Over the next three weeks I will be covering issues in Development Economics with my year 2 IB students. I have often used TED Talks to inspire our class discussions, and this year I decided to compile a “best of TED” playlist to guide us through the IB topics in development.
Day 1 – The Nature of Economic Growth and Development and Measuring Development:
Esther Duflo: Social experiments to fight poverty | Video on TED.com – Alleviating poverty is more guesswork than science, and lack of data on aid’s impact raises questions about how to provide it. But Clark Medal-winner Esther Duflo says it’s possible to know which development efforts help and which hurt — by testing solutions with randomized trials.
Days 4 and 5 – The Role of Domestic Factors:
Hans Rosling: Religions and babies | Video on TED.com – Hans Rosling had a question: Do some religions have a higher birth rate than others — and how does this affect global population growth? Speaking at the TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar, he graphs data over time and across religions. With his trademark humor and sharp insight, Hans reaches a surprising conclusion on world fertility rates.
Hans Rosling: The magic washing machine | Video on TED.com – What was the greatest invention of the industrial revolution? Hans Rosling makes the case for the washing machine. With newly designed graphics from Gapminder, Rosling shows us the magic that pops up when economic growth and electricity turn a boring wash day into an intellectual day of reading.
Ernest Madu on world-class health care | Video on TED.com – Dr. Ernest Madu runs the Heart Institute of the Caribbean in Kingston, Jamaica, where he proves that — with careful design, smart technical choices, and a true desire to serve — it’s possible to offer world-class healthcare in the developing world.
Andrew Mwenda takes a new look at Africa | Video on TED.com – In this provocative talk, journalist Andrew Mwenda asks us to reframe the “African question” — to look beyond the media’s stories of poverty, civil war and helplessness and see the opportunities for creating wealth and happiness throughout the continent.
Jessica Jackley: Poverty, money — and love | Video on TED.com – What do you think of people in poverty? Maybe what Jessica Jackley once did: “they” need “our” help, in the form of a few coins in a jar. The co-founder of Kiva.org talks about how her attitude changed — and how her work with microloans has brought new power to people who live on a few dollars a day.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala on aid versus trade | Video on TED.com – Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the former finance minister of Nigeria, sums up four days of intense discussion on aid versus trade on the closing day of TEDGlobal 2007, and shares a personal story explaining her own commitment to this cause.
Day 8 – The role of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
Introduction: In order to understand the goals of economic development, it is useful to examine the characteristics of more economically developed countries and compare them to those of less economically developed countries. Before beginning the assignment below, watch the following TED Talk by Swedish Professor of world health Hans Rosling:
Resources: Use the following websites to find the required data for the assignment below.
Using the two websites above, locate the following for TWO COUNTRIES, one from the list of countries with “high human development” and one from the list of countries with “low human development”. Use the tables below to fill in the data for the two countries you have chosen.
Social Indicators (find and record figures for both the countries you chose below)
HDI ranking and value
Population growth rate
School life expectancy
Life expectancy at birth
Total fertility rate
GDP per capita
GDP – composition by sector
Stock of direct foreign investment – at home:
Labor force – by occupation
Part 2 – Dependency Ratio:
A nation’s dependency ratio tells us something about the ability of members of a nation’s workforce to provide necessities to him or herself and his or her dependents. Typically, less economically developed nations will have a higher dependency ratio than more economically developed countries. The lower a nation’s dependency ratio, the greater capacity for its workers to accumulate savings, which leads to investment, accumulation of capital, greater productivity, higher incomes and more economic development.
Calculation the dependency ratio: To calculate a nation’s dependency ratio, you must find demographic information on its population. You may need to do additional research beyond the two websites above to find this data.
Calculate the dependency ratios for:
Country with high HDI
Country with low HDI
Part 3 – Lorenz Curve and Gini coefficient:
The Lorenz curve is a graphical representation of the income distribution of a country. It plots the percentage of a nation’s total income (GDP) against its total population. The “line of absolute equality” is the 45 degree line, indicating a nation where each quintile (20% of the population) earns exactly the same income as each other quintile. No country is absolutely equal, therefore the line of equality is only used for comparison.
