Brokerage, Development and the ‘New Bihar’: Reflections from the field

By Shahid Perwez

‘Development’ in Bihar is a new phenomenon. Since 2005, it has had the fastest economic growth rate in India and is applauded for a dramatic turnaround of its poor governance. In November 2005, Nitish Kumar took over as Chief Minister promising to leave no stone unturned in making ‘good governance’ a reality. The state he took over was marred by a sluggish economy, severe malnutrition and an unusually high maternal and infant mortality rate, inaccessible hospitals due to lack of functional roads, massive unemployment leading to outmigration of youths, and unusually high crime rate Continue reading

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Kenyan mobile money and the hype of messy statistics

By Susan Johnson

The hype around the success of mobile money in Kenya has been growing as mobile payments develop both there and worldwide. This week’s Economist cites a figure that 43% of Kenyan GDP is being channelled through M-Pesa each year, attributing the statistic to Safaricom itself. The figure has been rising from 31% last year, which was cited by both The Economist and the Financial Times. In August 2013, GSM Association released an infographic on “The Kenyan Journey to Digital Financial Inclusion”, which also used the 31% figure. The World Bank, CGAP, AFI and others have also used or cited such measures of progress in this field. Continue reading

Why the Gender Dummy doesn’t speak: Explaining the gender gap in financial inclusion

By Susan Johnson

Recent research has given us much better data on the difference in access to formal financial services between men and women.  The figure below gives these gaps by region based on the Global Findex dataset.  With this evidence for the gender gap, what we really want to know is: what it is about being a woman or man that creates the gap?   That is, are these gaps the result of factors such as women having less education, lower incomes and being less likely to have formal employment? Or do they arise from legal factors such as property rights, inheritance rights, gender norms about autonomy, mobility, etc.? Or, perhaps women behave inherently differently and are more risk averse. Or does being a woman matter for another reason, even when all these factors are taken into account?  If it does, then we might need to look further for other sources of discrimination in the market. These might include the behaviour of the financial institutions themselves.

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Complementary currencies – contrasting fates?: M-Pesa and Bangla Pesa in Kenya

By Susan Johnson

M-Pesa in Kenya is lauded as the world’s leading example of a mobile money transfer service. Users walk into an agent’s shop and hand over Kenyan shillings, in return for which e-value is loaded onto their mobile phone at a one-for-one exchange rate. The menu in the phone is then Continue reading

The state-of-the-ART Project (Update 1)

By James Copestake

“I never publish anything that hasn’t been through five drafts” is what the celebrated economist Kenneth Galbraith reportedly said when asked the secret of his ability to write so well. Well, I confess this blog doesn’t meet his standard, but I can report that a sixth draft of the Qualitative Impact Protocol (QUIP) for Assessing Rural Transformations can now be downloaded Continue reading

From bland aid to brand aid? Distinguishing development assistance and development finance

By James Copestake

(A fuller version of this argument is in the pipeline and will appear here in due course. Meanwhile, comments and suggestions are welcome – please post your responses here or tweet @cds_Bath using #brandaid)

The world of international development aid was never simple, but it seems to become ever more complex as agencies, financing mechanisms and acronyms proliferate. Public understanding struggles to keep up, with debate often pitched at a depressingly bland level. Is aid working? The correct answer, of course, is that aid comes in many different forms and brands. More interesting questions then abound, like which sorts of aid works best, when and why, and is the mix of different forms of aid right in different contexts? My proposition is that distinguishing between different forms of aid more clearly can contribute to raising the quality of public debate about its effectiveness. Continue reading