A salmon would find it a hardscrabble life in the waterways of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Not because of dried riverbeds, overfishing or pollution, but because the region has more dams per cubic metre of water than any other place on earth.

A little over a year ago the OECD and the World Trade Organization (WTO) launched Trade in Value-Added (TiVA), a new database on trade measured in value-added terms. The evidence that we have unlocked using TiVA has begun to revolutionise our understanding of what is happening in global trade, investment and production. Take global value chains (GVCs), which are a dominant feature of the global economy today. Goods produced in the European Union (EU) and exported to the United States may include raw materials from China and Malaysia, and use services from Japan and India. Goods and services are no longer produced by a firm in one country and sold to consumers in another; production is fragmented around the world, while components cross borders multiple times as value is added to output along the way.

A Better Than Cash Alliance supporter: Bill Gates ©Bernd Von Jutrczenka / DPA Picture-Alliance/AFP

Access to financing can contribute to inclusive social and economic development. How might digital transactions help? Here’s how.

©Reuters/Atef Hassan

According to President John F. Kennedy, the person who can solve the water problems of the world should receive two Nobel prizes, one for peace and the other for science. More than four decades after his death, the world is realising the complexity and urgency of the water-related problems facing humanity, and the relevance of his remark.

©WorldBank

Poverty has been halved in less than 25 years worldwide. The enormous progress over the past few decades is mainly due to rapid economic growth in the South. China’s economy grew by 10% for decades and 600 million people were consequently brought out of poverty.

©WorldBank

This will be “the mother of all years for summits on international development,” says Kevin Watkins*, Executive Director of the UK’s Overseas Development Institute (ODI). He’s not wrong.

©OECD/Marco Illuminati

Eight giant balloons from Japan floated in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower on the weekend of 30 August, a reminder of one of the worst natural disasters of recent times–and of the determination of survivors to rebuild their region.

Arab Innovative Teachers Forum, Morocco, April 2008 ©Rafael Marchante/REUTERS

Hana Barqawi realised her dream of opening her own children's furniture store two years ago in the Jordanian capital of Amman. Ms Barqawi is part of a wave of female entrepreneurs that has swept across the Middle East and North Africa area over the past decade or more. 

Would you like to smell like Zinedine Zidane? A few years ago, a French perfume maker thought many of us would, and paid the football star to sell its manly mixture.

Not much good has come from the Ebola crisis, save this: It has raised awareness of the fact that we already have a weapon in our hands that could help fight such epidemics – our mobile phones.

Former Ambassador Seiichiro Noboru urges the OECD to expand by including the BRIICS* (“Serving a new world” in OECD Observer No. 298 Q1 2014). Only when these countries adopt OECD best practices can governments and firms enjoy a true level playing field. As the organisation helps aspiring members to adhere with OECD instruments, important reforms can be pushed forward. Accession also strengthens the OECD through introducing new perspectives. But the impasse of the Doha round of trade negotiations highlights the risk of deadlock that can accompany enlargement. Does the conduct of the BRIICS within the World Trade Organization suggest they would co-operate within the OECD, which relies on consensus decisions that are enforced by peer review?

The most prominent goal of development has been to eradicate extreme poverty. Both literally and figuratively this goal has been part of a prescriptive stroll over the past two decades, moving in a linear fashion.

©Dennis George

Although South Africa has had an impressive track record among emerging economies, it has recently hit economic difficulties. We asked FEDUSA General Secretary, Dennis George, what have been the effects, and what steps the G20 and South African government must take to return to the path of healthy growth.

The vision of a world without extreme poverty is not a utopia, but a reachable goal. Yet realising the vision demands that we meet urgent challenges, and that includes overhauling our development goals.

Click to enlarge


Development aid rose by 6.1% in real terms in 2013 to reach the highest level ever recorded, despite continued pressure on budgets in OECD countries since the global economic crisis. Donors provided a total of US$134.8 billion in net official development assistance (ODA), marking a rebound after two years of falling volumes. Aid to developing countries had grown steadily in the decade to 2010, but fell in 2011-12 as austerity hit several government aid budgets.

In preparation for the 2015 Global Forum on Development, which will focus on how access to financing can contribute to inclusive social and economic development, the OECD Development Centre and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) have developed a series of articles exploring the key issues and dimensions of financial inclusion. Today’s post from Sarah Bel of the UNCDF Better Than Cash Alliance and James Eberlein of the OECD Development Centre highlights some of the overarching themes related to financial literacy.

