for much of the country, and a natural filter for the waters of the Persian Gulf.