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.

©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.

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.

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.

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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, 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. 

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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).

©Government of Morocco

OECD Observer: What are the main transport challenges facing your ministry?

The 2008 economic crisis shook up the landscape of financial flows to Africa and brought to the fore two major trends: an upsurge in foreign direct investment (FDI) and a parallel rise in remittances from abroad. Indeed, remittances outpaced both aid and FDI inflows with a compound growth rate over the past decade of 7.7%.

Though China has recently been a dominant force in trade and investment on the African continent, India and Korea are fast becoming serious challengers. How can African countries make more of these evolving trends? And what role can the traditional partners in the OECD area play?

Commodities have been a major driver of Africa’s growth story in recent years. But you may be surprised to hear that natural resources could have contributed far more than they actually did to Africa’s 5% average GDP growth over the last decade. Although Africa’s primary sector has expanded, its global share of natural capital dropped from 11.5% in 1995 to 8.5% in 2005.

Insecurity and conflict hinder human, and economic development. The Saharo-Sahelian region today presents some of the most daunting global security threats, which seriously undermine the stability and development of the region. The 2012-2013 crisis in northern Mali, though centred in one nation, epitomises the wider, cross-border dimension of these challenges. Here we point to some of the available policy responses towards their resolution.

A local non-government organisation is supporting rural development in Orientale Province in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Called ACIAR (Help for Intercultural Communication and Rural Self-help*), its plan is to revive the coffee sector in the Ituri region as an inclusive response aimed at repairing the social and economic damage caused by a conflict that lasted from 1998 to 2004.

Development efforts are often hampered by poor or non-existent data. While attempts are being made to address this, much more needs to be done to improve official data by developing countries themselves, particularly as new development goals are set for the post-2015 period.     

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