The Gini coefficient is the ratio of the area below the line of equality and above a country’s Lorenz curve and the total area of the triangle below the line of equality. A country with perfect income equality would have a Gini coefficient of 0. A country in which the top 1% had controlled all of a nation’s income would have a Gini coefficient of nearly 1.
Example: Australia’s income is distributed across its population in the following way:
1st 20% – 5.9%
2nd 20% – 12%
3rd 20% – 17.2%
4th 20% – 23.6%
5th 20% – 41.3%
Gini coefficient = 0.352
Illustrating your countries’ Lorenz Curves: This is another activity that may require research beyond the websites provided above. Try to find data on the share of national income earned by various levels of society. If you cannot find data for the 20% ranges, use the percentage ranges you can find. Draw a Lorenz curve for the two countries you researched.
Part 4 – Conclusions:
Evaluate your findings from the two countries you researched.
What conclusions can you draw about the correlation between GDP, HDI, income equality, social and economic indicators between developed and developing countries?
Does a high HDI correlate with relative income equality? What about low HDI?
Is a high GDP indicative of high levels of human development?
What other conclusions can you draw about economic development, national income, and equality?
To what extent did your country with low HD exhibit the following characteristics?
Low standards of living?
Low levels of productivity?
High rates of population growth and dependency burdens?
High levels of unemployment?
Dependence on agricultural production and primary product exports?
Dependency on foreign developed countries for trade, access to technology, foreign investment and aid?
On February 6 my IB year 2 Economics classes welcomed Dr. Irene Forichi, former Research Officer for Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Agriculture, and former Regional Emergency Agronomist for the Food and Agriculture Organization for Southern Africa. Dr. Forichi spoke with our classes about the role of agricultural productivity in contributing to human development and economic growth in Southern Africa.
For students or teachers who are interested, she delivered an excellent presentation about the agriculture-related obstacles to and strategies for economic development in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). Her presentation can be viewed here, or the PowerPoint she presented can be viewed below.
Teaching at an international school affords me the privilege of encountering and learning from truly unique and diverse individuals. Last week, my Economics classes were lucky to have as a guest speaker one very interesting and inspirational young man named Andrew Cunningham. Andrew, originally from Vermont, graduated from Duke University in 2008 and has helped co-found a non-governmental organization (NGO) focused on promoting grassroots strategies for economic development. WISER (Women’s Institute for Secondary Education and Research) serves a community of 35,000 in Kenya’s Muhuru Bay, an area where the per capita income is around $1 a day and 38% of the population is HIV positive.
Traditionally, less than 5% of young girls complete primary school in Muhuru Bay. In the town’s history, only ONE girl has ever gone to university (she would become the only Muhuru Bay native to complete her PhD and would eventually co-found WISER with Andrew). A combination of tradition, culture, and most importantly poverty had prevented improvements in the plight of woman in this poor corner of Africa. What was needed, decided Andrew and his founding partners, was an all-girls boarding school where opportunities for young women were promoted and academic achievement encouraged and fostered. WISER opened the community’s first all-girls secondary school in 2010 to 130 local girls who had made it through primary school.
Beyond female education, WISER have embarked on several other development projects in the last year and a half. In his visit to our IB Economics class, Andrew told the story of human development in Muhuru Bay as occurring primarily in three realms.
I will briefly summarize the three main development strategies WISER has employed in Muhuru Bay, starting with education.
Education as a development strategy:
Education is a primary and fundamental strategy for eradicating poverty. A nation’s human capital is its most vital resource, and the road to prosperity requires an effective education system that does not discriminate based on race, gender, or socioeconomic status. In Muhuru Bay, which is 14 hours by car across un-paved roads from Kenya’s capitol, the education system had failed to achieve meaningful results, both for boys and girls. Student performance on national examinations across the primary grade levels had historically averaged around 11% passing rates. Boys out-performed girls, but as a whole only about one in ten Muhuru Bay children passed the examination required for admittance to secondary school in Kenya.
