• The objective of this Blog is to facilitate access to research resources and analyses from all relevant and useful sources, mainly on African Economic Development.

    This Blog will include analyses and observations of the three authors, Steven Langdon, Arch Ritter and Teddy Samy. It will also include hyper-links, abstracts, summaries, commentaries and observations relating to other research works from academic, governmental, media, non-governmental organizations and international institutions.

    Commentary and discussion on any of the postings is most welcome.

Poverty measures show worsening social inequalities in Nigeria

by Steven Langdon

There has been widespread debate and analysis about poverty in Africa, reflecting the fact that most parts of the world saw marked poverty reduction during the 2000-2015 United Nations Millennium Development Goals period but sub-Saharan Africa saw persistence of high poverty rates for large numbers of people in most countries.  Different measures of poverty have been consistent in showing this African poverty persistence,  including the World Bank Poverty Line approach and the broader Human Development Index (HDI) and its associated Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI.)

One of the countries where poverty has continued to be high,  despite its petroleum wealth,  has been Nigeria.  This has been particularly significant given that Nigeria’s population is the highest in Africa and expanding quickly.

This has made the country a particular focus of poverty research,  making use of a wide variety of measures to track social conditions besides the traditional approaches.  A new Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) Index measures three factors crucial to reducing gaps between the rich and poor — social spending, tax policies and labour rights. Nigeria ranks last out of 157 countries analyzed.

The World Bank has also launched a new indicator,  the Human Capital Index (HCI,)  suggesting the future social situations of a country’s population,  based on chances of a child reaching age five, healthy growth, expected years of schooling, quality of learning available and the adult survival rate.  Again,  Nigeria’s ranking is very low — 152nd out of 157 nations.

If Africa is to succeed in marked poverty reduction in the context of the 2015-2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) effort,  it is clear that socio-economic policy and its implementation in Nigeria must improve in a major way.  I have worked with the World Bank in Nigeria and know that the governance challenges in the country are great.  But the critical needs of millions of poorer Nigerians will have to lead to new urgency and commitment to counter poverty in the largest nation on the continent.

For more on poverty measures in Nigeria and their implications, please see the attached.



Posted in Featured | Leave a comment

Informal trade flows exceed official trade statistics in parts of Africa

by Steven Langdon


There are challenges to relying on official statistics in parts of Africa,  as we discuss in our recent book (African Economic Development, by Langdon, Ritter and Samy — published by Routledge in 2018.)

Recent evidence from Benin suggests these challenges may be particularly great in measuring trade flows between individual African countries,  with much trade being carried out informally by small-scale traders without being calculated numerically at border posts.  Three researchers (Jarreau, Mitaritonna and Bensassi) have undertaken a large scale survey of informal traders crossing the Benin-Nigeria border, asking them the extent of their import and export of goods — then comparing this with official trade statistics for the same 171 border points.

The results were dramatic.  Some 85% of exports were not recorded and 50% of imports.  The goods involved are not just agricultural products,  but include a diverse range,  including textiles and transportation equipment.

As the researchers conclude, “this confirms that trade statistics on the continent suffer from a serious blind spot.”  Given the importance African countries are giving to initiatives for continental free trade,  the gaps in existing trade measurement are especially problematic.  This blind spot on trade statistics also underlines the wider need to improve official statistics in other areas to contribute to better African economic policy-making.

For more details on this Benin research, please see the attached link.


Posted in Featured | Leave a comment

New Islamic financing becoming more important in Africa

by Steven Langdon

In our recent book (Langdon/Ritter/Samy, African Economic Development, Routledge, 2018,)  we discuss how various African countries have begun to diversify their international financial sources,  using bond issues, for instance,  so as not to depend as much on direct foreign investment.

Now further diversification is becoming evident in the form of sukuk bonds from Islamic sources.  This is lending in which interest payments are not allowed,  with agreed levels of profit sharing from project results.  Over US$2.3 billion in such financing has taken place in Africa since 2014,  with the Ivory Coast and South Africa as the largest recipients (and Muslim Asian and Gulf States countries as the main source of the funds.)

It is important for Africa to broaden it’s sources of capital for development,  so this trend is a significant plus — as the World Bank and other international agencies have recognized.  For more details,  see the attached link.


