27 February 2013

The political economy of slums in Africa

This is a guest post by Sean Fox at the LSE

Popular accounts of life in African cities typically portray a Dickensian squalor in the tropics: unkempt masses struggling with poverty, disease and violence. While such accounts overlook the dynamic nature of African cities and the resilience of their residents, they do reflect an important truth. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of ‘slum incidence’ of any major world region, with over 60% of the region’s urban population—roughly 200 million people—living in settlements characterized by some combination of overcrowding, tenuous dwelling structures, and deficient access to adequate water and sanitation facilities. However, there is wide variation in slum incidence across countries within the region (see Table 1). Why do so many Africans live in slums, and what accounts for the wide variation in slum incidence across countries in the region? I address these questions in a recently published working paper.

Table 1 – Slum incidence by region and for selected African countries

Slum population as % of urban population


  Developing Regions
  Sub-Saharan Africa
  Southern Asia
  South-eastern Asia
  Eastern Asia
  Western Asia
  Latin America & the Caribbean
  Northern Africa
Selected African countries





  South Africa


Source: UN-Habitat (2008)

Social scientists have traditionally portrayed slums as a natural and temporary by-product of economic modernization. But the scale and persistence of slum settlements in developing regions in recent decades presents a serious challenge to this notion. A variety of theories have been advanced to account for this apparent deviation from the assumed path of modernization. Put together they tell a fairly simple story: urban population growth in developing regions has outpaced economic and institutional modernization. I refer to this as the ‘disjointed modernization’ theory of slums and test it empirically using regression analysis. In support of this theory, I find that nearly 70% of cross-country variation in slum incidence can be accounted for by variation in urban population growth rates, measures of income and economic diversification and a measure of institutional quality.

However, identifying the contemporary correlates of slum incidence does not amount to a convincing causal explanation for the scale and diversity of the phenomenon. Why did the process of modernization become more disjointed in some countries than others? To answer this question I trace the origins of divergence in urban development trajectories back to the colonial era. Generally speaking, colonisers stimulated urban population growth but laid a poor foundation for urban economic development and effective urban governance. But colonial experiences varied widely across countries in Africa. Where economic and political interests were strong, towns and cities received significant investment and institutional development; where economic and political interests were relatively marginal, towns and cities received minimal investment and were left with ad-hoc governance structures. I demonstrate that this variation is correlated with contemporary slum incidence. For example, Figure 1 below plots slum incidence against a measure of ‘British indirect rule’—i.e. the number of court cases adjudicated by indigenous as opposed to colonial authorities. The figure shows that slum incidence in 2005 is closely correlated with the measure of British indirect rule (a proxy for institutional investment) in 1955, supporting the hypothesis that the colonial era represents a ‘critical juncture’ in the history of urban development in sub-Saharan Africa.

Figure 1. Colonial strategies of rule and slum incidence in 2005

Having identified the colonial origins of ‘disjointed’ modernization, I turn my attention to the mechanisms of path dependency that have served to perpetuate colonial patterns of urban investment and institutional development. Post-colonial African governments have had anywhere between 25 and 50 years to redress the failures of their colonial forebears. Why have they not done so? I offer two complementary explanations.

First, urban underdevelopment offers myriad opportunities for political and economic entrepreneurs. For example, politicians and bureaucrats often use the absence of formal property rights in urban areas to engage in ‘land racketeering’—i.e. offering squatters on ‘public’ land protection from eviction in return for political support or economic rents. Similarly, the absence of water infrastructure yields very lucrative opportunities for the private vendors who inevitably step in to fill the void. In other words, urban underdevelopment has proven very profitable for a range of actors in African cities, resulting in the emergence of a broad constellation of status quo interests opposed to investment and institutional reform.

Second, an anti-urbanization bias emerged in development discourse and practice in the late 1970s. Up to that point, towns and cities were seen as engines of prosperity and progressive social and political spaces. But a series of influential publications in the 1970s and 1980s portrayed urbanites as economic parasites feeding off the surplus produced by peasants in the countryside and exerting an undue influence in public affairs. Investing in urban development came to be seen as anti-developmental. As a result, governments across Africa implemented policies to restrict or discourage rural-urban migration and promote rural development. By 2007, 78% of African countries had policies in place to restrict migration; up from 49% in 1976. There was also a significant contraction in international development assistance for urban development projects. As Table 2 demonstrates, World Bank shelter lending in the region, which began in 1972, shrivelled to near insignificance by 2005.