WISER wished to improve this dismal statistic. If they were going to build a secondary school for girls, they would need to first get girls to pass the national exam for entrance to secondary school, or else their new building would be full of empty desks.
Andrew first talked to my class about the traditionaldevelopment community (think World Bank, UNICEF, USAID) approach to promoting education in Africa. You are probably thinking the way to help these kids is to give them resources to improve their education. Build better schools, give them textbooks and school supplies, maybe uniforms, build a library, electricity in the classroom, chalk boards, heck, how about we give them laptop computers! All of these ideas represent the traditional development community’s approach to improving education in poor countries. The problem is that these strategies focus only on the inputs into education, and completely fail to look at the output.
Inputs and outputs are common topics of discussion in any Economics class. To produce anything, three resources are required: land, labor, and capital. The traditional approach to improving education in Africa focused primarily on the land and capital. Things such as pens, notebooks, laptops, and new libraries are great, but they have little actual impact on what gets learned in a school. The neglected factor was the labor (i.e. the teachers!) In Muhuru Bay, teachers were paid so miserably and worked in such dismal conditions that the incentive to actually improve their students’ results was just too weak! With passing rates at 11% on national exams, WISER set about figuring out how to use incentives to improve the outputs of education in Muhuru Bay.
A simple and relatively low-cost plan was put into action. Teachers were told that if their students’ scores increased by only 15% on the exams, they would receive a 100% increase in their salary. Andrew and WISER worked with the national education ministry to develop interim exams that could be given quarterly to help the teachers measure their students’ improvement before the annual national examination.
With only minimal investments on the land and capital resources (i.e. textbooks and classroom materials) in Muhuru Bay schools, and by spending less than $10,000 on teacher raises, the passing rate among Muhuru Bay schools increased in one year from 11% to 36%. Hundreds of students, boys and girls, who would not have been able to enter secondary school the previous year, instead passed the exam and were eligible for a secondary education, a crucial step towards a better future!
The teachers’ incentive pay program was such a success in Muhuru Bay last year that the state government has taken notice and intends to implement it in other rural communities throughout Kenya. By focusing on the outputs (student learning), rather than the inputs (classroom resources) WISER has assured that when their all-girls school opens in January, its seats will be filled with qualified students who successfully completed their primary education.
Health as a development strategy:
The second topic of Andrew’s discussion with my IB Economics classes focused on health and sanitation, specifically solving the problem of open defecation (“OD” is a technical term used in the development community referring to the fact that in many poor communities basic latrines are non-existent, and therefore people shit in the open). OD in Muhuru Bay contributed to the poor health and low life expectancy of locals; According to Andrew an estimated 60 people were dying each year of cholera, a disease spread via human waste.
In the health realm of traditional economic development programs, the same basic dilemma between focusing on the inputs or the outputs had stymied previous attempts to reduce OD in Muhuru Bay. Recently, an outside aid organization had made loans to the community to build 30 public latrines. Within a year, however, the latrines had fallen into disrepair and were essentially useless. When Andrew and his team asked the community members why they had let the latrines fall into such a poor state, their answer was predictable. These were not their latrines, they belonged to the aid organization that had built the latrines. If they were broken, the aid organization could fix them! Such logic reflects a common problem in economics, that of the tragedy of the commons. Because the latrines were public, no one owned them. Because no one owned them, no one cared for them. When the latrines fell out of repair, people quickly reverted back to OD, and instances of cholera and other diseases increased once more.
