July 29, 2021

Global Economy and Development

How government donors engage with the Sustainable Development Goals

BY Post, Brookings Institute

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Originally published on by Brookings Institute. Link to original report

( 6 mins)
How government donors engage with the Sustainable Development Goals 1

In 2015, 193 nations signed on to Agenda 2030 setting forth the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The predecessor Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were a narrower set of eight objectives targeted specifically at enhancing economic and social progress in lower- and middle-income countries—with first-order implications for focusing donor development assistance. In contrast, the 17 SDGs are universal—they cover a broader scope of economic, social, environmental, and political elements of development. They are designed for all countries of the world—in recognition that “sustainable development” is an ongoing process in all countries, no matter their level of economic development.

In a new report, I review how 20 of the largest donor countries encompass the SDGs in their international development cooperation policies and programs. They have all committed to the SDGs. All, except for the United States, have in various ways built them into policies guiding their own development and their international development programs. Referencing publications and web pages, the report captures how each country proposes or reports incorporating the SDGs at three levels—strategy/policy, programs, and reporting on outputs and results for their investments in international development. All countries surveyed, except the U.S., have produced at least one Voluntary National Review (VNR), the formal mechanism for countries to share their progress. Although principally aimed at reporting on national progress on the SDGs, some VNRs also cover international development cooperation.

‘Sustainable development’ is an ongoing process in all countries, no matter their level of economic development.

This stocktaking is based on how each country presents its engagement with the SDGs and does not assess the extent to which those policies and plans are translated into practice. There is no single common way donors incorporate the SDGs in their international development policies and programs. Efforts range from expression of support at a very general level to embedding the global goals in policies and strategies or building strategies around the goals. Some countries address commitments to the SDGs in a comprehensive manner with a single strategy covering both domestic activities and development cooperation, although distinguishing separate priorities for each. At the program level, a few donors tie each program, and even budget levels, to the relevant goals but many use the SDGs only as a general reference point. A few donors report against the SDGs. In actuality, country action can range from grand policy pronouncements that are little more than “SDG-washing” to pragmatically designing programs around specific SDGs, reporting results against SDGs, and independently auditing implementation.

Some incorporate reporting on their international work in their VNRs, others restrict the VNR just to their national SDG program. Some use Agenda 2030 as the principal frame for their international development work, others embed the SDGs, or particular goals, in their international policies and programs.

Some approaches are unique to one or a few countries. Canada incorporates the SDGs in its Feminist International Assistance Policy. Denmark sorts countries into one of three categories and links each category to specific SDGs. Several donors have websites that report programs and results for each SDG, and several connect their development finance to the SDGs. Finland connects theories of change to specific SDGs. Some countries engage in public consultations in setting their SDG commitments. Several countries have outreach programs to educate their populace on development cooperation and the SDGs. Japan has posted videos that explain its international engagement on the SDGs. Spain has a policy of undertaking an SDG analysis of the global impact of proposed legislative initiatives.

Some countries, including Germany, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, and Australia, evidence high-level political ownership of the SDGs in establishing a central government mechanism for policy coherence on Agenda 2030. Several countries follow the SDG principle of “leave no one behind” and employ some or all of the “five Ps”—People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership.

As Agenda 2030 is the international development currency of this decade, incorporating the SDGs in U.S. development cooperation policy would be an important step in the Biden-Harris administration commitment to reengage the U.S. with the world community.

For the most part, the MDGs lived in the realm of internationalists, specifically with practitioners of international development, international organizations, and international NGOs. The SDGs, in contrast, are truly universal, not just in scope but also in application. Their use extends from the international, to the national, to the local. By 2020, 168 countries had written VNRs, with another 43 VNRs expected in 2021.
While the U.S. government has not issued a national VNR, New York pioneered the Voluntary Local Review (VLR), an innovation based on the VNR where local governments assess their progress on the SDGs. Several other American cities have also completed VLRs, including Los Angeles and Pittsburgh; and Hawaii completed the first-ever statewide VLR. New York has since signed up more than 300 cities worldwide to do the same, and universities have adopted a unique SDG framework  to assess their contribution to economic, social, and environmental progress. As of 2018, 78 percent of S&P 500 companies had issued recent sustainability reports, many of which make reference to specific SDGs.

The SDGs have become so ubiquitous that they serve as a common language.  Reference SDG 5, and many people know you are talking about gender equality. For an individual looking to make a responsible investment or a government looking to attract responsible corporate actors, if a corporation has a commitment—better yet a specific target—on SDG 8 on decent work and growth or SDG 7 on affordable and clean energy, it might well be worth a look.

The catalyst for this report is the opportunity for the Biden administration to incorporate the SDGs in its development strategies and programs. While the U.S. was an active partner in the development and initial commitment to the SDGs, over the past four years U.S. development policies have referenced the SDGs but not embraced them. Candidate Biden committed to the SDGs, and the administration reportedly is deliberating on how it might incorporate the SDGs in its development cooperation.

As Agenda 2030 is the international development currency of this decade, incorporating the SDGs in U.S. development cooperation policy would be an important step in the Biden-Harris administration commitment to reengage the U.S. with the world community. More specifically, it would align U.S. development policies and agencies—in particular, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Development Finance Corporation (DFC), U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—with their donor counterparts and partner-country national strategies. It would facilitate U.S. development agencies in setting common goals and targets with other development actors, and it would provide benchmarks for tracking and measuring the results of U.S. development cooperation.

Knowing how other donors have done so should be a useful guide for how the U.S. might best do likewise.

Africa in the news: Nigeria, climate change, and Tunisia updates

( 5 mins) COVID-19 maintains lingering economic disruption in Nigeria
On Tuesday, Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics and the United Nations Development Program reported that approximately 20 percent of workers in Nigeria lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the joint research examining the pandemic’s impact on Africa’s largest economy uncovered a staggering 33 percent unemployment rate in the fourth quarter of 2020. Informal-sector workers particularly struggled to access credit and funding to stay open as commerce slowed. Notably, losses across sectors were not uniform, as more than half of the businesses surveyed managed to retain their staffing levels, a finding which the authors say suggests that Nigeria maintained “pockets of resilience” throughout the pandemic.

In related news, on Wednesday, JP Morgan announced markedly lower economic growth forecasts for Nigeria than the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Central Bank of Nigeria. JP Morgan now predicts that the Nigerian economy, which contracted by 1.79 percent in 2020, will grow by only 1.5 percent in 2021. The IMF and Central Bank of Nigeria had estimated GDP growth to be about 2.5 and 3 percent, respectively, for the country this year. JP Morgan explained its prediction of a weaker outlook on the country’s “continued lack of foreign-exchange liquidity, underlying economic weakness, an emerging third wave of Covid-19 infections and a slow rollout of vaccines will likely slow the recovery process.”
For more commentary on COVID-19’s impacts on Nigeria’s economy, see: “Understanding the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the Nigerian economy.” For more on strategies for creating jobs for Africa’s youth, see the paper, “Addressing youth unemployment in Africa through industries without smokestacks: A synthesis on prospects, constraints, and policies.”

