Do resource rich economies have better or worse human development outcomes?

By Antonio Savoia, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) at the University of Manchester and a Non-Resident Senior Research Fellow at UNU-WIDER and Kunal Sen, Director of UNU-WIDER

Although increasingly challenged, we often hear that being resource rich can adversely affect growth prospects. Here we concentrate instead on a lesser-known aspect: how resource rich economies fare in terms of education, health, income inequality and poverty. The IMF classifies over 50 developing and emerging economies as resource rich. Many are in Africa, where a significant share of the world’s poor lives. With the increasing prices of many internationally traded commodities in the post-COVID recovery, resource revenues could provide a welcome boost to development spending for such governments.

A look at the data suggests that countries with greater income from natural resources do not seem to have a clear relationship with human development outcomes. The scatter plots in the figures 1-3 below show that there is a weak negative correlation for education and health outcomes and no correlation for poverty and inequality measures. The data also show significantly varying experiences among resource rich countries. For example, in Figure 1, Chad and Malaysia have very similar levels of resource rents as a ratio of GDP, but Malaysia’s school enrolment rate is over 70 percent while the corresponding figure for Chad is approximately 20 percent. Likewise, Somalia and Egypt have similar levels of resource abundance, but Egypt’s under-five mortality rate is less than 30 per 1,000 live births, while the corresponding figure for Somalia is about five times bigger (Figure 2). This suggests that countries with similar levels of resource rents can end up with significantly different achievements in terms of poverty, inequality, health, and education. The challenge is to explain why.  

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COVID-19 impact on higher education in Africa

By Peter Koninckx, Strategic and Commercial Advisor, Cunégonde Fatondji, Analyst Intern, and Joel Burgos, Senior Project Manager, ShARE

Beyond the death toll and illness of millions of people due to COVID-19, businesses, healthcare, culture and education have had to cope with severe disturbances. But in our opinion, one could argue that higher-education students are amongst the most affected populations, particularly those in Africa. Although Africa is the continent with the least reported cases, the closure of higher education institutions was more widespread, and mitigation measures less effective than in other regions, according to a survey we conducted with more than 165 students across 21 African countries. No quick-fix solution exists, but the current crisis has highlighted the weaknesses in higher education in Africa, indicating where governments, international institutions, NGOs, and the private sector should focus their efforts.

Strong initial reaction to the COVID-19 crisis…

According to the Association of African Universities (IAU) Global Impact Survey on COVID-19, university closures in Africa in response to the pandemic were very effective: 77% of African universities compared to around 55% in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. However, while the percentage of higher education institutions where teaching was entirely cancelled remains low in all other regions (~3%), in Africa it is currently reported to be at 24%. Furthermore, over 40% of institutions in Africa were still developing alternative solutions at the time of the study, while other regions had already implemented them. Based on our own study, 88% of the surveyed students said that their school had discontinued in-person classes because of COVID-19.

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To measure real progress in education we must include out-of-school children

By Michael Ward, Senior Analyst, Education and Skills Directorate, OECD

In many low- and middle-income countries – including some that have participated in PISA – relatively large proportions of 15-year-olds are not enrolled in school or are not enrolled in PISA’s target grades (grade seven and above) and are thus not covered by the assessment (see figure 1). With an increasing number of low- and middle-income countries participating in PISA, and with 61 million children of lower secondary school age, out of school around the world, this population can no longer remain beyond the reach of programmes that try to evaluate the success of education systems.

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Education funding and COVID-19: what does the future hold?

By Laura Abadia, Policy Analyst, 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.


With prolonged school closures affecting over 90% of all learners worldwide at the peak of the first wave, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to explore new and more effective approaches to education delivery and content. From hybrid models that combine in-person with remote learning, to widening academic curricula to include social and emotional competencies, the opportunities for change are manifold. However, recovering from prolonged school closures and seizing these opportunities will require making significant headway against the deep structural challenges perpetuating inequalities in education.

To better understand how COVID-19 is changing education donor behaviour and priorities, the OECD Centre on Philanthropy analysed years of OECD data on official development assistance (ODA) and private philanthropy, and interviewed dozens of donors. Here is what we learned:

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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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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 


Photo-by-Nathan-Dumlao-Unsplash
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

Constructing Schools to Curb Conflict?

By Dominic Rohner, Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC Lausanne), University of Lausanne and Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), and Alessandro Saia, Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC Lausanne), University of Lausanne

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A classroom in Kudus, Indonesia

Armed conflict is a major obstacle to human happiness and prosperity. The most visible consequence of warfare is, of course, the human death toll, leaving millions of families shattered. But below this surface, the grim consequences of fighting go further. The economic cost is very considerable, with the average war leading to a total loss of about 15% of GDP, human capital accumulation is slowed down, inter-group trust is threatened, and psychological suffering and trauma become widespread.1

While academic research on conflict has boomed in recent years, the lion’s share of contributions has focused on factors that are well-suited for statistical analysis but that are difficult to modify by policymakers. In particular, while we know that ethnic diversity, adverse weather shocks and natural resource discoveries play a role in the occurrence of conflict, there are not many obvious policies that can modulate these parameters.

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Tracing our roots: Understanding African innovation

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By Youssef Travaly, PhD MBA, Next Einstein Forum (NEF) Vice-President of Science, Innovation & Partnerships, and Acting President, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), Senegal


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
18th International Economic Forum on Africa


Africa-digital-technologyCan you name a famous African scientist?

Barely no one can answer this question, even with some thought. And yet, Africa is the cradle of humanity, and therefore logically, the cradle of science and innovation. So why can’t we name any famous African scientists? The simple answer is that we don’t know much about the history of innovation in Africa. The world’s technologically driven human progress can be divided into two parts: the “Africa” time with major discoveries, including tools, fire, mathematics and steel, and the more recent “industrial” read “western Europe and North America” time with major discoveries such as the steam engine, vaccines, antibiotics, computers and much more. In between the two, the world transitioned from more “informal” homegrown knowledge-based innovation to more “formal” scientific knowledge-based innovation. Within that context, Africa’s research and innovation, which often occurs outside the so-called “formal” innovation framework, completely disappeared from the global map of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI). Since then, “playing catch-up” has been the cornerstone of the strategy of every single African nation intending to adopt a knowledge-led economy. But do we really need to catch-up? What does catching up even mean?

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Girls’ Leadership Matters!

By Alda, an 18 year old Plan International girl activist from Indonesia


 To mark the 2017 International Day of the Girl today, the author was tapped to serve as Secretary-General of the OECD on 11 October 2017
during a special girlstake over event organised by Plan International.


day-of-the-girlWhen someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. However, I know that the reality is still so much different from what I have in mind.

When I was 12 years old, my friend in school was pregnant. As soon as everyone in her family and school knew, she dropped out of school and I have never heard about her again. Three years later, I attended the wedding of another friend, who was pregnant at the age of 16. I was really confused at her wedding and feeling sad for her because she looked unhappy and very quiet. I imagine that it was a hard time for my friend to accept. After the wedding, she dropped out of school and moved in with her husband’s family.
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