Restoring the dreams of our children: why NGOs need more futures thinking

By Claire Leigh, Director of Child Rights and Governance, Save the Children UK, and Peter Glenday, Director of Programmes and Research, School of International Futures (SOIF)

shutterstock_396707761In September 2019 Greta Thunberg made an emotional speech to world leaders at the UN, climaxing in the now-famous accusation: “How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood.” That line will rightly haunt us adults as we move through what is widely regarded as the make-or-break decade for both the climate crisis and the UN’s global development goals. Now, with the COVID-19 crisis upon us, there is even more reason to accept Thunberg’s charge of a woeful lack of foresight on the part of this generation of leaders.

Our apparent inability to make good decisions informed by possible futures lies at the heart of the intergenerational crisis of which Thunberg has become the voice. By displacing the costs of our current prosperity – the resource and ecological degradation, the worsening climate conditions – onto future generations, we are quite literally stealing from the future to give to the present. The result is a future which may be ‘unliveable’ for millions of children, as reported by the WHO and UNICEF.

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COVID-19 in Latin America: Promoting entrepreneurship and reducing social vulnerabilities

By Jorge Arbache, Private Sector Vice-President, Development Bank of Latin America (CAF)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Vendor in Quito, Ecuador. Photo: teranbryan_ecu/Shutterstock

Statistics show that economic growth in Latin America is highly volatile, with periods of acceleration and collapse. This dynamic hides perverse implications. The combination of low growth persistence with high-growth volatility is associated with greater risk aversion, which in turn encourages financial speculation and firms to invest in lower risk, but also lower social return projects. Additionally, poverty and other social indicators are also very sensitive to the harmful combination of short growth spells and high volatility. Continue reading

Fighting COVID-19 in Africa’s informal settlements

By Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN‐Habitat)


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Kibera informal settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Boris Golovnev/Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic has cost hundreds of thousands of lives in the world’s richest cities but poses an even greater threat to cities in the developing world. There are now more than 150,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across Africa, in all 54 countries, with South Africa and Egypt the worst affected.

One of the most pressing concerns for Africa is that over half the population (excluding in North Africa) live in overcrowded informal settlements. In these areas where several people have to share one badly ventilated room, diseases such as COVID-19 spread fast and it is impossible to practice physical distancing whether in homes or outside. Continue reading

Is COVID-19 widening educational gaps in Latin America? Three lessons for urgent policy action

By Nathalie Basto-Aguirre, Paula Cerutti and Sebastián Nieto-Parra, OECD Development Centre


This blog is part of a series on tackling COVID-19 in developing countries. Visit the OECD dedicated page to access the OECD’s data, analysis and recommendations on the health, economic, financial and societal impacts of COVID-19 worldwide.


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Classroom in Jaqueira Village, city of Porto Seguro, Brazil. Photo: Joa Souza/Shutterstock

COVID-19, like most crises, is exacerbating inequalities in the region. To contain the pandemic, most Latin American countries have closed their schools, affecting the learning of 154 million students. However, not all students are affected equally. While distance education can contribute to alleviate the immediate impacts of school closures, it requires a number of conditions to deliver meaningful results. Students from poorer socio-economic backgrounds tend to suffer the most and risk bearing lasting consequences in terms of learning outcomes and, ultimately, opportunities. In particular, three interconnected dimensions stand out. Continue reading

Avec ou sans, pendant et après le Covid-19, priorité aux réformes des systèmes de santé et d’éducation en Afrique de l’Ouest

Par Gilles Yabi, fondateur de WATHI, think tank citoyen de l’Afrique de l’Ouest


Ce blog fait partie d’une série sur la lutte contre le COVID-19 dans les pays en voie de développement. Visitez la page dédiée de l’OCDE pour accéder aux données, analyses et recommandations de l’OCDE sur les impacts sanitaires, économiques, financiers et sociétaux de COVID-19 dans le monde.


SWAC-blog-covid19En Afrique de l’Ouest, les impacts de Covid-19 seront-ils catastrophiques ? La crise Ebola a révélé la très grande faiblesse des systèmes sanitaires des pays touchés à l’époque dans la région, Liberia, Sierra Leone et Guinée principalement. Si des enseignements importants ont été tirés, avec la mise en place de centres dédiés aux urgences sanitaires dans plusieurs pays, les systèmes de santé dans leur ensemble ne se sont pas particulièrement renforcés. Les ménages assument l’essentiel des dépenses de santé par rapport aux États, les inégalités d’accès aux soins sont frappantes, et les hôpitaux manquent cruellement de personnel qualifié, de matériel, de dispositif de maintenance des équipements et de médicaments, ainsi que de capacités d’accueil et, parfois, de salubrité. La crise du coronavirus exacerbera sans doute la situation. Il est plus que jamais primordial de renforcer et d’investir dans les systèmes de santé, sans quoi la plupart des pays d’Afrique de l’Ouest ne pourront faire face ni aux crises sanitaires, comme celle du Covid-19, ni aux nombreuses autres maladies infectieuses ou chroniques.

