Category Archives: Crítica do desenvolvimento

BBC News – Viewpoint: Binyavanga on why Africa’s international image is unfair

BBC News – Viewpoint: Binyavanga on why Africa’s international image is unfair.

Viewpoint: Binyavanga on why Africa’s international image is unfair

Madonna in MalawiShould Madonna be Africa’s president?

Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan author and a past winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing, argues that the world has got its image of Africa very badly wrong.

Start Quote

Africa’s image in the West, and Africa’s image to itself, are often crude, childish drawings of reality”

Let us imagine that Africa was really like it is shown in the international media.

Africa would be a country. Its largest province would be Somalia.

Bono, Angelina Jolie and Madonna would be joint presidents, appointed by the United Nations.

European aid workers would run the Foreign Affairs Office, gap year students from the UK the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Culture would be run by the makers of the Kony2012 videos.

‘Wholesome and ethnic’

Actual Africans would live inside villages designed by economist Jeffrey Sachs.

A view from Venezuela: “Africa has been oppressed and abused”

Those villagers would wear wholesome hand-made ethnic clothing, dance to wholesome ethnic music and during the day they would grow food communally and engage in things called income-generating activities.

For our own protection, American peacekeepers and Nato planes would surround the villages – making hearts and minds happy and safe.

We would give birth to only one baby per couple – this way we would not overwhelm poor, suffering Europeans with our desire to travel outside our villages and participate fully in a dynamic world.

We would not be allowed to do business with the Chinese and we would not be allowed to do business with the country formerly known as Gaddafi’s Libya.

Africa would discover the child in itself, and stop trying to mess around and be a part of the rest of the world.

Getting back to here, and now.

Any sensible person would say that to cede power to others to decide what you are has never been a good idea.

That is one of the reasons why Al-Jazeera exists.

Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru posing with artwork resembling sunglasses on February 1, 2012 in NairobiAfrica has numerous different images of itself to offer the world

Already, after 20 years of economic growth, as our countries – which are all very young – start to evolve and grow rapidly what starts to happen is that we start to look less cartoonish to ourselves and to others – as we export our entrepreneurs, our writers, our skilled people within the continent and to the rest of the world; as we continue to invest aggressively in digital technology; as we begin a new agricultural revolution; as our countries start to make larger political and economic unions.

Africa’s image in the West, and Africa’s image to itself, are often crude, childish drawings of reality.

These pictures and words are crude because crude things come out of little investment: Of money, of time, of attention, of imagination.

The picture becomes clearer, the more progress arrives. The more politics becomes lucid and accountable, the more roads, cables and railways are built.

Africa ‘not Switzerland’

That process has been accelerating for a while now.

Start Quote

Everywhere I go, I see young people: confident, forward looking”

The human ability to learn, grow, and innovate is our most valuable tool.

Africa will never look like Switzerland.

One of the problems with the way it is written about is that it is measured in the present tense by how different it looks from the places that have developed a sophisticated and deeply documented sense of themselves.

Those nations and regions that got in earlier found themselves better able to project their own image to the rest.

There are parts of Africa that are not yet even committed to being in a nation-state as drawn in 1885 at the Berlin Conference, and in the 1960s by the great powers.

A view from Islamabad: “I think Africa is doing very well. Africa rocks!”

There are nation states that will survive those – and new nation states will emerge, new arrangements of people, new ways to manage resources, to use what is there.

There is work to be done. That is no question. Work for the brave, those full of imagination and desire.

There are a billion of us – of every human persuasion you can imagine.

Eight years ago, in my country Kenya, we had stopped imagining we could make anything work. Now Kenya is overwhelmed by new ideas, businesses, frictions, paint work, books, movies, magazines, and industries.

Everywhere I go, I see young people: Confident, forward looking. I have seen them in Lagos, in Rwanda, in the suburbs of London.

There is fresh concrete all over the continent. There are great challenges, but there is aggressive movement – and movement causes conflict.

The Africa Debate

Tune in to the BBC World Service at 1900 GMT on Friday to listen to The Africa Debate broadcast from Kampala: Is Africa’s image unfair?

Or take part in Twitter – using #bbcafricadebate – Facebook or Google+

What is much, much worse is stagnation. Places where people just sit and wait for fate. The post-IMF 1990s were like that – but that was more a moment than a permanent reality.

Things are changing fast.

The truth is, we have only started to see what we will look like.

The truth is, with the rise of China, we do not have to take any deal Europe throws at us that comes packaged with permanent poverty, incompetent volunteers and the occasional Nato bomb.

As the West flounders, there is a real sense that we have some leverage.

The truth is, we will never look like what CNN wants us to look like.

But that’s fine – we can get online now and completely bypass their nonsense.

Binyavanga Wainaina is the author of One Day I Will Write About This Place: A Memoir and founding editor of the literary magazine Kwani?

via BBC News – Viewpoint: Binyavanga on why Africa’s international image is unfair.