Table 2. Trends in World Bank shelter lending in sub-Saharan Africa, 1971-2005

Total shelter lending
$498 million
$409 million
$81 million
Equivalent per capita
Notes: Shelter lending data from Buckley and Kalarickal (2006); per capita estimates based on total urban population in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of each period (i.e. 1981, 1991 and 2005) drawn from World Bank, World Development Indicators online database, accessed September 2012.

The proliferation of slums in sub-Saharan Africa in recent decades is de facto evidence of government failure to invest in urban development. But history is not destiny. As Africa’s urban population continues to grow, politicians are increasingly likely to find it in their inteest to address the basic needs of urban residents. And if they are committed to stimulating economic growth and diversification they will need to do so. Cities can serve as engines of economic development, but only if they have adequate infrastructure and their residents have safe, healthy and secure places to live. The international community could help facilitate this transformation by recognizing the urban potential and supporting (as opposed to discouraging) efforts to invest in urban development in the region.

Fox, S. (2013) ‘The political economy of slums: Theory and evidence from sub-Saharan Africa’, Working paper series 2013, No. 13-146, Department of International Development, London School of Economics and Political Science.

26 February 2013

The fastest growing city in Africa

Is the claim of a fascinating new paper on Juba by Richard Grant and Daniel Thompson (HT: Sean Fox).
Juba, the capital of South Sudan, is the fastest growing city in Africa, exhibiting the most rapid urban expansion and growth ever to take place in the region. Despite its explosive demographic and infrastructural expansion, the urban explosion has received virtually no attention from urban scholars.
since 2005 [Juba] recorded spectacular urban expansion: at upwards of 12.5% per annum, the city’s growth is among the fastest rates of urbanization in human history. [Population] has more than doubled in the past seven years to at least 500,000–600,000 by 2012.
On the urban economy:
The sudden and massive influx of development aid and investment drives local property and consumer markets 
Juba functions within a highly unequal cash economy: while Juba can be among the most expensive cities in Africa (for example US$200 for a basic hotel room and seasonal food price hikes); simultaneously, subsistence wild food harvesting is necessary for many food-insecure urbanites.
On urban livelihoods:
the urban poor concentrate on firewood collection, informal construction (digging pit latrines, stone breaking, and mudding traditional dwellings), charcoal making (exacerbating deforestation), petty trade (tea and food selling), motorcycle taxi (boda-boda) driving, and brewing alcohol.
And on rural "land grabs":
analyses showing approximately 5% of total land is under cultivation 
Between 2007 and 2010, 8% of South Sudan’s total land area was acquired by international private interests (firms from the US, Egypt, UAE, and UK are the largest investors)

25 February 2013

Aid to Rwanda: "Best value for money in the world"

Tony Blair has an article in Foreign Policy backing aid to Rwanda, and Laura Seay responds here. I'm not going to get into that debate, beyond to say that on balance I think we probably should be restoring aid to Rwanda, but I was intrigued by this quote from TB:
"[Rwanda] is frequently cited for its aid effectiveness by the World Bank and Britain's Bilateral Aid Review acknowledged that aid to Rwanda "offers the best value for taxpayers' money in the world."
How are they measuring that value for money? I took a look at the DFID Bilateral Aid Review technical report. This constructs a Need-Effectiveness Index, which combines measures of poverty and state fragility (need) with a measure of governance (effectiveness). Rwanda comes in the top 25% on this index but not the top 10%. So that can't be the measure of "best value for money."

Maybe "value for money" is just referring to the effectiveness part of the index? This is captured entirely by the World Bank CPIA (Country Policy and Institutional Assessment). So I looked up the index (now renamed to IRAI which contains a nested acronym within an acronym - meta - "IDA Resource Allocation Index" - where IDA = International Development Association, the part of the World Bank which does grants and interest-free loans). The data is available here, and Rwanda scores very highly but not quite "the best" - stable at a score of 3.8 between 2009 and 2011 (where 1 is the lowest and 6 is the highest). The top country in 2011 (the latest publicly available ranking, remembering this is only "developing countries", I'm not going to get into how that is defined) is Georgia on 4.4. The top African country is Cape Verde (4.0) followed by Ghana (3.9).