This post is from Juana de Catheu, founder of Development Results and Donata Garrasi, Peace-building Adviser in the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate. 

A truck drives through a special economic zone near Yangon and pas the flags of Myanmar and Japan, which has been a strong supporter of the OECD Southeast Asia Programme ©Soe Than Win/AFP

Southeast Asia, with more than half-a-billion people, is among the fastest growing regions in the world. However, levels of growth and prosperity within the region are very uneven. 

I am just starting to think about this question of how aid should be measured, so this article is very helpful background on Development Assistance Committee process and substance (“Development aid and finance: A defining moment”, in No 294 Q1 2013). 

Industrial policy is now back–unless, as economist Joseph Stiglitz says, it never really left. The third edition of Perspectives on Global Development from the OECD Development Centre demystifies industrial policies. Cambridge Professor Ha Joon Chang calls it a “landmark publication because it looks for ways to make industrial policy work better, rather than having an ideological debate on whether it exists and whether it can ever succeed.”

The collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, killing over a thousand workers, was not just a human tragedy. The ready-made garments sector is hugely important in Bangladesh, both economically and socially. This gives dealing with the Rana Plaza aftermath even greater importance. 

Global activity and trade are projected to strengthen gradually in 2014-15, but the recovery is likely to remain modest, the latest OECD Economic Outlook reported in November. 

In 1994, a simple disagreement in a marketplace in Ghana over the price of a guinea fowl turned ugly. The quarrel led to the violent death of one person, which provoked subsequent killings and then escalated into a cycle of revenge attacks. The dispute quickly grew to become what is today known as the Guinea Fowl War. By the time the Ghanaian military restored order, more than 400 villages had been burned and over 15 000 people are thought to have been killed.

Can Africa sustain its recent strong economic performances and benefit more from its abundant resources?

©OECD Development Centre

Judging from media headlines, we are in a phase of Afro-optimism. Are we witnessing Africa’s economic take-off? The African Economic Outlook project, the result of a partnership of more than 10 years between the Development Centre, the African Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Economic Commission for Africa, presents a contrasting assessment of the continent’s “emergence”.

©Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

In September 2013 the Kenyan government and the United Nations announced the discovery of huge underground reserves of water in northern Kenya, enough water to last the entire nation for 70 years. The Lotikipi Basin Aquifer and Lodwar Basin Aquifer were located by satellite in drought-afflicted Turkana County, where water scarcity and competition for grazing land has led to deadly cattle raids between communities. 

Click to enlarge

Africa has made tremendous progress over the last 13 years, going from “hopeless” to “aspiring”, in the words of The Economist. Certainly, Africa’s pace of growth has been impressive, averaging 5.1% of GDP per year–much faster than most OECD countries. Some have dismissed this simply as reflecting the recent boom in natural resource prices. They point to the fact that the prices of most commodities– agricultural, mineral and energy–doubled or even tripled over the same period, and warn that Africa’s growth will come to an end once resource prices taper off, as is happening now.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2004, embarked on a policy-induced consolidation exercise to strengthen the banks and position them to play pivotal roles in driving economic development. Through mergers and acquisitions, and raising the capital base from 2 billion Naira to a minimum of 25 billion Naira, the number of banks was reduced to 25 from 89 in 2005 and later to 24. Also, the aggregate capital base of the sector rose from about US$3 billion to US$5.9 billion. 

©AfDB

The African economy has been enjoying an upsurge in recent years. How confident are you about the future?

©Isaac Kasamani/AFP

Several efforts and interventions have been directed towards resolving the myriad issues that impinge on peace, security and development in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Economic data

GDP : +0.50%, Q4 2014
Employment rate: 65.7%, Q3 2014
Annual inflation : 0.51% Jan 2015
Trade : -3.0% exp, -3.7 imp, Q4 2014
Unemployment : 7.045% Q4 2014
Recovery ahead? Composite leading indicators
Updated: 24 Mar 2015

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  • Why is investment so low in the euro area? This short IMF blog post gives you an insight into the causes of the euro-zone's drastic decline in investment.
  • Have your say! The UN wants to know what matters most to you: pick six global issues in the list and send it to the United Nations.
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