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Gabon wants payment for its role in the fight against climate change; South Africa takes steps to reduce emissions
Earlier this week, officials in Gabon stated that the country will be seeking payment for its role in the fight against climate change. Importantly, in March of last year, a study published by the journal Nature found that many areas of the Congo Basin were showing signs of reduced carbon uptake and specifically predicted that, by 2030, the basin will absorb 14 percent less carbon than over the previous 10 to 15 years. This decrease in the carbon-absorbing capabilities of the Congo Basin will be detrimental to the fight against climate change given the area’s key role in regulating moisture transport, rainfall patterns, and the global climate. In fact, according to the study, while the Congo Basin is the world’s second-largest rainforest behind the Amazon, it stores more carbon over the same area of land. Gabon, which is home to 12 percent of the Congo Basin, has managed to protect its share of the rainforest, making it one of the few carbon-negative countries in the world.
In related updates, on Thursday, September 23, South Africa’s cabinet adopted new, ambitious emissions reduction targets. As a result, South Africa, Africa’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is now aiming to reduce emissions to between 350 million and 420 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2030. This announcement comes ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in November where South Africa’s state-owned power company, Eskom, plans to ask for funding to help finance its shift from coal to renewable energy sources. Similarly, an announcement by the Minerals Council of South Africa stated that South African mining companies plan to invest $2.7 billion to construct 2,000 megawatts of power generation capacity. According to Bloomberg, persistent power cuts by Eskom have pushed mining companies to develop power plants, and mining companies have shown a willingness to move away from power fueled by coal as investors become more attentive to the climate crisis.
In other climate news, a startup in Benin has been building computers from jerrycans—plastic containers used for carrying liquids. The startup, BlowLab, has not only been utilizing recycled jerrycans, old computer parts, and other recycled materials to build computers, but has also been teaching others how to build their own for free. These computers are also cost-effective: A traditional office computer can cost between 300 and 350,000 CFA francs ($0.54 and $625) while the “jerrys” can cost between 100 and 150,000 CFA francs ($0.18 and $266). BlowLab has also announced plans to make these computers available to schools in remote areas.
Tunisian president declares rule by decree
On Wednesday, September 22, Tunisian President Kais Saied announced new measures that will allow him to rule by decree, ignoring stipulations in the current constitution. The measures, which include bestowing himself with the power to unilaterally issue legislative directives and appoint cabinet positions, come on the heels of Saied suspending the Tunisian parliament and sacking the prime minister on July 25. The actions of the past few months have drawn criticism from Tunisian political rivals as well as from Western donors, who have pressured Saied to take steps toward finding a new prime minister and reinstating democratic rule. On Thursday, four political parties in opposition to the president (who ran as an independent)—Attayar, Al Jouhmouri, Akef and Ettakatol—released a joint statement condemning Saied’s decision, stating, “We consider the president has lost his legitimacy by violating the constitution.” The party with the greatest representation in Tunisia’s parliament, Ennahda, also rejected Saied’s claim and had previously called his suspension of the parliament a “coup.”
In Wednesday’s announcement, Saied indicated that he would form a committee to draft amendments to the 2014 constitution with the goal of eventually establishing “a true democracy in which the people are truly sovereign.” In the meantime, Saied indicated that the preamble to the 2014 constitution and any clauses that do not contradict his new legislative and executive powers will still be enforceable.

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What’s next for poverty reduction policies in China?

( 6 mins) Earlier this year China’s government announced that it had eradicated absolute poverty, measured against a standard equivalent to $2.30 per person per day applied to rural areas. The latest Household Survey on Income, Expenditure and Living Conditions data by China’s National Bureau of Statistics, available for the year 2018, suggest that against an international poverty line of $1.90 per day, the poverty rate had declined to below 0.5 percent. This suggests China has reduced the number of poor people by close to 800 million since 1980. Whatever the specific numbers, China’s poverty reduction is a remarkable achievement. Yet, it cannot be the end of China’s efforts. As the country looks to the 2020s, what lessons can the authorities learn from the past 40 years and what should be the focus of policy?

Growth, mostly
China’s poverty reduction success since 1980 is primarily a story of sustained economic growth. The first decade of reform saw rapid income gains in agriculture, as China removed some of the biggest distortions of the Mao era. In the second decade, industry took the leading role, both in urban and rural areas, as reforms widened and deepened. During the third decade, the dynamism of China’s export-oriented coastal areas spread further inland, as migration to the urban centers accelerated, infrastructure investments (such as with the “Western Development Strategy”) multiplied, and a growing proportion of China’s territory became economically integrated into global value chains. This decade also saw an expansion of China’s social policies, including place-based interventions in the most backward counties and the creation of a basic safety net for China’s rural population. During the final decade, these social policies were widened, culminating in the targeted poverty eradication campaign of the past five years. Only during this final period did transfers become a more important driver of poverty reduction than labor incomes (see Figure 1).

Three lessons stand out:

The speed and scale of China’s poverty reduction since 1980 is partially related to the starting point. As Martin Ravallion points out, China in 1980 was one of the poorest countries in the world, and yet had a relatively healthy and well-educated population—comparable to other East Asian countries with much higher levels of income. China’s savings rates were also high and land distribution equal—initial conditions that allowed other East Asian countries to grow rapidly during the 1960s and 1970s. China in the 1980s and 1990s was thus to some extent catching up with its peers.
Market-oriented reforms drove the expansion of economic opportunities. China’s economic transformation from a largely rural and agrarian country to a predominantly urban, industrial powerhouse followed the country’s comparative advantage, using market signals to create appropriate incentives, and competition among regional governments to test policies and among companies to catalyze productivity gains. China introduced market incentives gradually. But its story of transformation and growth is consistent with classical economic theories of development.
Although markets and business played the leading role, government policy was also instrumental. China’s state is endowed with high administrative capacity and the government used this to provide public goods and overcome collective action failures. This is most evident in the expansion of public infrastructure that helped integrate rural areas with urban economies, and in the coordination of stakeholders in the targeted poverty reduction. High-powered incentives in the management of China’s civil service created a strong performance orientation, while a high degree of decentralization allowed policy to be responsive to local conditions.