So there you have it, Rwanda "offers the best value for taxpayers' money in the world" where "best" is defined as "amongst the best but not necessarily actually number 1" and "value for money" is measured exclusively by score on the World Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment (which to be fair is probably as reasonable a measure as actually exists).

Tax and development hypocrisy watch

New rule - people who don't pay tax are not allowed to lecture anyone else about the importance of paying tax for development. This includes UN Assistant Secretary-Generals writing op-eds critical of multinational companies engaging in legal tax avoidance.
"An effective tax policy that ensures adequate domestic revenue is a crucial determinant of a country’s ability to pursue development policies. But tax revenues in most developing countries are low, impeding progress toward more balanced, inclusive, and sustainable economic development that can improve public health and raise standards of living." -- Jomo Kwame Sundaram
Genuine question - is there actually a good reason that I am just unaware of that the UN shouldn't pay tax?

19 February 2013

What do Indians think about British aid?

Following an exchange with Ian Birrell last week, I asked an entirely unrepresentative group of six Indian friends what they thought (all economists with degrees from UK or US). In general the British media's take seems to have been pretty devoid of voices of actual Indians who are not also politicians.

My hypothesis: that whilst Indian politicians might not want the stigma of aid, that people living in extreme poverty tend to be grateful when they get some free money, and don't really care where it comes from.

None of my friends knew of any surveys or data on the subject (though someone did remind me of this book from interviews with 6,000 aid recipients, not from India, who were in general grateful for the support but also had  their criticisms). 

Two of them agreed with me
"People would probably not care where aid is coming from. To people in the poorest sections, there is very little that distinguishes Britain from the politicians in Delhi in so far as both are equally removed."
"India does need the aid of course (small or big is irrelevant). Any extra help to India's efforts to bring down inequality and deliver services to the poor is highly appreciated, the important thing to worry about is the effectiveness of this aid."
A third argued that it is about modalities
"Overall the debate about aid is clear, it is important, and it is a safety net for the poor. The debate over DFID money is not about aid in general, it is about the modality of delivery, the quantity of aid, and the ability of DFID to hold the Government of India to account for the way this aid is spent. All of this considered, I think it makes sense for DFID to reduce the amount of aid it gives to India directly and maybe, channel it through the World Bank or UNICEF or the like."
The other three mostly disagreed
"whether the extremely poor would be happy to receive any extra amount that might come their way irrespective of source—hell yes! They don’t care whether it’s DfID or Delhi. But is that a reason strong enough to justify Britain’s aid to India? I am someone who feels we (India) don’t need aid (British or otherwise). What we need is fixing the various inefficiencies in how we target and deliver health, education, free ration and the entire gamut of public services to the poor, and this is something India needs to figure out for itself."
"Public opinion is not super supportive, and Indians mostly 
1. Don't give a damn about aid
2. Are suspicious of most state actors, but think it does have a role (which can't be filled by DFID)
3. Are paranoid about foreign intervention and control (we did have the east India company!) 
Obviously though the response would be different if you were to ask the direct beneficiaries, but it isn't easy to assess the counterfactual. It's unlikely they would not have received support in the absence of DFID. My guess is if you did a census - 80% would not know or care about aid, 18% would oppose on nationalist grounds and 2% would support!"
"It makes a lot of sense for DFID to pull out of India and spend that money in Bangladesh, Cambodia, or Indonesia, where it can do as much good (dense poor populations) but is unlikely to run into that same thicket of issues (at least on the UK domestic front).  
Can DFID money do good in India? Yes. Do I think DFID are better than other donors at figuring out where to spend? Probably yes (for the most part). Does DFID involvement in India endanger UK aid even elsewhere? Almost certainly so! 
It's not worth the tradeoff."
I think at this point I may lean toward the issue of modalities - whilst giving cash to Indian governments might be best ruled out, should we really rule out supporting civil society or even individuals?

What do you think?

The Girl Effect?