WISER decided to tackle this problem using a similar approach as the one used to fix primary education in Muhuru Bay, by focusing on the output, rather than the inputs. In this case, the goal was simple: create incentives for people to build their OWN latrines, which they would then have an incentive to take care of and use. The strategy for promoting personal latrines they decided to employ is one that has been successfully implemented throughout the developing world, and is now funded by UNICEF, which trains facilitators to go into a community and in a very short time, and at a very low cost, incentivize the locals to take sanitation into their own hands and build their own latrines.
Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) is a mind-blowing and shockingly blunt way to promote sanitation. Rather than spending thousands of dollars to build public latrines, the CLTS approach brings community members together for an afternoon of discussion and education about sanitation issues. Locals are asked to take an index card and go to “where they shit” and collect a sample of their own waste. A large pile of human waste is placed on a table in front of a room full of locals right next to a large selection of delicious foods. The facilitator then goes about discussing basic facts related to OD in the community, such as “If you added up all the shit your community produces in a year, how many donkeys would it weigh as much as?” or, “How many bags of rice would you have to eat to create this much shit?” In the mean time, of course, hundreds of flies have descended on the pile of waste in the front of the room, and the community members look on in utter disgust as the flies jump from the feces to the food and back again.
At the end of the lecture, the facilitator turns to the food and says, “Well, it’s time for lunch, who’s hungry?” In utter disgust, the locals ask the facilitator if he has gone mad. The lesson, of course, is that the food and water the community consumes is most likely being contaminated by the waste they produce and deposit in the open around their village. Within a few weeks of the CLTS project in Muhuru Bay, 256 new latrines were built by the community members themselves. Whereas previously, only around 15% of the locals used latrines regularly, after the CLTS project around 75% had access to the “facilities”.
The total cost of the CLTS sanitation project? Around $55, a tiny fraction of the cost of building the public latrines that had previously been neglected by the community. By focusing on the outputs rather than the inputs, real development in the health of the community was achieved at a very low financial cost.
Entrepreneurship and micro-lending as a development strategy:
The final approach to human development in Muhuru Bay Andrew discussed with my classes focused on the economic empowerment of community entrepreneurs. Micro-lending is a much talked about and widely used development strategy that provides financial credit or technology loans to entrepreneurs in poor communities to create small businesses, ideally ones with a socially beneficial purpose. Watch the first 12 minutes of the video below to get a better idea of the history and purpose of micro-finance as a strategy for achieving economic development.
In Muhuru Bay, the micro-lending scheme Andrew has pioneered involved not financial capital, but physical capital (i.e. technology).
WISER was able to secure several technology donations, including a copy machine, several laptop computers with cellular internet connections, a foot pump for water, and a digital LCD projector. WISER then solicited loan requests from several “young entrepreneurs”. Young men and women wrote business plans outlining how they would use the technology loans to generate income for themselves and the community, and provide services that would benefit others in the Muhuru Bay community. The technology would not be donated to the recipients; rather they would be required to pay back the value of the capital through their business revenues.
It is simply amazing how a few pieces of second-hand technology, items that we in the rich North would take for granted as relatively common and thus of very little social or economic value, can completely change a poor community in Africa for the better. Here’s how some of the capital Andrew and WISER loaned to young entrepreneurs were put to use to achieve meaningful development in Muhuru Bay:
The copy machine was installed and powered by a generator. It was the first such machine ever installed in Muhuru Bay. Local businesses, students, job seekers and other could now, for a few cents, photo-copy their documents locally, avoiding the two hour drive previously required for such a service.
The laptops were installed in an internet café and made available to local students and businesses. Farmers and fisherman could check product prices in the cities hours away, increasing efficiency and bargaining positions when middle-men came to town to buy their produce. Job openings in the city newspapers’ classifieds could be printed and posted for the local community to see, improving information symmetry between the poor countryside and the cities where job opportunities existed. The cost of access to these services was cheap, yet the entrepreneurs who were granted the laptop loan were able to pay back the cost of the technology in no time at all, and the community as a whole benefited from their existence.