What’s next?
China’s conditions today create mixed prospects for growth and income gains among the poor. China’s technological capabilities and the competitiveness of its leading companies are on par with high-income countries, and its best performing schools and students rank top in the world. But these capabilities are not broadly shared. The dispersion of productivity levels across Chinese companies is high. Average educational attainment of the labor force is low by comparison with high-income countries and access to good education remains unequal (Figure 2). China needs to pay more attention to these inequalities.

Market-oriented reforms could be an important catalyst for the greater diffusion of technological capabilities and for improved access to quality services. Among companies, leveling the playing field in access to finance and land could help promising small and medium businesses grow and create the jobs of the future. Lifting the remaining hukou related restrictions to labor mobility could help the current generation of school children access better education and health services in urban areas, improving social mobility and economic opportunities. This would over time help alleviate the risk of shortages of skilled labor, including in the urban service sector, which is likely to drive future productivity growth.

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China’s administrative capacity is an asset in its transition to high income, but the government’s role in supporting the poor and vulnerable will have to shift. China’s poverty line is below the level in most upper-middle-income countries, and less than half the $5.50 per day typical of upper-middle-income countries. Adopting a higher line would change the profile of the poor: At $5.50, around one-third of the roughly 180 million poor would be in urban areas, for example, and many of them would be informal, migrant workers outside of agriculture. Among these groups, poverty is more likely to be transient, associated with spells of unemployment and out of pocket health and education expenses. Social policies would need to recognize these differences, just as targeted poverty reduction was based on an evaluation of household needs in rural areas.

Following the eradication of absolute poverty, China has set the year 2035 as the target date to achieve common prosperity. This is understood as providing the opportunity for a decent standard of living to all Chinese citizens. Ensuring equal access to education, health care, and other services, leveraging market signals and competition to encourage innovation and the diffusion of technologies, and repeatedly adjusting government policies to ensure social transfers target key vulnerabilities and help China’s citizens manage the risk of a rapid socioeconomic transformation—these are the lesson of the past 40 years. They will continue to serve China well on the road ahead.

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The new child tax credit does more than just cut poverty

( 7 mins) With COVID-19’s disruptions in employment, child care, and education, it is unsurprising that child poverty substantially increased in 2020—roughly 1.2 million more children were living in poverty in 2020 when compared to 2019 (an increase from 15.7% to 17.5%). As child poverty is unequally distributed in America, so too were its increases—poverty rates grew the most among Latino children (4.2 percentage points), Black children (2.8 percentage points), and children from female-headed families (4.1 percentage points), while they remained flat for white and Asian children.

In response to these trends, President Biden signed a bill this March that restructures the child tax credit (CTC) for one year—making it larger ($3,000 per child between the ages of six and 17 and $3,600 per child under six), broader (gradual phaseouts start at $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for those married filing jointly), and more periodic (monthly payments). This restructuring would allow the CTC to act like a child allowance, which has been used in a variety of other countries. While the new CTC officially launched in July of 2021, policymakers are already considering whether or not to extend the new CTC beyond 2021. Here, policymakers are not only considering the impact that the new CTC will have on child poverty, but also the impact that it could have on family social mobility.
Concerning child poverty and racial/ethnic equity, researchers from Columbia University estimate that the new CTC could cut child poverty by 45 percent and would have the largest impacts on Latino and Black children. Considering other outcomes, some scholars argue that the new CTC could disincentivize parental employment and thus curb social mobility, while other scholars argue the contrary: Cash payments can simultaneously decrease child poverty and increase mobility. Some scholars also suggest that policies like the CTC could increase birth rates, an important consideration given that recent declines in U.S. birth rates may pose both social and economic challenges such as reductions in GDP growth rates.
Our findings suggest that the child tax credit will not only act as a tool for decreasing child poverty in the short term, but also as a tool for increasing family social mobility in the long term.
As policymakers grapple with whether or not to extend the new CTC beyond 2021, it is important to understand how families will use the CTC payments. To inform these policymakers, we utilized a probability-based online panel to survey a nationally representative group of 1,514 U.S. parents eligible for the credit. The survey was administered immediately before the first CTC payments were delivered. One of the key questions we asked parents in this survey was how they planned to use their CTC payments. Our findings suggest that the CTC will not only act as a tool for decreasing child poverty in the short term, but also as a tool for increasing family social mobility in the long term.
Figure 1. Planned usage of the child tax credit

Source: Employment, Financial and Well-being Effects of the 2021 Expanded Child Tax Credit, Social Policy Institute. Notes: n=1,056 – 1,078 respondents who anticipate receiving the CTC. Responses differ slightly across categories as some respondents skipped answering yes/no for certain categories.
Overall, 64 percent of eligible parents anticipated receiving the CTC. We examine how these parents planned to use these payments in Figure 1. The most common planned use was building emergency savings (75%), followed by paying for routine expenses (67%), essential items for children (58%), purchasing more or better food (49%), starting or growing a college fund (42%), and paying for child activities (42%), moving or making home improvements (32%), health care expenses (29%), child care expenses (26%), spending more time with children (20%), and purchasing gifts or entertainment (20%). Relatively few parents planned to use the CTC to pay for tutors for children (7%), working less or changing jobs (6%), or sending their children to a different school (6%).

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In Figure 2, we look at the relationship between planned uses of the CTC and families’ income in 2020. Overall, we find that:

Families across the income spectrum planned to use the CTC to build emergencies savings at similar rates.
A greater proportion of lower-income families (76%) planned on using their CTC for routine expenses than middle- (64%) and higher-income (54%) families
A substantially greater proportion of lower-income families (75%) planned on using their CTC for essential items than middle- (52%) and higher-income (37%) families
A substantially greater proportion of lower-income families (66%) planned on using their CTC to purchase more or better food than middle- (44%) and higher-income (27%) families
A slightly smaller proportion of lower-income families (38%) planned on using their CTC to start or grow a college fund than middle- (42%) and higher-income (50%) families
A slightly greater proportion of lower-income families (45%) planned on using their CTC for child activities than middle- (44%) and higher-income (32%) families
A slightly greater proportion of lower-income families (29%) planned on using their CTC for emergency savings than middle- (24%) and higher-income (24%) families
A substantially greater proportion of lower-income families (28%) planned on using their CTC to spend more time with their children than middle- (16%) and higher-income (11%) families
A greater proportion of lower-income families (12%) planned on using their CTC to hire tutors for their children than middle- (5%) and higher-income (3%) families.