Posted in Featured | Leave a comment

Greening of arid Africa: an update on “gao” trees

by Steven Langdon

Farmers in Niger and other parts of arid Africa are making their own “green revolution” — by expanding the cultivation of “gao” trees, also known as “winter thorn.”  Faced with drought and high prices for fertilizer,  farmers have grown over 200 million “gao” trees in Niger,  providing nutrition to the soil and retaining water from the scarce rainfall.

We provide a detailed discussion of this remarkable success in the agriculture chapter of our new book, “African Economic Development,”  published this year by Routledge.  Now the Guardian newspaper in the UK has published an update on recent developments,  along with illustrations of “gao” trees and their output.  The article emphasizes as well the contribution of the trees to countering climate change pressures.

Please see the attached article:



Posted in Featured | Leave a comment

The Tech Revolution in Kenya

Traditional economic development thinking has emphasized sectoral advances in such areas as agriculture, resources and industry. Just as technological innovation has transformed the dynamics of North American and Asian economies, however, technological change is now bringing remarkable advances to some African countries. Kenya has been a particular example of this process.

Technology hubs have grown, especially in Nairobi, such innovations as internet banking have spread across the country and technological education has grown for young women as well as men.

The following video from PBS provides powerful testimony of how these changes can improve the conditions and opportunities of the poor in Kenya. High tech mapping of the Kibera area in Nairobi, the video shows, provides insight into where services are located — and most needed. Education is also shown as a pathway to new skills and options for poorer Kenyans, including young women.


Posted in Featured | Leave a comment

Environmental Struggles in Africa — a new Ghana case

by Steven Langdon

Mineral developments in many African countries used to give minimal attention to environmental effects. But this has been changing in recent years. Our recent book, “African Economic Development” (published in 2018 by Routledge,) outlines examples from Nigeria, Liberia, Niger and Mozambique; local communities and environmental groups in these cases have worked to counter pollution damage to people and wildlife, drawing support from such foreign institutions as the European Investment Bank and from domestic university scholars.

Now a major Chinese-financed initiative to mine bauxite in Ghana has spurred similar objections from local environmental and community groups. The Ghana government has stressed high economic benefits from the mining project, but protestors point to considerable potential damage to the rainforest ecology in Ghana. Ghana’s famous Kakum National Park, with its tree-top canopy walk amidst huge old-growth trees, is an example of this ecology in the country.

Environmental and community groups have seen success in enforcing punitive payments from petroleum multinational corporations in Nigeria, and have established improved pollution policies in the case of the aluminum smelter operated by BHP Billiton in Mozambique.

What will be the outcome of this new struggle in Ghana? This will be a case to track carefully. See the attached link for more information.


Posted in Featured | Leave a comment


The Economist, June 21 2018.

Original Article: Sierra Leone and NTDs

SIXTEEN years ago Hannah Taylor woke up with a fever. Her legs began to swell to four times their normal size. They have been that way since. People shunned her because of their putrid smell. “For six years, I thought my big fut was caused by evil witchcraft,” she said outside her shack in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

The lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) ailing her was caused by a mosquito-born infection that could have been treated safely with a pill costing no more than $0.50 before it progressed. Instead, microscopic worms infested her body, causing catastrophic and irreversible damage.

Elephantiasis is one of 17 neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that affect 1.5bn people, disabling children and keeping multitudes poor. Huge progress has been made against these diseases since an agreement in 2012 by pharmaceutical firms to donate billions of dollars’ worth of drugs. Even so, many African countries struggle to get the necessary pills to those in need.

Strangely Sierra Leone, one of the world’s poorest countries, is doing better at beating back such diseases than almost anywhere else in Africa. This is despite a devastating civil war from 1991 to 2002 that claimed 70,000 lives and wrecked the health system. What little remained of it was gutted by an Ebola outbreak in 2014 that killed lots of doctors and nurses. As a result the country has only some 400 doctors to treat its 7m people. Corruption also makes the nation sicker. Most people have to pay bribes to doctors and nurses for basic treatments.