What Is Development? | Owen Barder | Global Development: Views from the Center

What Is Development? | Owen Barder | Global Development: Views from the Center.


via What Is Development? | Owen Barder | Global Development: Views from the Center.

What Is Development?
August 16, 2012

By Owen Barder in Complexity, Economic Development, Global Development, Governance/Democracy Tags: Europe

This is the first of three blog posts looking at the implications of complexity theory for development. These posts draw on a new online lecture by Owen Barder, based on his Kapuscinski Lecture in May 2012 which was sponsored by UNDP and the EU. In this post, Barder explains how complexity science, which is belatedly getting more attention from mainstream economists, gives a new perspective to the meaning of ‘development’.

The Nobel-prize winning economist Amartya Sen has twice changed our thinking about what we mean by development. Traditional welfare economics had focused on incomes as the main measure of well-being until his ground-breaking work in the 1980′s which showed that that poverty involved a wider range of deprivations in health, education and living standards which were not captured by income alone. His ‘capabilities approach’ led to introduction of the UN Human Development Index, and subsequently the Multidimensional Poverty Index, both of which aim to measure development in this broader sense. Then in 1999 Sen moved the goalposts again with his argument that freedoms constitute not only the means but the ends in development.

Sen’s view is now widely accepted: development must be judged by its impact on people, not only by changes in their income but more generally in terms of their choices, capabilities and freedoms; and we should be concerned about the distribution of these improvements, not just the simple average for a society.

But to define development as an improvement in people’s well-being does not do justice to what the term means to most of us. Development also carries a connotation of lasting change. Providing a person with a bednet or a water pump can often be an excellent, cost-effective way to improve her well-being, but if the improvement goes away when we stop providing the bednet or pump, we would not normally describe that as development. This suggests that development consists of more than improvements in the well-being of citizens, even broadly defined: it also conveys something about the capacity of economic, political and social systems to provide the circumstances for that well-being on a sustainable, long-term basis.

Mainstream economics has had a difficult time explaining how economic and social systems evolve to create this capacity; and, in particular, our economic models have struggled to explain why some countries have experienced rapid economic growth while others have not. In part this is because economists have generally stuck to models which can easily be solved mathematically. In the meantime, there has been a growing movement in physics, biology and some other social sciences, often called complexity science. Some economists – notably Eric Beinhocker and Tim Harford – have started to make a compelling case for bringing these ideas more centrally into our analysis of economic and social systems; and a new volume of essays from IPPR later this month will call for complexity to be taken more seriously by policymakers. But with the honourable exception of Ben Ramalingam, who has a book coming out in 2013 and has published on this topic for ODI, there has so far been very little work specifically on how complexity theory might be useful in development economics and policy. My Kapuscinski Lecture in May 2012, was an effort to make that connection.

An updated version of the full lecture is now available as a narrated presentation which you can watch by clicking the image below. The whole thing lasts 45 minutes, but you jump from one section to another to skip the boring parts.

Complex does not mean complicated

It is not news to anybody working in development that the problems are complicated in the sense that making progress involves tackling lots of different problems. But saying that the economy is a complex adaptive system implies something rather specific about its dynamic properties. We are using ‘complex adaptive system’ here as a term of art to describe a particular kind of non-linear system which turns up everywhere in nature – from waterfalls to ant colonies.

The presentation begins with the charming story of a British design student, Thomas Thwaites, who tried to build a toaster from scratch. It turns out that this is very difficult to do: to build something even as simple as a toaster requires a lot else to be already in place in your economy and society. An economy consists of a series of people, firms, products and institutions which interact with each other, each adapting to their changing circumstances as they do so. In the presentation I explain how this network of adaptive agents interact with each other to create a complex adaptive system of the kind studied in biology and physics.

The mainstream economics profession has been slow to take up these ideas, but fortunately scientists have been studying complex adaptive systems for at least thirty years and they have made considerable progress in describing their properties. Despite the huge diversity of these systems in nature, they have some important characteristics in common, by virtue of their underlying mathematics. There are good theoretical and empirical reasons for thinking that economic and social systems might share these characteristics, and the real-world trajectories of economic and social systems appear to fit the properties of complex adaptive systems better than they fit the simple, linear models of mainstream economics.

Development as an emergent property of an economic, social and political system

One of the key lessons from complexity theory is that complex adaptive systems can have system-wide properties which do not correspond to the properties of individual components. (This is only possible in non-linear systems, since linear systems are by definition a weighted sum of their parts.) For example, we think of consciousness as a characteristic of a human brain; but it makes no sense to say that a particular brain cell or synapse is conscious. A thunderstorm is a characteristic of the weather, but we cannot say that a particular molecule in the air is, or is not, stormy. These phenomena – which are called ‘emergent properties’ – are not the sum of characteristics of individual parts of the system: they are consequences of the way that the different parts of the system interact with each other.

In the talk, I argue that development is an emergent property of the economic and social system, in much the same way that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain. This seems obvious, and yet it is a surprising departure from the way most economists have normally described development as the sum of economic output of all the firms in the economy, or the sum of human well-being of the citizens of a nation.