Figure 2. Planned usage of the child tax credit, by 2020 household income

Source: Employment, Financial and Well-being Effects of the 2021 Expanded Child Tax Credit, Social Policy Institute.Notes: n=1,049 – 1,071 respondents who anticipate receiving the CTC. Responses differ slightly across categories as some respondents skipped answering yes/no for certain categories.
There are four main takeaways from these results:

The results show that the new CTC will likely have the intended effect of alleviating child poverty, as seen in the relatively large proportions of respondents planning to use their CTC for emergency savings, routine expenses, essential items, purchasing more or better food, and paying for health care and child care expenses.
The results show that the new CTC will likely increase social mobility both for families and their children. For example, when considering family social mobility, a relatively large proportion of respondents planned to use their CTC for moving and making home improvements or starting/growing a college fund for their children.
While some fear that the CTC will disincentive work, this fear appears to be relatively unfounded, as only 6 percent of families planned on working less or changing jobs.
These results show that low-income families planned to use the CTC to both cover the essential expenses for their households and children, while also commonly planning to use the CTC to build their emergency savings. This is important for promoting the financial well-being of these families, who often struggle with severe budgetary constraints and have very minimal amounts of emergency savings.

U.S. families, and low- and middle-income families in particular, must often manage tight budgets that make it difficult to build even modest savings and put them at risk of taking on high (and often expensive) debt burdens. Based on these results, it appears that the CTC will help give families a little more slack in their budgets to help them meet their essential needs, while also allowing them to make important investments in their children’s future, such as college savings or paying for extracurricular activities. Both of these functions may help improve children’s well-being both now and over the long term, and policymakers should consider these benefits as they debate whether or not to make the CTC permanent.

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Can fintech improve health?

( 5 mins) Abstract
Access to electronic financial services, in particular digital money, has replaced the digital divide as an unintended yet significant barrier for low-income individuals to participate in new technologies, including those that lead to better health outcomes. This paper explores this problem in depth. It begins by describing and documenting the barriers, costs, and benefits to accessing and using digital money. Next, the paper turns to implications of the broader technological revolution on the nature of money and payment systems. This includes an examination into the structure of our banking and payment systems and their overlay into different demographic groups of Americans. The paper then explores the ramifications of disparity in access to digital money for physical health including an analysis of how the COVID-19 pandemic amplified existing problems. It concludes with a set of recommendations to ameliorate the problems identified.

The paper finds that access to digital money is an underappreciated vector by which technological innovation, both financial and non-financial, can be hindered in reaching certain populations. Accessing digital money is easy and free for those with money while for those without a lot of money, digital money is expensive. Digital money’s role as a barrier to accessing new technology, particularly in an app/mobile/online economy, will likely exacerbate existing inequalities and impede adoption of some new technology for lower-income people. To the extent that these new technologies offer health benefits and require digital money, existing public health inequalities will be exacerbated.  Fully realizing the potential health and wealth benefits of new technology requires a better solution to the digital payment divide than currently exists.
Key Findings
America’s payment system is designed to segregate people by income and wealth. Access to digital payments is more expensive and difficult to obtain for lower-income households and racial minorities despite decades of continuing growth of usage of digital money. This results in barriers to adoption of new technology, which increasingly requires digital payments. The response to the COVID-19 pandemic exposed several consequences of this problem, resulting in reduced effectiveness of pandemic response and potentially greater health risks due to a lack of access to digital payments.
Linkages between income, wealth, and physical and mental health have been documented. However, prior research has not generally considered the role of payments and access to digital money as impacting either income or health. This paper argues that access to digital money has a direct impact on financial well-being and consequently should factor into determinants of health. In addition, the inability to access digital money easily and cheaply may factor into other elements that have been studied as part of the broader social determinants of health, specifically the ability to access new technologies that require digital payments.
A specific new finding in the paper is that the majority of Americans who use check cashers and the majority of checks cashed are from people with bank accounts. This challenges the notion that being “unbanked” drives use of certain “fringe financial services” such as check cashers. Issues around cost, including the value of immediate payment, drive decisions on how best to access money, whether through bank products or non-bank products.
Table 1: Use of check cashing services, by banking status

The main policy solutions discussed center on enhancing access to digital payments through expansions of the provision of low-cost financial services. The goal is universal access to digital payments at low/no-cost, which should reduce the inequality effects of new technology. A set of policy solutions are being discussed, but more analysis is needed to ensure that proposed solutions correctly identify and address the key challenges, which are primarily centered around cost and timeliness rather than  physical locations, hours of operation, or the creation of new forms of digital currency. Inaction in solving these problems intensifies inequality, hampers responses to future pandemics, and reduces the efficacy of other solutions designed to improve public health. The status quo is not static. Technology continues to develop. Absent substantial reform of our nation’s banking and payment systems that lower the cost of accessing and transacting in digital money, millions of Americans will be unable to fully benefit from technological advancement, and that is likely to have health consequences.
Download the full report here.

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This report was funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Brookings Institution is financed through the support of a diverse array of foundations, corporations, governments, individuals, as well as an endowment. A list of donors can be found in our annual reports published online here. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions in this report are solely those of its author(s) and are not influenced by any donation.

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Figure of the week: Internet freedom in sub-Saharan Africa declines

( 3 mins) On September 21, Freedom House released its 2021 Freedom on the Net report, its annual survey and analysis of internet freedom around the world. This report assesses 70 countries from various regions (13 from sub-Saharan Africa) on obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights. The 2021 edition finds that, globally, internet freedom has been on a decline for the 11th straight year. Despite this however, Sudan, Gambia, and South Africa all saw increases in internet freedom since last year.

In assessing internet freedom, the report creates a total score based on its assessment of obstacles to access, limits on content, and violations of user rights. Based on those scores of 0-100, Freedom House then assigns ratings of free (scores 70-100), partly free (scores 40-69), and not free (scores 0-39).
Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, and Ethiopia were the region’s highlights in this report. In fact, Uganda saw one of the greatest internet freedom deteriorations, with its score dropping from 56 out of 100 to 49 since last year. Freedom House attributes this decline to government forces implementing stricter internet restrictions during recent political events and crises, including a five-day shutdown during January’s elections. Another factor in the decline of Uganda’s score is the cost of internet access: Internet access, specifically on cellular phones, costs 5,000 shillings (about $45) per 1GB, making it unaffordable for many citizens. Despite these challenges, Uganda still ranks higher on the list than Rwanda, Sudan, and Ethiopia—the three sub-Saharan countries categorized as “not free” in the report.
Figure 1. Sub-Saharan Africa Freedom on the Net rankings 2021

Source: Freedom on the Net Report 2021, Freedom House.
Rwanda, which the report scored better than almost all African countries in terms of access, still received an overall score of 38 out of 100, largely due to limits on content. According to the report, the Rwandan government restricts content that strays from the government’s official narrative. Freedom House also found that the government has and continues to suppress political commentary through surveillance, arrest, and intimidation, especially against journalists, activists, and opposition leaders.

