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February 2017

Teachers + classrooms + students = learning? Think again!

Geoffroy Groleau's picture

If you speak to any African parent, she or he will usually very quickly point out how important it is for her or his children to attend school. Literacy and education do not only confer social status, but also crucially, improve livelihood opportunities and incomes, and lead to better health and well-being. Indeed, when the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and its partners asked community members in hundreds of locations of the Eastern DRC about their top local priority, better education consistently came first.

How can Kenya achieve a sustainable urban future?

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Cities in Africa are growing at unprecedented speeds. In Kenya, about 12 million of the country’s over 40 million people live in urban areas today. However, a child born in 2017 will see Kenya’s urban population double to 24 million by 2035 and more than triple to 40 million by 2050. A World Bank report titled “Kenya Urbanization Review” projects that by that time, about half of Kenyans will be living in cities, and Kenya’s urban population will be nearly as large as the country’s entire population today. Kenya’s urban transition has begun.
Despite many advantages including an ambitious program for devolution, the challenges for a smooth urbanization process remain multifaceted for Kenya:
  • Access to services remains low;
  • Informality of human settlements and jobs predominate; and
  • Poorly functioning land markets make investing in housing and infrastructure expensive and inefficient. 
The Kenya Urbanization Review points to some policy recommendations that can help Kenya ensure the smoothest transition possible during its ongoing urbanization process.

In this video, Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez weighs in on Kenya’s urbanization challenges, focusing on urban finance, land and planning institutions, and urban governance, as he discusses the main messages of the Kenya Urbanization Review.

Video: Courtesy of Arimus Media

Now that the Trade Facilitation Agreement has entered into force...

Anabel Gonzalez's picture

The entry into force of the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement on February 22 is a remarkable achievement. The TFA spearheads a global effort to reduce trade costs, helping countries to connect to the global economy. This is particularly relevant for low-income countries who need trade to reduce poverty and nevertheless face costs that are on average three times higher than those of advanced economies.

Media (R)evolutions: the changing face of radio

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

The significance of radio cannot be underestimated. Radio is an important, or sometimes the only, source of information to many around the world who are still unconnected to the Internet. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that number is about 3.9 billion. “While 40% of the population in developing world is online, at least 75% of households in developing countries have access to a radio.”  In that sense, radio is fundamentally more inclusive communication tool.

But as the world moves forward with new technologies and modern communication platforms, the face of radio remains mostly unchanged. Can radio afford to stay this way? How can radio adapt to the 21st century changes? How can it reach and interact with its listeners in the time of snapchat, twitter and other social media channels? Can it leverage these technological changes and turn them into opportunities? If the radio stations want to remain relevant and continue to reach populations worldwide, they need to pay attention to the changing media consumer behaviors, produce the right content, and get it to the consumers in an easy, simple way across all the devices.

Tune in to an ITU special report for the World Radio Day to learn more about the future of radio.
Tune in to the Future of Radio - An ITU Special Report

What determines whether/how an organization can learn? Interesting discussion at DFID

Duncan Green's picture

I was invited along to DFID last week for a discussion on how organizations learn. There was an impressive turnout of senior civil servents – the issue has clearly got their attention. Which is great because I came away with the impression that they (and Oxfam for that matter) have a long way to go to really become a ‘learning organization’.

So please make allowances in what follows for all the warm, cuddly areas of mutual agreement – I’m going to focus on the areas of disagreement, which are inevitably the most thought-provoking.

To mean anything, learning requires a change both in ideas and behaviours. So what were the theories of change that underpinned the approaches to learning in the room? I found it hard to pin down exactly – they seemed mostly tacit – but a lot of what I heard reminded me of the discussion at Twaweza a couple of years ago. For many present, the tacit theory of change seems to be ‘knowledge → learning → changed behaviours → changed outcomes’. Yeah right.

What we realized at Twaweza was that ‘it’s all in the arrows’. You need to unpack the assumptions and think about what needs to be in place for that theory of change to have any chance of resembling what happens in practice.

Equipping Kazakhstan’s future workforce

Aliya Bizhanova's picture
Kazakhstan has embarked on several policy and institutional initiatives aimed at closing skill gaps and improving work force productivity.
Kazakhstan is embarking on several policy and institutional initiatives aimed at closing skill gaps and improving work force productivity. Photo: Maxim Zolotukhin / World Bank

Do you remember how you felt when you graduated from high-school or college? Like me, you probably experienced some uncertainty and anxiety about what comes next, asking questions such as: “Will I get a job, and if so, where? And am I fully equipped to compete in the workforce?”

Indeed, these are important questions for many graduates entering the labor market in my country, Kazakhstan, where strong economic growth over the last decade has exposed some major skill gaps in the workforce.

The first line of defense against outbreaks is to finance pandemic preparedness at a national level

Peter Sands's picture
A portrait of an Ebola survivor, Dr. Gassama Ibrahima at the Matam Medical Center in
Conakry, Guinea on March 16, 2015. Photo © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

The case for investing in pandemic preparedness is –or at least, should be -  completely compelling. Few things could kill as many people as an influenza pandemic. Few threats can cause as much economic disruption as the contagion of fear triggered by a rapidly escalating epidemic. Reinforcing capabilities such as disease surveillance, diagnostic laboratories and infection control would be more effective and cost far less than spending money to contain outbreaks when they occur. Yet, so far, the global community has demonstrably not invested enough in preparedness. As a result, too many lives have been lost and too many livelihoods damaged, and the world remains scarily vulnerable.  

Strategic investment funds and government innovations for infrastructure development

Rajiv Sharma's picture

Photo Credit: Axel Drainville via Flickr Creative Commons

Our research at the Stanford Global Projects Center aims to improve the way institutional capital is invested in critical public infrastructure. On one side, we research how institutional investor capital that has a commercial objective can be pooled most efficiently for infrastructure. On the other side we research government policies and practices to procure infrastructure assets through Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) and other methods most effectively. In this blog we highlight a few specific initiatives that have been set up to achieve these two objectives holistically, a few of which we touched upon in our first blog.

Quote of the week: Simon Schama

Sina Odugbemi's picture
“The world is separating into two irreconcilable halves: those who want to live only alongside those who look, pray and speak like them, and those millions in the great ethnically jumbled cities who want to share the neighborhood.”

- Simon Schama - University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University.
Quoted in Financial Times print edition February 4, 2017 "The American dream collides with nativist nightmares" by Simon Schama. 

Photo credit: By Financial Times (Flickr  Uploaded by January) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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Understanding value chains to drive job growth

Maria Laura Sanchez Puerta's picture
Several new tools are helping DFIs measure the impact of the private sector investments on jobs.
Several new tools are helping development finance institutions measure the impact of the private sector investments on jobs. Photo: Salahaldeen Nadir / World Bank

Let’s Work, a global partnership of over 30 organizations, is piloting tools that can help Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) measure the impact of private sector investments on jobs. The aim is for partners to not only measure jobs in the same consistent way, but also along the same nuanced dimensions: number of jobs gained, the quality of those jobs, and who gets those jobs (inclusiveness).  One of the measurement methods being developed by the Partnership is the Jobs in Value Chains Survey tool.