Development is not the sum of well-being of people in the economy and we cannot bring it about simply by making enough people in the economy better off. Development is instead a system-wide manifestation of the way that people, firms, technologies and institutions interact with each other within the economic, social and political system. Specifically, development is the capacity of those systems to provide self-organising complexity. Self-organising complexity in an adaptive system is never designed or deliberately built: it comes about from a process of adaptation and evolution. It follows that if we want to accelerate and shape development, we should focus especially on how the environment can be made most conducive for self-organising complexity to evolve.

This view of development as an emergent property of a system fits with the common-sense definition of development described earlier. Development is more than improvements in people’s well-being: it also describes the capacity of the system to provide the circumstances for that continued well-being. Development is a characteristic of the system; sustained improvements in individual well-being are a yardstick by which it is judged.

This has important implications for development policy, both for developing countries themselves wishing to put their economy and society onto a path of faster development, and for outsiders who want to help that process. We are at an early stage of exploring those implications. In my next blog post I will look at one particular implication of the application of complexity theory to development: it has both positive and negative implications for the UK Government’s emphasis on a ‘golden thread’ of institutions which they claim runs through all successful economies.

Development Controversy a Sign of Sophistication | Stanford Social Innovation Review

Development Controversy a Sign of Sophistication

Public debate about two prominent poverty-alleviation programs shows that over the past 15 years international development has become much more scientific.

By Dean Karlan & Caroline Fiennes | Aug. 7, 2012

The international development world is currently hosting rows about whether two poverty-alleviation programs actually work.

The Millennium Villages Project, founded by economist Jeffrey Sachs and supported by Angelina Jolie and others, aims to help nearly 500,000 out of extreme poverty. A paper published in June in The Lancet, a leading health journal, was scrutinized and roundly criticized for the logic and analysis it used to argue that observed changes were due to the Millennium Villages rather than changes already taking place in society.

The second row concerns treating children in less developed countries for intestinal worms, which are endemic in many countries. Because the worms share a child’s food, they are thought to contribute to malnutrition, reduced physical and cognitive development, and lethargy. Deworming children has been found by randomized control trials to reduced absenteeism from school, and hence is recommended by the World Health Organization and the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank that publicizes the best uses of development money. But a systematic review and meta-analysis published last month by the respected Cochrane Collaboration, focusing on non-educational outcomes, found that “deworming children seems like a good idea, but the evidence for it just doesn’t stack up.”

The striking shift here is not in the details or merits of the specific programs, but in that these rows happen at all. They are precisely how science is supposed to work. For instance, Maxwell published his theory of electromagnetism, which turns out to be inconsistent with the maths of radiation from a black box, and from that tension arose the much broader quantum theory. Andrew Wiles published his “proof” of Fermat’s last theorem in 1993, somebody spotted an error, and Wiles revised and strengthened the proof as a result. In Einstein’s math for his general theory of relativity, the Russian mathematician Alexander Friedmann found a term being divided by zero (“a complicated form of zero,” a physicist once said), which suggested—contrary to the prevailing view—that the universe is expanding, subsequently confirmed by observation and from which cosmologists have estimated the universe’s age.

International development has become much more scientific in the last 15 years: evaluating ideas through randomized control trials; publishing enough detail about a program’s methods and results that it can be replicated elsewhere; subjecting analysis to peer review; and publishing in respected journals. The organizations whose data are being contested should be proud that their data are capable of such contest. They contrast starkly with much activity in charities, philanthropy, and even social policy where performance data are often too scarce, too private, too vague, and/or otherwise too flaky to be meaningfully debated.

Science—knowledge—progresses through vigorous public debate about rigorous data. This process has shown that many things that everyone “just knew” to be true are actually false—from the “fact” that the Sun goes round the Earth, to the “fact” that severe brain injuries should be treated with steroids, a common practice until 2005 when randomized control trials showed it to be fatal. Similarly, many things which we “just know” to be true about international development are being shown by this careful, empirical, scientific approach to be false: providing more text books to Indian schools rarely actually improves learning; microcredit does not singlehandedly lift millions out of poverty; anti-malarial bednets should not be sold but rather given away for free; cooking stoves that use less wood as fuel do not always reduce respiratory diseases from reduced smoke inhalation.

The current rows are therefore a sign that international development is moving beyond “just knowing because I saw it with my own eyes” into properly understanding what works. We need more and better data to enable more quality debates on many subjects about development—debates that get settled, not by personalities or popularity or politics, but by the evidence.

Caroline Fiennes is director of Giving Evidence and author of It Ain’t What You Give, It’s The Way That You Give It.

Dean Karlan is professor of economics at Yale University, co-author of More Than Good Intentions, and president and founder of Innovations for Poverty Action. (Disclosure: Innovations for Poverty Action actively supports the scale-up of school-based deworming efforts in developing countries.)

via Development Controversy a Sign of Sophistication | Stanford Social Innovation Review.

via Development Controversy a Sign of Sophistication | Stanford Social Innovation Review.