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Sudan received a total score of 33 out of 100, a three-point increase from last year. Sudan’s low score is largely due to limits on access. In fact, internet penetration in Sudan is very low: Only about 31 percent of the population was using the internet as of January 2021, likely due to unreliable electricity supply. Low access is not the only reason for the country’s low score: Internet users continue to face harassment and intimidation from the government for their online content.
The lowest-scoring country in the region was Ethiopia, with a total score of 27 out of 100. Like many other countries in the region, much of its low score is due to obstacles to access, for which it received only 4 out of 25 points. Indeed, the country struggles with unreliable electricity, a problem that has been exacerbated by conflict in the region. In fact, the conflict has impacted other aspects of the score: The report states that since the start of the recent conflict, Ethiopian citizens have experienced higher restrictions in human rights online.
For more on Africa and the internet see, “Nigeria’s twitter ban is a misplaced priority” and “Ethiopia, human rights and the internet.”

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What do we know about the effects of COVID-19 on girls’ return to school?

( 8 mins) At its peak in 2020, COVID-19-related school closures affected more than 1 billion learners around the world. Girls’ education advocates feared the worst: Prolonged school closures and lockdowns would harm girls’ health and well-being, not to mention the continuity of their learning. The 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa foreboded a cocktail of threats including sexual and gender-based violence, unintended pregnancies, forced marriage, and early transitions to work. Estimates projected that between 11 million and 20 million girls would not return to school after COVID due to these and other factors.

Have these fears been realized?
We look at the evidence so far—including from within a portfolio of research funded by Echidna Giving’s COVID-19 response fund—to answer this question. While the evidence draws primarily from sub-Saharan Africa, we offer generalizable advice to education systems around the world grappling not only with when they will reopen fully, but also how many more times they may need to shut down and reopen as new waves and new variants of the coronavirus spread. (Note: Dana Schmidt, senior program officer, and Erin Ganju, managing director, are employees of Echidna Giving, which provides financial support for the Center for Universal Education. Brookings is committed to quality, independence, and impact in all of its work. Activities supported by its donors reflect this commitment.)
Recent evidence from Senegal and Ghana suggests good news when it comes to girls’ reenrollment.
Both countries saw surprisingly low overall dropout rates (1.6 percent and 2 percent, respectively) when schools reopened in November 2020 and January 2021, respectively. In Senegal, there was no statistical difference between the dropout rate for girls and boys, and in Ghana, boys—especially from poor and rural households—were more likely to have dropped out than girls. Similar findings have also been observed in Ethiopia, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Nonetheless, this good news (for girls) is coupled with bad news for everyone in terms of learning loss, as reflected by grade repetition.
In Senegal, grade repetition nearly doubled from pre-COVID levels (rising from 6.3 percent to 11.4 percent). This was especially pronounced for students in exam years, or the last grade level of primary and secondary school. Meanwhile, in Ghana grade repetition nearly tripled from pre-COVID levels (rising from 3.5 percent to 10.5 percent), again with boys more likely to be repeating than girls. And in terms of numeracy scores, learning gains for both girls and boys in Ethiopia have slowed, with the gender gap narrowing slightly.
Although the aggregate statistics suggest that decades of efforts to normalize girls’ education are paying off, when you zoom in on adolescent girls, a more somber story emerges.
For many girls, COVID-19’s associated economic crises exacerbated gender inequalities that are more acute among older adolescents—from increased limitations on their freedom of movement to the need to care for younger siblings and perform household chores to the likelihood of being married off to relieve pressure on sparse household resources. When schools reopened after six months of closure in Uganda, 10 percent of grade 10 girls failed to return compared to 8 percent of grade 10 boys. Worse, 18 percent of grade 12 girls did not come back compared to 2 percent of grade 12 boys. A survey of nearly 4,000 adolescents living in urban settlements and rural counties in Kenya found that 16 percent of vulnerable adolescent girls compared to 8 percent of adolescent boys did not return to school when schools reopened in the country in January 2021.
The primary driver of dropout for girls has been economic—compounded by pregnancy.
A study of nearly 400 of the hardest-to-reach rural adolescent girls in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda found that 34 percent had lost a parent or guardian to COVID-19, 70 percent had to pursue income-generating activities, and 86 percent could not afford to return to school. Such economic precarity can drive adolescent girls into transactional sex to meet their basic needs. One study of adolescents in Nairobi, Kenya found that COVID-19 has increased young women’s financial dependence on transactional sex by 49 percent. Beyond economic precarity, the study of the hardest-to-reach adolescent girls also found that 29 percent of girls had dropped out of school during COVID. More than half of these girls dropped out because they were or recently had been pregnant. And of the girls who were planning to return to school, 30 percent were pregnant.
The mental health and psychosocial well-being of adolescent girls has quickly become a concern.
School closures, barriers to distance learning, economic insecurity, food insecurity, gender-based violence, and the health risks of COVID-19 have all increased adolescent girls’ concerns and feelings of hopelessness about their own educational futures. An earlier study of COVID-19 in Kenya found that older adolescent girls (15-19 years) were less likely to be engaged in distance learning, less confident that they would return to school, and more likely to experience symptoms of depression than younger adolescent girls (10-14 years). The aforementioned study on the hardest-to-reach adolescent girls in eastern Africa indicates high levels of academic anxiety among girls concerning their learning loss, the degree of remedial learning they will need, and the likelihood of having to repeat a grade and thus be much older than their peers.
Social stigma against teenage pregnancy magnifies these anxieties for many girls.
Pregnant girls who feel ashamed and fear being mocked by peers self-isolate further. For those who experienced sexual violence, the added trauma of abuse—oftentimes by men in their own household—adds another source of psychological stress and distress. Social stigma around their pregnancy not only puts them at greater risk of depression, but also places them even further out of reach from social support. Although communities in eastern Africa largely support adolescent girls returning to school, the situation is different for pregnant girls. Adolescent girls report how social stigma around teenage pregnancy mixes with a toxic school culture to push pregnant girls and school-aged mothers out of school.
COVID-19 is far from over, but we know enough about its impact to suggest immediate actions governments can take in response.
It is unclear which of the trends (both the positive and negative) that have emerged thus far will be sustained through repeated school closures and successive waves of COVID-19 variants. What is clear is that governments should factor the following into their COVID-19 education response and recovery plans:

Disaggregate reenrollment data by gender, age, wealth, and other intersecting factors that may shape the consequences of COVID-related school closures. While aggregate studies point to a surprisingly low dropout rate among girls, those studies that looked specifically at adolescent girls point to a very different picture. Girls and boys of different ages, of different wealth strata, and from rural or urban households experience different risks and different expectations and pressures on their time. Decisionmakers must take seriously these intersecting constraints, vulnerabilities, and associated risks to education continuity and recovery.
Weigh the health benefits of school closures against the known education, economic, social, and health costs—including the cost to mental health. The impacts of school closures on vulnerable segments of the population are severe and costly. Governments should factor in these costs when making decisions about school closures and find other ways to serve these populations if/when schools must be closed.
Design and implement school reentry policies for pregnant girls. The Ministry of Education in Kenya has shown that school dropout need not be a pregnant girls’ destiny. During the first year of the pandemic, the country saw a 131 percent increase in the number of girls who completed their secondary school exams in the hospital after giving birth, rising from 282 girls in 2019 to 652 in 2020. Elsewhere, pregnant girls are de facto expelled from school.
Address the education, economic, social, and health needs (including physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health) of adolescents. Emerging evidence clearly indicates how these needs intersect in complex ways, creating vulnerabilities that are especially unique to adolescent girls. Addressing these needs holistically—including through government and nongovernmental support, like cash transfers, in response to COVID-related job loss and food insecurity—will mitigate against the pathways that lead to adolescent girls’ unintended pregnancies and school dropout.

We are no longer dealing with hypothetical impacts on girls’ education. The studies highlighted above point to the ways COVID-19 has already disrupted the educational trajectories of adolescent girls in long-lasting ways. As COVID-19 continues to evolve, we must marshal these insights to dampen its ongoing effects on girls’ education.

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Quantifying the impact on Nigeria of the African Continental Free Trade Area

( 10 mins) While there is a general optimism around the promise of the newly in-force African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), like any other free trade agreement (FTA), it will inevitably create winners and losers. This unequal distributional impact is a function of many possible factors, including manufacturing capacity, domestic costs of doing business, firm productivity, infrastructural capability, AfCFTA awareness levels, and access to loans and financing. Whether due to firm-level inefficiencies, information frictions, or the suboptimal business environments, some firms—or even sectors—within a country may be unable to expand market opportunities as competition from other continental economies rises. The AfCFTA drops 90 percent of tariffs and includes policies aimed at eliminating nontariff barriers, such as customs delays, so the aggregate long-term benefits of AfCFTA are likely to be substantial and larger than potential losses; however, some countries and sectors will likely be impacted negatively in the short term.

Nigeria—the largest economy in Africa—signed the AfCFTA on July 7, 2019, becoming the 34th member of the trading bloc. Under the AfCFTA, Nigeria stands to gain from increased access to cheaper goods and services from other African countries, as its intra-African trade is currently low: Indeed, as of 2018, Nigeria’s imports from the African region relative to total imports was at 3.2 percent while the share of Nigeria’s exports to the African region relative to total exports was 13.2 percent. Moreover, in 2020, Nigeria’s main trading partner was actually China.
Proponents of the FTA expect the AfCFTA to reduce poverty, increase firm competitiveness, and boost intra-African trade and investment. In fact, based on a recent survey of 1,804 Nigerian manufacturing enterprises, 6 out of 10 businesses expect the AfCFTA to lead to a reduction in material and labor costs, increase production capacity, expand market and consumer size, and reduce prices. Overall, Nigeria’s small and medium-sized businesses are optimistic about the opportunities created by AfCFTA, although with mixed feelings grounded in concerns about rising foreign competition and dumping of substandard goods.

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As the trade agreement kicked off in the middle of a global pandemic coupled with a global recession, it is still unclear how the reduction in tariffs on goods and services will impact Nigeria’s households and businesses. However, a 2020 piece by Nassim Oulmane, Mustapha Sadni Jallab, and Patrice Rélouendé Zidouemba argues that the AfCFTA’s boost to intra-African trade might actually mitigate the rapid decline in GDP caused by COVID-19 and subsequent social-distancing policies and border closures.
Estimating the impacts of the AfCFTA for Nigeria
A tariff reduction enacted by one country has implications for its partners, suppliers, and competitors as it spills over to the rest of the world through trade networks and to other industries through supply chains. (For instance, a reduction in tariffs on cotton products impacts the prices of textiles.) These cascading effects across sectors and countries can be captured using a tractable numerical framework that can simulate the effects of shocks to countries and sectors and its implication on global trade patterns. To identify these effects and the transmission mechanisms resulting from the change in relative prices from trade liberalization on producers and consumers of intermediate and final goods at home and abroad, we employ a multisector, multicountry, quantitative model with linkages across sectors.  A regional tariff reduction is modeled as a higher productivity, as it leads to a reduction in relative prices and has implications for the exchange of goods across countries and regions. In this framework, households and firms then purchase more imported articles at cheaper prices, raising trade volumes and increasing household welfare. For the same reason, changes in relative prices of exports and imports induce higher demand for non-Nigerian-made products, depending on the variation in prices across sectors and countries. Therefore, even though there is a presumption of a positive impact, that may not be the case.
Figure 1. Predicted aggregate real wage effects (%) of the AfCFTA on Nigeria and rest of the world

Source: Static computable, multisector, multicountry trade model version, authors’ simulations.
Notes: A country’s real wage effect is the percentage change in real GDP from 2014 level associated with free trade across the African region only. Tariffs for other non-AfCFTA countries/region are set at 2014 effective rates. Declines in GDP are shown in red, whereas increases in GDP are in orange and blue. The model provides results for 27 African countries, 13 OECD countries, 14 other emerging economies, and the “rest” of Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, North America, and Australia (60 countries in total including the rest of the world). Simulation results assume a full employment, perfect foresight, and absence of trade imbalances and household’s dynamic intertemporal choices.
Quantifying real wage, price, trade, and welfare effects
In our analysis, we calibrate a model of trade to countries’ macroeconomic performance as at 2014 and then simulate the potential impacts on macroeconomic indicators associated with trade liberalization across the African region. We estimate the impacts on all countries under a scenario where there is free trade only with continental countries. Figure 1 presents the estimated percentage change in real wage associated with moving from tariff rates in 2014 to those under the AfCFTA for African countries, while tariff rates on other regions/countries remain at 2014 effective tariff rates. Our results have implications on real wage and welfare effects for Nigeria, 52 countries, six other regions of the world, and the rest of the world. Overall, we find that Nigeria will experience a 1.43 percent gain in value added compared to 2014 levels. Notably, the effects for Nigeria, although positive, are modest relative to the gains in real wage for other African countries. Our findings show that the AfCFTA will deliver larger gains to African countries with prior larger shares of imports from the region. Moreover, impacts of trade liberalization on real wage across African countries will be uneven: For example, Botswana, Angola, and Ghana will experience percentage changes in real wage of 16.6 percent, 12.5 percent, and 6.5 percent (dark blue in map), respectively, due to the AfCFTA.
Nigeria gains 1.55 percent in welfare. Decomposing welfare effects into effects due to change in volume of trade (1.14 percent) and effects due to change in terms of trade (0.41 percent) highlights the sources of Nigeria’s positive gain by sector. As shown in Figure 2, agriculture and fishing and other manufacturing industries account for 73 percent of the gains from volume of trade. A decline in terms of trade translates to a larger decline in export prices relative to import prices. “Other manufacturing goods” accounts for most gains in terms of trade while the agriculture and mining industries combined dilute gains by 32.6 percent.
Figure 2. Effect of AfCFTA on Nigeria’s volume of trade and terms of trade by sector

