Amid cyclones and COVID-19, Vanuatu makes bold decision to graduate from ‘least developed country’ category

By Violeta Gonzalez Behar, Head of Partnerships, Outreach and Resource Mobilisation, Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), World Trade Organization & Michelle Kovacevic, Communications Specialist and Consultant for EIF

Fresh fruit and vegetable market in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Photo: Shutterstock

On 4 December 2020, Vanuatu shed its official classification as one of the world’s least developed countries (LDC). This significant milestone – called ‘graduation’ – is something that only five other countries have managed to achieve in the last 40 years. And Vanuatu’s graduation achievement may be the most impressive of all given that, over the past few years, not only has it has weathered significant economic and social fallout from repeated natural disasters, but also a major drop in tourism revenue due to border closures during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

At this time of exacerbated economic vulnerabilities, some have questioned whether this is the right time for Vanuatu to leave its LDC status behind. Indeed it is a courageous choice – on the surface it may seem that there is more to lose than gain from graduation. Graduating countries usually surrender international support measures earmarked for LDCs such as preferential market access, targeted multilateral aid funding, free legal advice and technical assistance from some United Nations agencies, as well as travel support to attend international UN meetings.

While the impact of losing international support measures will depend on what goods a country exports, the trade agreements it is part of, and other factors, the UN’s Committee for Development Policy’s (CDP) LDC graduation impact assessments have shown that the loss of these measures doesn’t actually make much of a practical difference.

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Quality Infrastructure: putting principles into practice – the viewpoint of a development agency

Takenori Nasu, Senior Deputy Director, Operations Management Division, Operations Strategy Department, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)

Investing in infrastructure is critical for recovering from the COVID-19 crisis and achieving long-term development objectives. The crisis has triggered a reshuffling of investment priorities for governments globally and significant shifts in demand. Moreover, the pandemic adds further pressure on already-constrained fiscal space in developing countries. Ensuring quality in infrastructure development has become more fundamental than ever for the efficient and effective use of limited resources for a resilient and sustainable future.

In 2019, the G20 Osaka Summit endorsed the “G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment”, a set of voluntary, non-binding principles designed to reflect the G20’s common aspiration for quality infrastructure investment. But how can “quality infrastructure” be put into practice?

Achieving quality infrastructure, in other words maximising the effectiveness of infrastructure projects, has been a long-standing challenge. To maximise the positive impact of projects, many factors must be taken into consideration, such as economic efficiency in terms of life-cycle cost, natural disaster risks, environmental and social impacts, climate change, gender mainstreaming, openness, transparency, debt sustainability, and accountability in line with international standards outlined in the G20 Principles. These factors should be considered throughout the entire project-cycle from project formulation to service delivery and maintenance.

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Comment remettre l’Humain au cœur des préoccupations agricoles et alimentaires ?

Par Pierrick De Ronne, Président de Biocoop

Selon l’OXFAM, 80 % de l’alimentation mondiale dépend de la production de paysannes et paysans. Pourtant, loin d’être récompensés pour leur contribution à la survie de la planète, de plus en plus d’agriculteurs perçoivent des revenus insuffisants pour leur assurer un revenu de vie décent. Dans l’ensemble des pays du monde, les géants de l’agro-industrie et de la distribution dominent les ventes de produits alimentaires. Ces acteurs s’organisent même à l’international afin de définir des prix payés aux producteurs sans cesse plus réduits. Cette guerre destructrice de valeur, maintes fois pointée du doigt par l’ensemble des acteurs, ceux-là mêmes qui s’y sont engouffrés depuis plusieurs années, écrase nos paysans, détruit nos filières et nos marchés locaux, accentue les écarts de revenus et s’accompagne, de surcroît, d’un recours croissant de l’industrie agro-alimentaire aux additifs et aux ingrédients ultra-transformés, lesquels ont un impact désastreux sur la santé des consommateurs.  

Les acteurs de la distribution ont une responsabilité sur les inégalités du système alimentaire mondial. L’engagement des enseignes, petites et grandes, pour transformer leur modèle d’approvisionnement, de production et de consommation est donc une condition indispensable. Aussi, comment passer d’une politique agricole productiviste, destructrice de valeur, à une politique de l’alimentation reconnue pour ses externalités positives (terroir, rayonnement culturel, emploi) ? Comment réussir à démocratiser l’accès à une alimentation de qualité rémunératrice pour les paysans tout en considérant l’agriculture comme partie intégrante de notre santé et de nos écosystèmes sociétaux ?