It turns out, it's complicated.
"Our analysis in this paper has highlighted several possibly important patterns in gender-based inequalities in the four study countries [Ethiopia, India (Andhra Pradesh), Peru, and Vietnam]. The most important of these is that there is no common thread that can be used to characterize gender inequalities across these different countries or indeed even across different dimensions of child well-being in the same country or across different ages. 
we find no evidence of a common narrative of gender bias that is valid across all four countries and all dimensions; recognition of this heterogeneity in the patterns of inequality is, in our opinion, of central importance to effective policy-making, i.e., policy-making that is targeted toward reducing the specific biases that do exist in different contexts."
From a new paper by Stefan Dercon and Abhijeet Singh

18 February 2013

Visit Rwanda

Another very slick video about Rwanda, this one promoting RwandAir (via Mark Doyle).

17 February 2013

Chart of the day: Evidence-based aid in the UK

This chart from the LSE "Impact of Social Science" handbook shows a ranking of UK government departments by the number of references to academic research found on their websites. DFID comes third.

16 February 2013

How can universities influence development policy?

I'm working on a project helping a university economics research centre think through its strategy on getting its research and policy analysis into the right hands, to help have an impact on global poverty.

In general I feel like this is an area which is really difficult to do well, and about which we know relatively little (though with some good resources out there such as policy research programmes at ODI and LSE).

So I'm going for some crowdsourcing and I want to know what you think about what an academic research centre should be doing to get its research out there.

1) Is the development economics research currently being produced by universities relevant and useful to development policy and decision makers? How? 
2) What are the top 3 ‘policy relevant’ university research centres working on economics in international development in the UK?
3) What are good examples of dissemination work carried out in this area which have influenced policy and helped make a difference?
Opinions are particularly welcome from policymakers themselves, in donor organisations, governments, foundations, or NGOs. Please feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below, send them to lee dot crawfurd at gmail.com, and pass on this message to anyone else you know working in this area.


15 February 2013

When unintended consequences go... well!

After the disappointment of the blank results from the Duflo study on labour market policy in France, a new CSAE study by Imbert and Papp has some more encouraging results - programme side-effects which go in a positive direction.

They find that the "National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme" (NREGA) in India has a positive impact on private sector wages by bidding up the price of labour. The indirect gains to poor labourers from the higher private sector wages are big - about half of the value of the direct gains to participants from the public works programme. Of course, this increase in wages represents a loss for buyers of labour, but these tend to be people in the top 20%.

A couple of interesting implications that the authors note - first, this is evidence against the Lewis model of surplus labour which can be cheaply tapped for capitalist expansion.

Second - differences in the political power and organisation of landlord farmers may help explain differences in the implementation of the scheme across states.

Finally, a reminder that this is based on nationally representative data in a country of 1.2 billion people, and a programme which spends $9 billion a year and reaches millions of households. Take that, randomistas. 

14 February 2013

Love in Rwanda

Rwanda is one of the most loving countries in the world.

Sadly, I am telling you this not from personal experience (anecdotal data is rubbish anyway) but real hard survey evidence.
In 2006 and 2007, Gallup went to 136 countries and asked people, “Did you experience love for a lot of the day yesterday?” It’s the largest such dataset ever collected.
90% of Rwandans felt love, compared to the global average of 70%, and higher than the US (81%), UK (75%), and poor lonely Japan (only 59%).

Happy Valentine's Day

13 February 2013

Does slum upgrading work?

A new colleague at OPM Ruhi Saith is a co-author of a new Cochrane systematic review on the impact of slum upgrading programmes on health and wellbeing (full summary here).

They find only 5 studies which can demonstrate any causality, from which they find:
  • "Limited but consistent evidence to suggest that slum upgrading may reduce diarrhoea in slum dwellers and that slum dweller’s water related expenses may also be reduced
  • Mixed results for whether slum upgrading can reduce parasitic infections, educational outcomes, financial poverty and unemployment outcomes
  • Very little information on other health or social outcomes, or which types of interventions were most beneficial"
Which reminds me of two things,

first, John Snow and the 1854 Broad Street cholera epidemic, when John used a mixed methods approach based on KII*, and a pathbreaking geographic data visualization infographic** which founded the science of epidemiology using one of the first natural experiments.

second, that there is really weak evidence that area-based initiatives have any impact on employment and well-being in the UK, and so policy should target people not places

Which suggests that slum upgrading should focus on providing the public goods and infrastructure with clear evidence of impact and cost effectiveness - namely clean water and sanitation - and be more modest about expectations for impacts on other outcomes which are not primarily determined by the slum environment, such as poverty, unemployment, and low education.