Source: Static computable, multisector, multicountry trade model version, authors’ simulations.
Notes: Volume of trade is sectoral trade relative to Nigeria’s total trade. Terms of trade is calculated as difference in sectoral price of export and import as a share of total price differences in all sectors. Welfare effects is the sum of the volume of trade (VoT) and terms of trade (ToT) effects. A negative ToT means the sector dilutes the positive gains. Sectoral contribution for ToT and VoT adds up to 100 percent.
Prices for agricultural and manufacturing commodities will go down, but some others will go up
Based on our simulations, the AfCFTA will lead to reductions in prices of agricultural and manufacturing commodities. In fact, the decline in sectoral prices ranges from 0.8 percent in electrical and machinery to 8 percent in metal (Figure 3). Moreover, through sectoral linkages and changes in relative prices of imported goods, we find the AfCFTA will lead to an increase in prices of non-tradable services such as information services; transportation and warehousing; and finance and insurance services.
Figure 3. Price effects of AfCFTA on Nigeria’s economic sectors

Source: Static computable, multisector, multicountry trade model version, authors’ simulations.
Even with better infrastructure under the AfCFTA and the under-construction train networks between Kaduna and Lagos (the commercial center of Nigeria, which hosts the maritime ports for articles traded to/from the southern and western parts of Africa), intra- and international transportation costs remain high in the short run. A recent article in Nigerian newspaper The Punch finds that the price of shipping a container from the Apapa port in Lagos to the mainland (distance of just 20 kilometers) is almost the same as shipping one container from Nigeria to China. These types of costs will rise as the AfCFTA is implemented because of increases in the demand for inter-country haulage and shipping. In other words, intra-regional transportation cost variation impacts production costs and prices of traded articles as well as trade flows across countries. Changes in trade patterns then drive the uneven distributional impacts on consumption, real wage, and welfare across regions and countries, depending on changes in tariff rates on traded products.
Before the AfCFTA, 38 percent of Nigeria’s exports were in the mining and petro-chemical industries. Now, our simulations suggest a slight decline in exports for the following sectors: mining; wood and paper; petro-chemicals; metal products; and other manufacturing articles. Successful implementation of the AfCFTA will also induce a 6.3 percent increase in exports of agricultural products and 1.3 percent increase in food and beverage exports as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Export effects of AfCFTA on the Nigerian economy

Source: Static computable, multisector, multicountry,  trade model version, authors’ simulations. U.N. Commodity trade database.
Notes: Before AfCFTA’s export share is based on UNCOMTRADE data, and After AfCFTA is based on simulation results.
As touted by policy experts, the AfCFTA has the potential to lift Nigerians out of poverty and raise manufacturing output. However, to realize this potential, Nigeria must follow targeted industrial policy and structural reforms; upgrade customs infrastructure; address the domestic cost of doing business; reduce bottlenecks, port processes, and transportation costs; promote digital marketing and e-commerce; and create targeted awareness about the AfCFTA policy. A survey of Nigerian businesses conducted by the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA) shows that over 60 percent of Nigeria’s businesses are still unaware of the recently signed AfCFTA agreement. Even with potential benefits for firms, there are information costs reflected in different levels of awareness. Firms who don’t know AfCFTA exists are unable to take advantage of the tariff arrangements or even benefit from the policy. Until businesses are aware, the costs of trading under AFCFTA will remain high.
Note: The views expressed herein are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, the Federal Reserve System, nor the Brookings Institution.

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How Arkansas implemented its computer science education program

( 4 mins) Computer science (CS) education helps students acquire skills such as computational thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration, among others. It has been linked with higher rates of college enrollment (Brown & Brown, 2020; Salehi et al., 2020), and a recent randomized control trial study also showed that lessons in computational thinking improved student response inhibition, planning, and coding skills (Arfé et., 2020). As these skills take preeminence in the rapidly changing 21st century, CS education promises to significantly enhance student preparedness for the future of work and active citizenship. CS education can also reduce skills inequality if education systems make a concerted effort to ensure that all students have equitable access to curricula that provide them with the needed breadth of skills, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.

Based on prior analysis and expert consultation, we selected 11 country, state, and provincial CS-education case studies with lessons that can apply broadly to other education systems. These cases come from diverse global regions and circumstances and have implemented CS education programs for various periods and to different levels of success. As such, we have examined information to extract lessons that can lead to successful implementation. This study will focus on the development of CS education in Arkansas.
While this U.S. state is not typically known for technological advancement, the governor’s strong leadership has led to a rapid and inclusive expansion of CS education, drawing praise from media and advocacy groups alike (Nix, 2017). Code.org, the Computer Science Teachers’ Association (CSTA), and Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) Alliance even noted in their 2019 “State of Computer Science Education” report that Arkansas has the largest share of high schools that teach CS (89 percent) of any U.S. state (State of Computer Science Education, 2020). The state also received the Frank Newman Award for State Innovation from the Education Commission in 2020 for its CS education initiative (CS for All, 2020). Given this recognition, the state’s CS education programs deserve close examination as other education systems work toward similar outcomes.
An overview of CS education in Arkansas
With regular funding, bipartisan political support, and strong executive leadership, Arkansas has made considerable progress at improving CS education since the beginning of the Hutchinson gubernatorial administration in 2015. To help guide key policy decisions, Governor Hutchinson appointed task force groups that included representatives from teacher associations, businesses, and government agencies. These stakeholders gave policymakers influential advice on teacher recruitment and training, student engagement activities, and curriculum standards.
The state set up incentives for participation in CS education programs. Since the 2015-16 school year, students have been able to use CS courses to fulfill high school science and mathematics requirements, which has contributed to Arkansas’s growing enrollment and improving diversity of CS classes (State of Computer Science Education, 2019; Associated Press, 2021). Arkansas has also developed CS certification for in-service and preservice teachers that encourage educators to participate in training programs (Code.org, 2017; Lang, Galanos, Goode, Seehorn, Trees, Phillips, & Stephenson, 2013). This is one of the more important aspects of this case study, as research has shown teachers to be one of the most important school-side factors in student learning in core academic subjects (Chetty Friedman, & Rockoff, 2014; Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005). We posit that this applies to CS as well.
Lessons learned

Political leadership and stakeholder support are key to securing legislative approval and funding for activities that expand quality CS education.
Clear certification pathways, financial incentives, and professional advancement opportunities give teachers incentives to attend teacher training.
A full-time staff of administrators collaborating with a task force of industry representatives, teachers, and parents can enable decisionmakers to account for stakeholder needs and accelerate CS program improvement.
Offering CS in every school and allowing elective CS courses to satisfy high school graduation and university admission requirements can encourage students to explore their interest in CS.
By offering CS education to children at an early age, education systems can enable students to develop a strong interest in the subject and prepare them for advanced courses in high school. This progression throughout grades K-12 can inspire the most interested students to specialize in CS.

