Author Archives: Guest

U.S. Companies Should Not Overlook Opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa

A growing textile industry is among the drivers of Ghana's rapid economic growth in recent years. (Photo: Wall Street Journal.)

A growing textile industry is among the drivers of Ghana’s rapid economic growth in recent years. (Photo: Wall Street Journal.)

By Chris Braddock

Next week the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit will bring approximately 50 heads of state to Washington, DC, for the purpose of discussing trade and investment in Africa and highlighting America’s commitment to the continent. During a recent trip in the region, I spent quite a bit of time thinking about this topic.

Over the past four months I was busy traveling in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), meeting with businesses and academics and researching the business opportunities in five different countries. As part of this trip I had the opportunity to meet with several CIPE partners and consultants who, as representatives of the private sector, were able to speak about the enabling environment and some of the challenges and opportunities of businesses working in SSA.

Most countries in SSA have historically been seen as too unstable, too small a market, or too risky for U.S. companies to explore opportunities, so there are few American companies operating in the region. The perception of SSA for many is based on the plethora of negative stories presented by the media, but this is merely a small and decreasingly significant part of the SSA story. Growth rates are high, people are optimistic with larger disposable incomes, and foreign direct investment is flowing in larger quantities, particularly from Asia. U.S. firms are starting to get left behind.

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Broadband Internet Access and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean

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By Gustavo Guerrero

While broadband internet has become an essential business tool, it has been slow to arrive in the areas that need the benefits of development the most – namely rural regions of developing countries. Though there has been some growth over the years, there is still a long way to go. Recognizing this, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) released a report showing the effect of broadband internet on the economies of Latin American and Caribbean countries, outlining how countries can improve their telecommunications infrastructure.

Nationwide high-speed internet access is something that many in the developed world take for granted. However, in the developing world there is a different story. In Nigeria, low broadband penetration has been cited as hindering the development of e-commerce in Africa’s largest economy. Similar examples are present all across the developing world.  The potential for growth is there, waiting, but it cannot be realized until broadband penetration and speed are improved.

Having a web presence is now almost a prerequisite for becoming a successful business.  The specific type of web presence can range from simply listing basic business contact information and operating hours, to having an online sales portal. Being online offers many benefits with very few, if any drawbacks. While most businesses in the developed world have adapted to this new environment, businesses in many parts of the world lack basic internet access that would allow them to grow and thrive.

The report, Socioeconomic Impact of Broadband in Latin American and Caribbean Countries, consists of two major components which aim to promote broadband internet connection in the region.  The first is an econometric model for LAC countries which helps determine how increases to broadband penetration could affect their GDP.  The second is a set of recommendations designed to help governments best improve their infrastructure.

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Living Democracy

Democracy is about more than just formal institutions.

Democracy is about more than just formal institutions. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Narayan Adhikari is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Accountability Lab

Living in the U.S. for the past six months has been a thrilling experience for me. I have lived in a social entrepreneurship-themed group house, traveled to different cities, gone hiking at Sky Meadows Park, attended events/conferences, and made countless friends. I also interacted with local Nepalese communities and enjoyed festivals and happy hours. Although living in Washington DC has proven itself quite expensive compared to Kathmandu, I have been able to live within my means as a fellow. DC is a very lively and cultural city, and I appreciate that there is always so much going on. After living here for six months I am amazed by the many things I haven’t yet discovered.

Working directly with my friends and colleagues at my host organization, Accountability Lab, in DC, and being a part of the OpenGov Hub (OGH) has been remarkable. OGH, a community of independent organizations working the transparency field, is a great place for collaboration, networking, and learning. As a Think Tank LINKS fellow, I have had access to valuable opportunities and space to expand my knowledge. The monthly webinars and meetings with CIPE and Atlas Corps fellows were especially rewarding and really added value to our learning experience.

While it is always hard to focus on one experience when you have so many things to talk about, I am focusing on my experience with democracy. My quest for knowledge about the true meaning of democracy continued until I was not able to find a solid answer within myself. Often, in countries where democracy is in transition or a far off hope, citizens have difficulty understanding it and are often confused about the difference between democracy in theory and democracy in daily living.

My question was very simple: I wanted to see how people from developed nations like the U.S. live their daily lives in a democratic society without being abstract or theoretical. In theory, democracy is about human rights, freedom of information, freedom of association, and the rule of law. Although what it is written in textbooks and literature is true, all of these concepts cannot exist without smaller fundamental elements of society associated with culture, values, and norms at the individual level.