*Key informant interviews. Or talking to people. Yes I am mocking your terminology, quals.
**A map. Yes you too, data monkeys.

12 February 2013

I'm English and I love the EDL

The English Disco Lovers.
Our aims are very clear - we want to accumulate more likes than the English Defence League on Facebook as well as outranking them on Google. By doing this in a light-hearted way we aim to show them for what they really are - racist, outdated and the type you wouldn't invite to your disco.
One World, One Race, One Disco. 
Hate Racism, Love Disco.
Awesome. Here's the Facebook and Twitter

05 February 2013

‘How to Build a Country From Scratch: A 12 Step Program'

This is a cool video on South Sudan's first year of independence (the NYT doesn't do embeds).

A couple of minor criticisms

1 - was it really necessary to provide subtitles for the Vice President speaking in English?

2 - The final shot is a slide with the text "In late 2012, South Sudan expelled a U.N. human rights officer and downed a U.N. helicopter." Which makes it sounds bit like South Sudan is trying to wage a war against the UN. I don't know the details of the human rights officer case, but reportedly the shooting of the helicopter was clearly an accident. Following years and years of bombing by North Sudan (the South has no airforce), recent sighting of Northern planes bringing supplies to rebels in the South, reports that North Sudan has purposely disguised its aircraft as UN aircraft in the past, and reportedly a phone call made by the SPLA before the strike was made to check, in which the UN were not aware of any UN aircraft in that area. (More details from Eric Reeves here). So maybe cut the South a bit of slack on that one.

02 February 2013

Getting by in Rwanda

I can't get enough of these vignettes on the lives of the poor. 
Suprian Ndorimana, 12, lives in the outskirts of Kigali. 
I wake up at 4 a.m. and think about what to bring to the market for my customers. My mother goes to the garden every evening and gathers what I carry to the market. 
At around 7 a.m. I arrive at the market and business starts. 
I do not go to school because of the kind of work I am doing. It helps us in the family a great deal. Since I am the first born, I am basically the one in charge of my siblings. 
Even my mother encourages me to keep running this business as opposed to going to school when my young sister is just beginning to go to school. 
This is the business I have been doing for the last two years. Our family has gone from worse to better and my mother is very happy with me. 
I finish preparing the following day’s produce at around 7 p.m. and take supper around 8 p.m., after which I go to bed.
A day in the life of a child market vendor, New Times

Dismus Nsengiyera, 20, is a street vendor, selling items like sweets in Remera, Gasabo district 
I always wake up at 7a.m and take a shower. Ordinarily, since I am not a rich person, I skip breakfast. The money I would have used for breakfast, I save it and add it on what I have for lunch. 
My job is so complicated and it requires some patience. Sometimes, I earn nothing and go back home empty handed. 
At around 10am, I keep on the lookout because police can fix you if you are not careful. Sometimes, I keep running away from the police. We are not allowed to sell in the middle of the streets. 
Once in while, the police confiscates our things. This means, you have to go back home without a single coin. I use Frw3000 every day to buy what I will sell in the day but some times, I end of gaining nothing. 
Before 2pm, my lunch, is over and I start working till 6pm and I retire back home. When I reach home, I head straight to bed. I rarely have supper.
A day in the life of a street hawker, New Times

01 February 2013

Eradicating Malaria in Rwanda

“In 2008, malaria was the topmost killer disease in Rwanda, but results have shown that now it is the eighth. Our aim is to eradicate it completely from the list of killer diseases in Rwanda,” she said.
The Demographic Health Survey conducted in 2010, indicates that malaria prevalence has decreased from 2.6 per cent in 2008 to 1.4 per cent in 2010 in children under five and from 1.4 per cent in 2008 to 0.7 per cent in 2010 in pregnant women.
Ministry looks to eradicate malaria, New Times