Read the full case study»

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Africa in the news: Vaccine, energy, and climate change updates

( 5 mins) New South African tech transfer hub to replicate Moderna vaccine
A tech transfer hub in South Africa established in June aims to replicate, with the aid of Moderna, the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, according to a senior official with the World Health Organization. Moderna said in October 2020 that it would not enforce patents on its vaccine during the pandemic, but talks between the tech transfer hub and Moderna about disclosing the formula and the manufacturing process have yet to make significant progress. Regardless of whether the hub can rely on Moderna for assistance, the hub must still undertake requisite clinical trials, meaning it would not be able to distribute vaccines until the second half of 2022.

This new effort will supplement South Africa’s current production of mRNA vaccines. In July, Pfizer-BioNTech reached an agreement with South African pharmaceutical company Biovac to produce 100 million doses a year. However, the deal does not impart knowledge of the formula behind the vaccine, as the agreement is only to “fill and finish,” meaning Biovac will put the solution into vials and package them for shipping.
Expanded vaccine production is an urgent issue around the world, and Africa is no exception: According to the Africa CDC, only 3.3 percent of the continent is currently vaccinated against COVID-19 due to challenges in access, cost, and logistics, among other difficulties.
For more on Africa’s efforts to spur vaccine production and access, read, “Africa must produce its own vaccines.” Also consider listening to the Honorable Dr. Michel Sidibé, African special envoy for the African Medicines Agency of the African Union  and Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, vice-chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity,  share their thoughts on addressing vaccine inequity at the recent AGI event, “Accelerating COVID-19 vaccinations in Africa.”

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South Africa seeks international investment to shift away from coal; DRC attempts to renegotiate a 2008 minerals-for-infrastructure contract with China
On Thursday, September 16, South Africa’s Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries announced it will seek international cooperation around facilitating and financing the country’s energy transition away from coal, which generates over 80 percent of its electricity. As a first step, the British envoy to COP26, John Murton, announced an upcoming visit South Africa prior to the COP26 conference in Glasgow. The planned meeting follows a proposal from the state power company, and Africa’s largest source of emissions, Eskom, to raise $10 billion to replace most of their coal-fired power plants with renewable energy infrastructure by 2050. However, some South African government officials fear the transition away from coal, which supports more than 90,000 jobs in the country, will cause substantial economic disruption. Proponents of the plan suggest investing in decarbonizing South Africa’s electricity infrastructure offers magnitudes more impact than similar efforts in Europe: According to energy expert Clyde Mallinson, director of Virtual Energy and Power (VEP), “For every kilowatt hour of electricity you offset in South Africa, you get four or five times as much carbon reduction as you do in Europe.”
In related news, on September 11, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi proposed that the country review its $9 billion minerals-for-infrastructure mining contract, which it signed with China in 2008. In the announcement, Tshisekedi panned the contract, which was signed by former President Joseph Kabila, calling such agreements “exploitation contracts… [that keep the rich] getting richer while our people remain poor.”
Sudan and Kenya suffer from floods and droughts
According to a statement made Wednesday by the Kenyan National Drought Management Authority (NDMA), 2.1 million people in 23 counties across Kenya’s north and coast will be in urgent need of food aid in over the next six months as droughts continue to threaten livelihoods. Furthermore, on September 8, President Kenyatta officially declared the droughts a national disaster. In July, the Kenyan government, along with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO), established a drought response plan, which states that a total of 9.4 billion Kenyan shillings will be needed to support food and safety nets as well as non-food interventions to the drought.
As Kenya struggles to deal with droughts, Sudan is currently experiencing flash floods that have reportedly affected over 88,000 people in 13 of its 18 states since July. According to a report by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 12,700 homes have been damaged and 4,800 homes destroyed. The latest flooding comes a year after the flooding in East Africa affected nearly six million people, including 1.5 million displaced. Sudan, according to the BBC, was one of the worst affected countries with 860,000 people having their homes damaged or destroyed.
As the region grapples with natural disasters, the World Bank released the 2021 Groundswell report The report projects that by 2050 sub-Saharan Africa could see as many as 86 million internal climate migrants due to climate-related losses in livelihoods and livability.

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Greening the AfCFTA: It is not too late

( 2 mins) Abstract
Environmental sustainability is a key component of Africa’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want. Yet, the recently launched African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) contains only minimal references to the environment.

This policy brief highlights various ways in which State Parties can strengthen the linkages between the AfCFTA and the environment, with a focus on concrete approaches and strategies. With respect to the AfCFTA protocols that have already been negotiated—including the Annexes on Technical Barriers to Trade, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, and various Annexes on trade facilitation—strategic implementation can enhance the link between the AfCFTA and the environment. With respect to ongoing negotiations, including on tariff schedules and services concessions, as well as future negotiations on the Protocols of Intellectual Property, Investment, Competition and E-commerce, State Parties have the option of more clearly emphasizing the link between the AfCFTA and the environment.
The policy brief also encourages the AfCFTA Secretariat to explore the possibility of adding a Protocol on the Environment and Sustainable Development.
Download the full policy brief

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Green trade under the AfCFTA: The role of AU-EU partnership

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COVID-19: How can the G-20 address debt distress in sub-Saharan Africa?

( < 1 min) Kathrin BerensmannGerman Development Institute (DIE)Hopestone Kayiska ChavulaUN – Economic Commission for Africa
Austin ChiumiaAfrican Economic Research Consortium (AERC)
Mma Amara EkerucheCenter for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA)
Njuguna Ndung’uAfrican Economic Research Consortium (AERC)
Aloysius Uche OrduAfrica Growth Initiative (AGI); (The Brookings Institution)
Lemma W. SenbetUniversity of Maryland and Brookings AGI Distinguished Advisory Group
Abebe ShimelesAfrican Economic Research Consortium (AERC)

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