Fifteen years ago as much as half the population was infected with the worm that causes onchocerciasis, or river blindness (see map). Many villagers in the southeast used to think it was perfectly normal for people to go blind after 30, says Mary Hodges, from Helen Keller International, a charity that works on blindness and malnutrition. Yet by 2017 only 2% of people carried the worm, and there had been no new cases recorded of people going blind from onchocerciasis in a decade. Elimination is expected by about 2022.

Other illnesses are also being beaten. Schistosomiasis, also known as snail fever and bilharzia, is a parasitic worm infection that slowly destroys the kidneys and liver. It, too, is in retreat among children. So are soil-transmitted helminths, infections caused by roundworms that can stunt mental and physical development. The worm that caused Hannah’s elephantiasis was also once widespread. But there have been no new cases since 2011.

Ending the stigma is also important. Radio programmes where panels of experts, victims and local leaders answer calls from listeners about their concerns have helped to break down misconceptions and encourage people to get treatment. It is no good just lecturing villagers about how river blindness is caused by the black fly when they think it is witchcraft, says Dr Hodges. There has to be a conversation.

Hannah, who was depressed about her condition for years, later put on a brave face and campaigned to raise awareness about it and to break down taboos. “De bodi fine,” she said, slapping her swollen legs with a cheerful smile, “de bodi fine.” Hannah, who passed away last week, recently said she was pleased her children would not suffer as she had.

Posted in Featured | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Governance Challenges and Budget-making in Nigeria

by Steven Langdon

When I was working with the World Bank in Nigeria,  Ngozi Okonjo Iweala was one of the most impressive people with whom I dealt.  On leave from the World Bank, she was trying to shape more disciplined budgets for the country,  so that Nigeria could better develop a more inclusive economy built on its massive oil resources.

It was a difficult task, she told me.  But at that point (before she became the country’s Finance Minister) she was hopeful.

Now, after years in that job,  Ngozi has written a book revealing just how challenging her task was.  Quartz Africa’s Fewi Fawehinmi outlines what Ngozi has written,  and draws out the main difficulties she faced in the structure of Nigerian budget-making.  Not only did legislators change rapidly in Parliament (leaving few with budget experience,) but the budget depended on assumptions about the world prices at which Nigeria could sell its oil,  and these shifted continually while the budget was being considered.  Add to that external pressures (Ngozi’s mother was kidnapped to try to get the Minister to change her approach to fuel subsidies in 2012.)

“Nigeria, says Fawehinmi, “remains very dysfunctional in the way it carries out the normal business of government.”  Ngozi’s book may help in at least a small way to change that.

[For more, see the following link:  https://qz.com/1290954/fighting-nigerian-corruption-might-be-dangerous-but-preparing-a-nigerian-budget-is-hell/  ]

Posted in Featured | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


The Trump administration wants the African nation to remain open to imports of clothing donated to charities in rich countries

The Economist.  May 31st 2018 | KIGALI AND MANSFIELD

Original Article: A Worn-Out Trade Deal

 For an additional first-hand account of the second-hand clothes market in Kenya see Mitumba 101: The Second Hand Clothing Trade in Kenya” by Katrina Shakarian, in KIVA Stories from the Field, July 22, 2013

IN A market in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, a cacophonous auction is under way. Sellers hold crumpled T-shirts and faded jeans aloft; traders shout and jostle for the best picks. Everything is second-hand. A Tommy Hilfiger shirt goes for 5,000 Rwandan francs ($5.82); a plain one for a tenth of that. Afterwards, a trader sorts through the purchases he will resell in his home village. The logos hint at their previous lives: Kent State University, a rotary club in Pennsylvania, Number One Dad.

These auctions were once twice as busy, says Félicité Mukarurangwa, a trader. But in 2016 Rwanda’s government hiked import duties on a kilo of used clothes from $0.20 to $2.50. Now she struggles to break even. The traders are not the only ones who are unhappy. Exporters in America claim the tariffs are costing jobs there. In March President Donald Trump warned that he would suspend Rwanda’s duty-free access to American markets for its apparel after 60 days if it did not back down. That deadline expired on May 28th without Rwanda shifting its position.

