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.
Armed security at a Walmart store in Costa Rica, (Photo: La Nacion)
Security is a fact of life that many of us in the developed world take for granted. I feel fairly confident that I can go about my life on a daily basis with nearly zero contact with crime or violence. Thanks to that security, I feel confident enough to shop, go out to eat, and generally spend time outside of my home and workplace, adding to the local economy. Thanks to this security, my city is growing and developing and life is generally getting better for most people, despite the recent economic recession. Imagine if that were not the case.
At the second level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs lies safety – the security of body, employment, resources, morality, family, health and property. Intuitively we know that our basic needs must be met before we can endeavor to improve our self, our livelihood, our families, or our communities. Without the feeling of safety, people are less able to act freely in a market – to buy products, start businesses, or invest – limiting a country’s potential for development.
It is with this logic that a recent United Nations Human Development Report argues in favor of increasing measures in citizen security in the Latin America region. In this region more than 100,000 homicides are registered per year. The World Health Organization considers these levels epidemic and they are much higher than most other regions of the world today. The report’s authors state, “The level of insecurity many experience impedes human development.”
Naledi Modisaatsone is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Urban Institute.
The demographic dividend is the accelerated economic growth that may result from a rapid decline in a country’s fertility and the subsequent change in the population age structure.
According to the latest UN population projections, Africa will have two billion people by 2040, with the share of 12-to-24-year-olds growing from 18 percent to 28 percent. The increment in size of this age cohort in Africa will be parallel to a decline in the same age group in every other region of the world. This anticipated rapid growth of the labor force possesses serious development challenges, as well as opportunities. The rising question is: how should Africa best prepare in order to benefit from the demographic change in the coming generation?
Not counted: Nigeria’s GDP model is based on the year 1990. (Photo: Wayan Vota)
In 2014, one small policy tweak will grow Nigeria’s economy by 40 percent, causing it to overtake South Africa as the largest in the region. A similar change in Ghana caused that country’s economy to grow 60 percent, while in Guinea-Bissau and Gambia the economy doubled in size. Even the United States increased its output by 3.6 percent using the same technique. What happened?
GDP rebasing. Simply put, these countries are all changing the way they measure their Gross Domestic Product — the sum total of all economic activity in a country in a given year — to better reflect what’s really happening the economy.
When Nigeria’s rebasing is complete, it won’t mean the country is actually producing 40 percent more goods and services. Living standards won’t jump by 40 percent — the government will just be counting more accurately. But it’s still hugely important.
Democratic Switzerland is the world’s most competitive economy. China doesn’t make the top 10. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The World Economic Forum has just released its latest Global Competitiveness Report, which assesses the competitiveness of 148 economies around the world. This year’s top ten includes few surprises, but does illustrate an important fact: eight of them are democracies and rated “Free” by Freedom House’s Freedom in the World index. (Singapore, which ranks second, and Hong Kong, which is under Chinese sovereignty and ranks seventh, are both rated “Partly Free.”)
Why is this important? At CIPE, we believe that democratic and economic development go hand in hand: strong democratic institutions support strong market institutions, and vice versa. But this belief is not shared everywhere. There is a growing contingent who feel that “strong” leaders in charge of highly directed economies can lead poor countries to prosperity, and that elections and debate simply get in the way.
Economist Dani Rodrik argues that democracy as we know it is a product of industrialization.
Most rich countries followed the same historical path to economic development: a period of industrialization, followed by rising productivity and a shift away from manufacturing to a service economy. But economist Dani Rodrik argues that today’s developing countries seem to be de-industrializing at an earlier, and poorer, stage — a process which could threaten the development of democracy.
In the United States, employment in manufacturing peaked at about 27 percent of the workforce, followed by a transition to a service-oriented economy which today employs less than 10 percent of its workforce in industry. Other Western countries followed similar trajectories: Germany, for example, peaked at about 40 percent before steadily declining.
But, Rodrik points out, today’s emerging economies seem to be shifting away from manufacturing at a much earlier stage. Even industrial powerhouse China seems to have never employed more than about 15 percent of its population in manufacturing — and that share is already declining, even as China’s economy continues to grow.
Wamda’s Mix n’ Mentor event in Riyadh brought together CEOs and entrepreneurs.
At a recent conference in Saudi Arabia, I overheard a conversation between two business leaders about their daughters’ marriage prospects. As the father of three daughters, I was curious to hear what they had to say. “Definitely not,” one of the businessmen said, “I am not going to let my daughter marry an entrepreneur. If he doesn’t have a stable job or predictable income, I ask you, how will he be able to support my daughter?” The other, in his traditional white thobe, nodded in agreement.
In 2011, a group of researchers conducted a survey on entrepreneurship in the MENA region and cited “non-acceptance from family members, lack of prestige, high level of competition, and fear of failure” as the top four barriers to starting a business (see Figure 1). In a region where schools and parents prioritize rote memorization over creativity, job security over entrepreneurship, and stability over risk-taking, young people naturally refrain from treading off the beaten path and launching new companies. Furthermore, other social factors, such as the lack of marriage prospects, explain why young Arabs aspire to be government employees and dream of job security.