My favorite entrepreneurial venture involved the LCD projector. This piece of technology, which now hangs from the ceiling of thousands of classrooms around the rich world, had never before been seen in Muhuru Bay. You may think it ended up in a classroom or in an office building, but no; the entrepreneurs who received the projector hooked it up to a satellite dish which captured and projected English Premier League football matches onto the wall of a large room in a local building. The business was to sell tickets to local football fans who were more than happy to pay to watch English football matches in full color on a wall-sized screen. Before the projector, dozens would have huddled around a tiny television with poor reception to watch football matches. The “football theater” business was the most successful of all, and paid back its loan fastest.
All three of these entrepreneurial endeavors were very low cost, using donated technologies. The reason for their successes, however, must be attributed to the model for implementation. They were not simply “given” to the community. Such a strategy would certainly have led to the same “tragedy of the commons” experienced when the outside aid organization funded the construction of public latrines. The capital would have been neglected and fallen into disrepair. By lending the technology to businesses, however, the incentive for innovative and socially beneficial ventures was created, and a business model was developed to best utilize the resources in a profit-earning, sustainable manner. With very little inputs, fantastic outputs were achieved, enriching not only the entrepreneurs, but the entire Muhuru Bay community.
Economic Development the WISER Way:
Andrew’s visit to Zurich International School was eye-opening in many ways. He brought to light both the successes of WISER and other community projects in rural Kenya, but also shined a light on the failures of the traditional development community’s agenda. When I think about the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been committed to economic development in Africa over the past decades, and on into future decades, I wonder whether the diplomats and the politicians in the “aid community” have any idea how much has been accomplished on the ground in places like Muhuru Bay thanks to community-based organization like WISER.
With so little, so much can be accomplished. The poor of Africa and the world need resources, but more importantly they need education, health and sanitation, and business opportunities so that they can enjoy the benefits of development from the bottom up. Development aid, as it has traditionally been distributed, comes from the top down, funneled through national governments. Waste and corruption are rampant, and typically only a fraction of what has been given ends up on the ground in places like Muhuru Bay. Even when it does, the tragedy of the commons often results in inefficiency and waste, as the “inputs” are managed and distributed from the top down, leading to uncertainty of ownership and misaligned incentives once the resources are on the ground.
Perhaps aid from the outside is still needed, but Andy’s visit showed me and my students that something much more basic lies at the core of successful economic development. Education focusing on outputs rather than inputs, sanitation focusing on outputs rather than inputs, and entrepreneurship that empowers business leadership, have improved the lives of thousands in one Kenyan community. What could such a re-thinking of development strategies do for the rest of Africa and the developing world?
Fair trade schemes aim to get more of the money we spend on our stuff into the hands of the workers in less developed countries where they originate. Some examples of goods produces in fair trade cooperatives in poor countries include fruits, tea, coffee and cocoa. Some handicrafts and textiles are also available from Fair trade programs as well.
It is estimated that approximately 7.5 million producers in the developing world participate in fair trade programs, producing $5 billion worth of output.
a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers – especially in the South.
Fair Trade organisations (backed by consumers) are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade”.
Fair trade as a strategy for economic development is controversial, as many argue that either fails at raising the incomes of the farmers it is supposed to serave or that it incentivizes farmers to remain in the low-productivity agricultural sector rather than seeking higher productivity jobs in manufacturing, thereby contributing to poverty in poor countries.
Below are two videos that proclaim the benefits of free trade. After watching the videos, discuss the benefits of fair trade with your class.
Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of Fair Trade programs at promoting economic development.
Outline the possible advantages of a country specializing in manufactured goods instead of primary products.
What factors explain the growth in importance of multinational corporations over recent decades? Illustrate your answer where possible by making reference to your own or other countries. Do multinational corporations work in favor of or against the interests of Less Developed Countries?
To what extent has the international trading system contributed to economic growth and development in less developed countries?
Discuss the view that increased trade is more important than increased aid for less developed economies.