The dispute tugs at the threads of a trade that knits together charity and business, gift and profit. Globally, about $4bn of worn clothes crossed borders in 2016. The share from China and South Korea is growing, but 70% still come from Europe and North America. Most go to Asia, eastern Europe and Africa, the largest market. The trade clothes the poor and creates retail jobs. But governments worry that cast-offs undercut their fledgling industries. Imports are banned or tightly restricted in 41 countries, from South Africa to India.

A complex supply chain begins with people like Elizabeth Forsythe, stuffing a bag of old clothes into a donation bin in north London. She assumes that they will end up in a charity shop. But in most rich countries the supply of used clothing far outstrips demand. Less than half of donations are sold locally. Most of the rest are sold to exporters. In Britain a tonne of textiles from a bin fetches £170-315 ($225-420). At Savanna Rags, in Mansfield in the English Midlands, 500 tonnes of old clothes glide along conveyor belts each week. The workers, mostly eastern European immigrants, sift items into categories depending on the market, such as “childrenswear” and “Asian clothing”, transforming a jumble of fabric into plastic-wrapped bales.

In Africa, these motley bundles are a valuable commodity. Men’s clothes are pricier, since fewer arrive. American pieces are often too large and have to be resized by tailors. No matter. “A person would rather buy second-hand from America, instead of buying a new Chinese product,” says Nelson Mandela, a Ugandan trader with a suitably second-hand name. Shoppers complain that new Asian clothes damage easily and look like uniforms, without variety. Hucksters sometimes dunk Chinese imports in dirty water to pass them off as used ones from Europe.

Some suspect that high-quality, unworn clothes are smuggled into bales as a way for the rich world’s clothing industry to offload samples and unsold items. “It’s just a form of dumping,” says Belinda Edmonds, the executive director of the African Cotton and Textile Industries Federation, an industry body.

Second-hand imports now dominate African markets. Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute, a British think-tank, reckon that Tanzania imports 540m used items of clothing and 180m new ones each year, while producing fewer than 20m itself. African manufacturing is weak for many reasons, from clumsy privatisations to crumbling infrastructure. But second-hand imports are a major culprit, according to a paper in 2008 by Garth Frazer of the University of Toronto. He estimated that they accounted for half of the fall in employment making apparel in Africa between 1981 and 2000.

Spinning wheels

Loose fibres blow around the idle machines at UTEXRWA, a textiles and garment factory in Kigali. The plant operates at 40% of capacity and employs 600 workers, down from 1,100 in the 1990s. It is hard to compete, sighs Ritesh Patel, its manager, when a used T-shirt sells for the price of a bottle of water. Instead, the company specialises in uniforms for police, soldiers and security guards, which cannot be bought second-hand.

Even so, says Mr Patel, higher tariffs have not helped much. “The big challenge is not second-hand clothes or Chinese clothes,” he says. “It’s buying power.” Although the government is promoting “Made in Rwanda” products, firms like UTEXRWA cannot produce cheaply enough for most local consumers. Zips, dyes and synthetic fibres are sourced from other continents. A new garment-maker has opened in a special economic zone, cutting and sewing Chinese-made fabrics. But it mostly sells abroad. Where nascent industry shows promise, as in Ethiopia, it is often export-led.

Rwandan apparel exports currently enter America under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which eases market access for African countries. The threatened suspension would hurt, but not very much. Last year Rwanda sent a mere $1.5m of apparel to America. Nor, with 12m people, is it a big market. America is more concerned about Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, which all planned to phase out second-hand imports before yielding to American pressure.

Meanwhile, exporters of used clothes in the rich world, like Savanna Rags, have other worries. Fast-fashion retailers churn out poorer-quality clothes, which do not survive long enough to be worth reselling. Sorting is moving to India, Pakistan or the United Arab Emirates, where wages are lower. Skittish consumerism and ruthless competition have long underpinned the used-clothing trade. They may now be un-ravelling it.

Selling second-hand clothing in Gikomba market in Nairobi

Posted in Featured | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Africa and Climate Change: New Evidence of Damage

Africa and Climate Change: New Evidence of Damage


     by Steven Langdon, Adjunct Research Professor of Economics, Carleton University


 When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented its most recent Assessment Report in 2014,  the consensus of the thousands of scientists involved was that global warming was taking place at a rate that could cause “irreversible detrimental impacts.”  More than fifty percent of this was caused by human activity,  the Report indicated,  especially the high rate of emissions of carbon dioxide and other Greenhouse Gases resulting from fossil fuel consumption, cement production and gas flaring.