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Think global, act local: unpacking progress towards ending child marriage and averting the setbacks of COVID-19

By Chiara Orlassino, Research Adviser and Gabrielle Szabo, Senior Gender Equality Adviser, Save the Children UK1

In 2021, over 28,000 girls got married on International Women’s Day. Ten years from now, the number might still be as high as 26,000 – a far cry from the net zero target of Agenda 2030 (Fig. 1). The grim estimate for 2030 doesn’t even take into account the impact of COVID-19 on child marriage rates, although evidence shows that the pandemic is having a detrimental effect on girls’ rights. With only 10 years to go to 2030, we reflect on progress made on one of the most important Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and call for urgent action on inequalities in particular, which COVID-19 is exacerbating. The Generation Equality forum convened by UN Women is a timely process to prioritise gender equality in recovery efforts, building momentum around economic and political investment in girls’ rights.

Last year, Save the Children’s Global Girlhood Report 2020 shed light on progress towards key targets since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 25 years prior. Among others, child marriage emerged as one area where strides forward had been particularly fragile and at risk of a dramatic reversal due to COVID-19. Our analysis estimates that the economic impacts of the pandemic alone will put up to half a million more girls at risk of child marriage worldwide by 2025, although the real effect will likely be much larger.

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Intensifier les possibilités d’emploi dans les systèmes alimentaires pour les jeunes et les femmes en Afrique de l’Ouest

Par Koffi Zougbédé, Secrétariat du Club du Sahel et de l’Afrique de l’Ouest

Read this post in English

En 2011, Fatoumata Cissoko, jeune femme vivant en Guinée et diplômée en comptabilité, a lancé sa société de transformation de fruits secs avec 260 USD. Elle produit environ 16 tonnes d’ananas séché par an vendu dans de nombreux magasins et supermarchés de la capitale, Conakry, et d’autres villes du pays. Récemment, sa société a considérablement accru sa capacité de production pour améliorer sa compétitivité sur les marchés régionaux et internationaux. Fatoumata a également ouvert un restaurant bio pour compléter la chaîne de production et elle emploie directement 15 femmes. L’histoire de Fatoumata est un exemple des nombreuses opportunités d’emploi émergentes dans les systèmes alimentaires d’Afrique de l’Ouest.

Activités non agricoles – une multitude de possibilités d’emploi diversifiées              

L’économie alimentaire régionale, premier employeur d’Afrique de l’Ouest, devrait atteindre 480 milliards USD en 2030, le secteur non agricole représentant 49 % de la valeur ajoutée. En conséquence, la demande de main-d’œuvre dans les activités non agricoles se développe principalement dans les zones urbaines – pour la transformation, la commercialisation et d’autres services tels que les repas pris à l’extérieur du domicile. Ces activités sont susceptibles de créer des emplois décents et permanents, en particulier pour les jeunes et les femmes. Environ 68 % des femmes occupant un emploi travaillent dans l’économie alimentaire et, comme Fatoumata, la plupart d’entre elles évoluent dans des segments non agricoles.

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Africa’s next transformation: connecting people and places

By Jose Luis Guasch, Former Head of the World Bank Global Experts Group on PPP and Logistics, Professor Emeritus University of California, San Diego

Trucks at the border crossing between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Photo by Rainer Lesniewski, Shutterstock

Pedro, a small farmer in the Andes, spends another sleepless night worrying about how to feed his family. He wonders how to improve the productivity of his small crop of vegetables and how to reduce time cost and losses (spoilage) in the process of taking his produce to the market. George is a small and medium enterprise (SME) entrepreneur, who exports his products. He has to face poor and bumpy roads, delays and red tape in securing permits and certifications, cumbersome custom and/or cross border procedures, lack of cooling facilities, losses due to spoilage and even theft, deficient packaging and scale consolidation, low productivity etc. That is the common plight of most SME farmers and producers in emerging economies. The costs of bringing their products to the market hover around 30% of product value, when it should and can be below 10%.

Weaknesses in transportation and logistics are a recurring theme in numerous diagnostic studies analysing the obstacles to productivity, trade and economic growth in most Latin American and African countries. Particularly burdensome are deficient trade corridors and the dismal conditions of feeder roads connecting markets, borders and ports, as well as the lack of effective logistics services.  

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From COVID-19 to “neglected diseases”: Time to deliver on pharmaceutical innovation

By Werner Raza, ÖFSE – Austrian Foundation for Development Research

The pharmaceutical innovation system’s disregard of “neglected diseases” primarily affecting countries in the Global South should no longer be tolerated. A substantial reform is necessary.