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Least developed countries can become authors of their technological revolution

By Ratnakar Adhikari, Executive Director of the Enhanced Integrated Framework Executive Secretariat, World Trade Organization and Fabrice Lehmann, Associate, Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF)

SIGI-Digital-Human-RightsThe fourth industrial revolution is charting a new and uncertain course for the world economy. Least developed countries must prepare for the opportunities and risks that it brings. It is characterised by the confluence of new technologies, fusing the digital, physical and biological spheres.

Rapid technological change is expected to have a profound impact on economic and social development in countries at all levels of income. Opportunities include harnessing the possibilities of digitalisation for sustainable development and social empowerment. Risks involve marginalisation and a widening chasm between poor nations and their emerging and industrialised partners.

Can countries in the early stages of development reap the benefits and become authors of their technological revolution? Continue reading

How do Nations Learn? Why Development is First and Foremost About Learning

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By Dr Arkebe Oqubay, Senior Minister and Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia 


This blog is part of a series marking the upcoming 
19th International Economic Forum on Africa 


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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Policy makers and academics alike puzzle over why some countries achieve economic ‘growth miracles’ while others lag behind. Of the 100 middle-income economies in 1960, fewer than a dozen transitioned into high-income economies. Economic history and empirical observations show that progress is linked to how nations learn and more specifically to the processes of technological learning, industrial policy, and catch-up. By looking at the cases of Japan, the United States, China and Ethiopia, I argue that commitment to learning by governments and dynamic technological learning by firms are key to economic catch-up. How these and other nations learn can provide valuable insight for African countries.

How did Japan overtake Europe in the mid-20th century?

The key driver of catch-up in Japan was technological learning and an active industrial policy. Japan’s learning experience involved the transfer of skills and knowledge, the importation of equipment and the acquisition of turnkey projects to develop technological capability. Japan also developed industrial infrastructure, including railways and the telegraph, by deploying state-owned enterprises. Continue reading

Et si la crise sécuritaire du Sahel était aussi (voire avant tout) économique ?

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Par Maman Sambo Sidikou, Secrétaire permanent du G5 Sahel[1]


Ce blog fait partie d’une série marquant
le 19e Forum économique international sur l’Afrique


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Femme tirant de l’eau d’un puits en Natriguel, Mauritanie. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam/Flickr

Le Sahel vit un tournant, une accélération de l’histoire dont le coût humain est élevé. Nos jeunes pays connaissent une croissance démographique sans précédent. Notre population est de plus en plus jeune et de plus en plus urbaine. Même si elle est élevée, la croissance économique ne permet pas de répondre aux attentes des habitants de plus en plus nombreux. Sur nos vastes territoires, certaines interrogations se font aujourd’hui pressantes. Pourquoi, alors que la « frontière » est la marque de l’État, sa présence y est-elle si discrète ? Quelle attention est accordée aux citoyens vivant loin des capitales ? Comment, lorsque l’on est absent, être perçu comme « légitime », digne de confiance et capable de changer le cours des choses ? C’est à ces questions que nos États et sociétés doivent répondre. Continue reading

Nigeria’s border closure: Why it will not pay off

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By Léopold Ghins and Philipp Heinrigs, OECD Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat


This blog is part of a series marking the upcoming 
19th International Economic Forum on Africa


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Men offload rice at Bodija market, Ibadan, Nigeria. Flickr/IITA

It has been three months since Nigeria closed its land borders and to date there are few indications as to when they will open again. The country said it wants to reduce the smuggling of goods and stop illegal inflows of Asian rice and outflows of subsidised fuel. More fundamentally, Nigerian authorities justify the closure by the need to support the domestic agricultural sector and accelerate national productivity growth.

The closure is badly affecting livelihoods in local border economies. In Benin, communities in areas close to the Seme border near the sea, or further up north near the Owode border, largely depend on Nigerian markets for their sustenance. The sudden shutdown has caused thousands of smallholder farmers to lose their produce and default on credits. In the Dendi region (an area that spans across northern Benin, Niger and Nigeria), economic networks are strongly integrated across borders. Small traders that live on these networks have lost their principal sources of income. Continue reading

Bassin du lac Tchad : la riposte militaire ne suffira pas contre Boko Haram

Par Seidik Abba, journaliste et écrivain

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La paix définitive passe par la lutte contre la pauvreté : ici des femmes récoltant du poivron sur les rives de la Komadougou-Yobé. Crédit photo : Ado Youssouf

La stratégie du tout militaire et sécuritaire semble avoir montré ses limites dans la riposte contre le mouvement jihadiste nigérian Boko Haram. Désormais, il faut passer à une approche holistique associant les défis du développement et la prise en charge de l’urgence écologique autour du lac Tchad.

Depuis 2009, Boko Haram [qui signifie l’école occidentale est un péché en langue hausa] a basculé dans la violence armée au Nigéria, pays de naissance de ce mouvement qui se réclame du jihad, mais aussi au Cameroun, au Niger et au Tchad. En dix ans, selon l’ONU, près de 27 000 personnes ont été tuées par Boko Haram, ce qui a provoqué les déplacements internes ou externes de près de 2 millions de personnes. Face à la violence inouïe de ce mouvement jihadiste, les États concernés ont choisi l’option du tout militaire et sécuritaire. Continue reading