These trends have continued since 2014 and are widely recognized by global climate observers,  as illustrated in 2017 by the National Aeronautical and Space Agency (NASA) in the United States.

The IPCC Assessment Report concluded that Africa would be especially impacted by global climate change,  with temperatures very likely to rise by more than the world average in West and Southern Africa,  and higher chances of extreme rainfall and heat events in East Africa and elsewhere. Rising sea levels also threaten low-level coastal areas in many parts of the continent.

As discussed in the book we have just published (Langdon, Ritter and Samy, 2018, African Economic Development, Abingdon and New York: Routledge,)  this demonstrates how negative environmental externalities from global carbon emissions damage African populations despite limited emissions within Africa itself. We also point out in the book the more constricted capacity for African countries to finance adaptation and mitigation measures to counter these trends.  Data reported by the Economist,  and already posted in this blog,  show that increasing variability in temperatures is affecting Sub-Saharan Africa more than other parts of the world.

Evidence of climate change damage in Africa has been growing since the IPCC Report – ranging from drought in Southern Africa to bleaching of coral reefs in East Africa and subsequent reductions in fish stocks.  The accompanying article from the New York Times (May 24, 2018) provides another example of such damaging effects,  in this case associated with rising sea-coast levels in northern Senegal.  It also describes adaptation efforts in the community to counter these rising levels.


“Wrath of Coastal Erosion” is Devouring a Senegal Fishing Hub

ByAurelien Breeden

  • May 23, 2018

SAINT-LOUIS, Senegal — Houses on the shore seem to have been ripped open by a giant claw. The corner of an abandoned school is gutted, leaving what looks like a gigantic bite mark. All that is left of a nearby mosque is a flattened pile of concrete blocks and twisted iron rods.

The culprit behind this destruction in Saint-Louis, on the northern edge of Senegal’s Atlantic Coast, is not some mythical sea monster, but the ocean itself.

At a rate that is increasingly worrying to residents and officials, waves are lapping at buildings on the shoreline, pulling sand away and eroding foundations until walls collapse and floors cave in.

On a recent morning, Massamba Diaw, 70, showed a jumble of ruins in the sand.

“Two months ago, we were standing here, under a roof,” he said. Like most men in his neighborhood, Mr. Diaw was a fisherman. Like many of his neighbors’, his house is now crumbling.

About 80,000 people live in the poorer neighborhoods of Saint-Louis, where coastal erosion is an immediate threat.


“We all feel really sad, and threatened,” Mr. Diaw said, pulling his grandchildren away from the edge of his first floor, which is now exposed to wind and rain. “What will these kids do in the future?”

Eroding shorelinesare a globalproblem, made worse by the rising sea levels that result from climate change.

But the impact is particularly stark in Saint-Louis, especially on the Langue de Barbarie, or Barbary Tongue, a thin, sandy peninsula that extends over a dozen miles further south and acts as a natural buffer with the ocean.

“For the past decade, people here have really started to suffer the wrath of coastal erosion,” said Latyr Fall, the city’s deputy mayor for economic issues.

Saint-Louis, a city of over 232,000 that was first settled by the French in the 17th century, was the colonial capital of French West Africa until 1902.

It is split in two by the Senegal River, which snakes down from the north, forming a natural border with Mauritania. Eastward, on the mainland, is most of modern Saint-Louis. Westward is the Langue de Barbarie, which separates the river from the ocean until the two meet.

In the middle is an island best known to tourists for its preserved 19th-century colonial architecture — low, pastel-colored houses with vivid shutters and wrought-iron balconies, some renovated and turned into elegant guesthouses, others slowly crumbling but still graceful.

The island became a Unesco World Heritage sitein 2000, and is host to cultural events like annual jazzand contemporary dancefestivals. Erosion isn’t discussed much, said Staffan Martikainen, a Finn who runs an artistic residency programthere.

“It’s surprising, in view of the fact that both the fisherman’s peninsula and the island might be gone in two generations, that real estate prices don’t go down,” he said.