Triggered by SARS-COV-2, Covid-19 belongs to the group of new infectious diseases which until now had mainly occurred in emerging and developing countries. Since the first outbreak of a SARS epidemic in 2002, millions of people have been affected by the family of coronaviruses. But it took a global pandemic with serious impacts on OECD countries’ societies and economic systems, for such a disease to receive the health policy attention that the Global South has been sorely lacking.

The share of pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) funds for diseases primarily affecting the Global South is vanishingly small. This is true for the public sector, but even more so for the pharmaceutical industry. Accordingly, they have become referred to as “neglected diseases”.

Little research and slow progress

Neglected diseases have been a major global health policy issue for decades. In the Global South, they cause hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of illnesses every year. Often with serious long-term health consequences. Depending on the definition, neglected diseases comprise several dozen diseases, sometimes including the so-called “big three”, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. But they also include “neglected tropical diseases” as defined by the WHO, such as Chagas, dengue fever and leishmaniasis, as well as other poverty-related diseases.   

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How West Africa’s cashew companies have weathered the COVID-19 crisis

By Violeta Gonzalez, Head of Partnerships, Outreach and Resource Mobilisation, Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF)

April is usually cashew marketing season across West Africa – a lively affair where traders tout bags of recently harvested raw nuts to buyers, most of whom have flown in from Vietnam and India. But 2020 was not a usual year. COVID-19 containment measures meant closures – of international borders, stopping major buyers travelling to West Africa – as well as domestic markets, leading to violent clashes between police and traders. It goes without saying that the impact of these border and market closures came at a great cost to the livelihoods of many West African cashew farmers, producers, and traders. Small businesses faced plummeting revenues or were at the brink of bankruptcy. Instead of offering support, local banks and financial institutions supporting West African cashew producers slashed lending during the pandemic.

Agriculture is a risky business at the best of times – good prices depend on good yields, which depend on good weather. While speciality crops like cashews can generate high returns, the risk of capital loss is also high, meaning many banks are hesitant to provide the capital that’s needed for small businesses in West Africa’s cashew sector to flourish. The cashew businesses that have weathered the economic storm created by COVID-19 have something in common – the long-term backing of impact investors who not only provide capital and technical assistance, but who also have a deep understanding of the challenges of the agricultural sector.

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Building productive capacities can avert a lost decade in the poorest countries

By Dr. Perks Master Ligoya, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Malawi to the United Nations and Mr. Paul Akiwumi, Director, Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, UNCTAD

Dhaka, Bangladesh, on April 4, 2020. Photo: Mamunur Rashid, Shatterstock

The COVID-19 crisis shook the very foundations of the international system, triggering an abrupt and severe global recession, which threatens to heighten economic contagion.While no country is spared, the coronavirus has hit the world’s poorest nations disproportionately.  

The 46 least developed countries (LDCs) were already  highly exposed due to weak healthcare services and their lower levels of socio-economic resilience. Despite relatively strong growth in LDCs prior to the outbreak, the effects of the crisis will reverse years of painstaking economic and social progress. The potential long-term impacts, including secondary and tertiary shocks, and spillover effects on production, job creation, household income, domestic finances and investment mean that LDCs will continue to rely on external financing to sustain their much-needed development.

However, the outlook for official development assistance (ODA) is bleak as donor countries focus on domestic economic stresses. High levels of informality, limited IT access and skills shortages, and fragile industrial sectors coupled with weak integration into global value chains also hamper the uptake of new technologies in LDCs.

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The sectoral and gendered impacts of COVID-19 in Africa

By Anzetse Were, Senior Economist FSD Kenya

Africa, like much of the world, is still in the throes of the COVID pandemic and related economic fallout. The pandemic has cost the continent about USD 69 billion per month and economic growth is projected to contract by 2.6% in 2020. This downturn is set to cost Africa at least $115 billion in output losses in 2020 with GDP per capita growth expected to contract by nearly 6.0 %. Additionally, the pandemic may push 40 million people into extreme poverty in 2020 across the continent, eroding at least five years of progress in fighting poverty.

Diverse sectoral impact

The sectoral impact of COVID-19 has been and will likely continue to be varied. Some sectors such as tourism, aviation and crude oil exports have been disproportionately hit in Africa, while COVID-19 is spurring certain types of digital technologies (such as mobile payments in Kenya and Rwanda), and food production in some countries has been resilient. This points to four main COVID impact-recovery sectoral performance paths (the chart is illustrative):

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