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The Unrealized Potential of Volunteerism in Pakistan

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Fayyaz Bhidal is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Atlantic Council

Saturday, October 8, 2005 was an unfortunate day in the history of Pakistan. The entire country was ravaged by an earthquake that registered 7.6 magnitude on the Richter scale. The tremor devastated the entire Kashmir region, razing almost every building to the ground. It also damaged large parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan provinces and caused a high rise housing tower to collapse in Islamabad. The loss, both human and material, was colossal. The death toll surpassed 100,000, and 3.5 million people were displaced. The injured were numerous and everywhere.

This earthquake in Pakistan, just like earthquakes anywhere else in the developing world, caught disaster response institutions off guard. They were unprepared, lacked the essential rescue equipment, training, and resources. On top of that, road and rail networks were no longer usable without major repairs.

In the face of this massive catastrophe, when the state institutions were stuck in a state of panic, the responsibility fell to common people to take it upon themselves to do whatever they could to save their brethren pinned under the rubble and debris. Their efforts rescued over 138,000 injured stuck under collapsed buildings, and saved many more women, children, and elders who lost their families in the calamity. Had it not been for their efforts, most of the injured would have died by the time government rescue teams reached them after a delay of 78 hours.

Attending a panel on ‘Disaster Protection through Preparation’ at the Points of Light Conference in Atlanta, and learning about the role volunteers played in Nashville in saving people and properties during the 2010 floods, and later on helping the city clean up and recover, I could not help but think about the role volunteers played during the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. They not only helped minimize the damage and sped up rescue, recovery, and rehabilitation efforts, they also left the affected communities more united and self-reliant.

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Pakistan’s Business Community Learns to Speak With One Voice

2014-chamber-presidents

By Majid Shabbir

The advocacy process in Pakistan is strengthening as the leaders of the country’s Chambers of Commerce and Industry assembled for a series of Pre- and Post-Budget Conferences in Islamabad, Karachi, Faisalabad, and Rawalpindi to discuss the key business-related policy issues.

In these conferences business leaders of the Chambers thoroughly deliberate important issues and send consolidated policy recommendations to the government. Business associations individually make recommendations on various policies, but with a collective voice they are able to communicate more effectively. Their voice is better heard, and as a result more of their suggestions are incorporated while developing economic policies.

In the pre-budget conferences held by the Karachi and Faisalabad Chambers, the business leaders discussed in-depth trade and economic issues and presented detailed recommendations to the government for consideration. Before the announcement of the Federal Budget the government also involved Chambers and Associations in the consultative process by holding series of meetings with the leaders of these associations.

After the budget was released, the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry organized an All Chambers Presidents Post-Budget Conference with the theme of “Together for a Progressive Pakistan” on June 14 that was attended by all major Chambers including Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Sialkot, KPK, and Rawalpindi, as well as experts and high-level government officials.

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A Platform for Fixing-Space

Aksal BilalBy Aksa Bilal, honorable mention in the CIPE 2013 Blog Competition. Read the rest of the winning entries here.

I remember it was just 6 years ago, when boys and girls of merely 16 or 17 years of age wore a black cloth on their arms as a sign of defiance against our very own, our very recent, 4th dictator and former President of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf. They wanted what is the right of the 7 billion people of this planet. They wanted democracy, a free and fair system, a truly representative government.

Now some wore the black sign of defiance not because of their sudden political awakening or out of their spirit of democracy, but because defiance seemed oh-so-cool and I admit – all the cool kids were doing it. When they talked, you could hear the father’s and uncle’s last-night dinner conversation, with angst driven knives and forks waving in the air. You could imagine furrowed eyebrows and big mustaches while the kid reminisced very verbally, for too long, only to forget it as soon as the black cloth was no longer “in.”

Then there were those who took to the streets for the judiciary and for the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and stood their ground against dictatorship with such zeal and zest that these became monumental achievements in the history of the country. They were the theatrical productions of the power of the common man, of the power of masses. With sadness I confess that I was amongst neither of these people. I was among the indifferent, too occupied with the next exam, too ignorant of what was not happening within the kilometers between my home and my high school.

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Time to Re-Think Development in Africa?

Naledi Modisaatsone is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Urban Institute.

Africa is in the news. The U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit is being held in August, the first of its kind. President Obama will be welcoming leaders from across the African continent to the nation’s capital in less than two months. The summit holds many promises; it could mark a turning point in U.S-Africa relations.

While there are many issues that can be discussed, not all of them should be on the agenda for this summit. To achieve the maximum benefits, it is very critical for African leaders to prioritize just what to put on agenda, and what to leave out. It is tempting to want to bring all the issues, but highly focused interactions are more successful. Topics for discussion should reflect the most critical issues regarding African economies and address challenges to sustainable growth and development.

One important issue is private sector development. Development finance and private sector entrepreneurship are powerful, but under-utilized, assets for development in Africa. While most countries have set goals for inclusive growth, they will not be achieved without better harnessing private sector resources that are ultimately the drivers of development.

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