But across the bridge that spans the small arm of the Senegal River, in the poorer neighborhoods on the Langue de Barbarie, coastal erosion is an immediate threat. About 80,000 people live there, on a stretch of land that is barely 600 feet wide in some places.

Crowds of children race the streets, jumping out of the way of horse-pulled carriages and sputtering minibuses. Green fishing nets lie tangled on the sidewalk while tethered goats munch on trash in sandy side alleys.

Many in these neighborhoods are from the Lebou ethnic group, traditionally a fishing community. The ocean might have destroyed their homes, but it was also a source of food, income and community.

“In Saint-Louis, if fishing thrives, everything thrives,” said Mr. Fall, the deputy mayor. “But if fishing hurts, then everything hurts.”

Fishing is now harder than ever for about 250 families that have lost their homes to erosion. Most of them — roughly 850 people — were resettled by the local authorities in a temporary camp several miles inland.

Abdou Gueye, 42, is one of them. His house was destroyed during a storm surge in August and his family was brought in October to the temporary settlement, a mix of small concrete houses and tents known as the Khar Yalla camp, in an empty field far from downtown.

It has several outdoor showers and toilets, and some outside lighting, but lacks proper access to water and to waste management, and it is prone to flooding.

Still, it is the distance to the coast that ails these fishermen the most.

“Now we have to pay for transportation to the ocean,” Mr. Gueye said, sitting under a pitched white tarp to avoid the sun. In the bustling fishing district, neighbors conveyed reports of a brewing storm, or of a good catch. “Now we are far away from all that information,” he added.

Nearby, Yaram Sène, 20, said leaving was on everybody’s mind. “There is nothing here, no police, no health facility, no school,” she said.

Mr. Gueye said each family had received about $900 from the authorities when their houses were destroyed, but nothing since. Few can afford to move elsewhere.

For those who still live on the Langue de Barbarie, Senegal is paying the French construction company Eiffage to build an embankment that shields houses from the ocean swell.

Made of giant five-ton bags of sand topped with rock-filled cages, it will run for about two miles down the coast until it reaches parts of an old colonial-era sea wall that are still standing.

But officials stress that the embankment is an emergency buffer to protect houses from immediate destruction, not a permanent fix for the erosion. Longer-term solutions have been proposed: building breakwaters or a new sea wall, resanding the beaches or clearing them to create a buffer zone.

The authorities are still waiting for results from continuing engineering studies to determine what to do. President Emmanuel Macron of France recently promisednearly $18 million to help, adding to existing funds from the World Bank.

Some, like 53-year-old Ahmet Diagne, are taking matters into their own hands.

Mr. Diagne used to live in Doun Baba Dièye, a village of fishermen, cattle breeders and farmers just south of Saint-Louis. But in 2003, scrambling to evacuate floodwaters swelling around the city, the Senegalese authorities hastily dug a channel in the Langue de Barbarie.

The breach quickly grew, bringing erosion to villages that had previously been shielded from it, and submerging Doun Baba Dièye. In 2009, residents started moving inland.

From his fishing boat, early on a recent morning, Mr. Diagne pointed to what was left of his former village: a few ruins on the shore, and a sunken tree covered with cormorants that used to be in the town square.

For the past several years, with financial help from the government and international organizations, he and his community have planted thousands of mangroves and pine trees known as filaos, to halt erosion and reclaim land then used to farm and sell cassava, cabbages, melons, sweet potatoes and other produce.

Mr. Diagne became a local expert of sorts on coastal erosion, even for those in Saint-Louis who had previously derided his warnings that they, too, would soon face his village’s fate.

“It was a bit hard for me in the beginning,” he said. “I received calls from people telling me: ‘Stop talking nonsense. You did not attend school. Who are you to talk about erosion and rising sea levels?’”

“But now,” he said, “people are calling me back.”


Follow Aurelien Breeden on Twitter @aurelienbrd.

A version of this article appears in print on May 24, 2018, on Page A8 of the New York edition with the headline: ‘Wrath of Coastal Erosion’ Devours a Fishing Hub in Senegal. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper| Subscribe

Posted in Featured | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment
Page 1 of 3123