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Africa, debt relief, international financial institutions, private investment, aid selectivity
Ben Leo is a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD) and a member of the Center’s Advisory Group. He currently serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Copernicus.io, an Africa data analytics firm. Copernicus is a proprietary geospatial platform that provides reliable and representative data on almost any customizable geographic area across the African continent.
Until October 2016, Leo served as a CGD senior fellow. His research focused on the rapidly changing development finance environment, with a particular emphasis on private capital flows, infrastructure, and debt dynamics. In addition, he tested a range of new technological methods for collecting high-frequency information about citizens’ development priorities. His research has been cited in leading international and regional media outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Financial Times, Forbes, USA Today, Mail and Guardian, CNBC Africa, This Day, and Daily Nation.
Prior to CGD, Leo held a number of senior roles at the White House, US Treasury Department, the ONE Campaign, African Union, and Cisco Systems.
In this series of briefs, Center for Global Development experts present concrete, practical policy proposals that will promote growth and reduce poverty abroad. Each can make a difference at virtually no incremental cost to US taxpayers. Together, they can help secure America’s preeminence as a development and security power and partner.
What does the 2016 election mean for America’s future position in the world? It’s likely too early to tell at this stage of the campaign cycle. Many of the early Republican contenders — such as Jeb Bush and Scott Walker — have been relatively quiet on foreign policy issues or have focused almost exclusively on Iran, Israel, and Russia. That’s to be expected at this point. Yet, other candidates — like Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham — are already outlining a more comprehensive vision for advancing American interests.
Congress apparently isn’t getting the data it wants from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC. That makes two of us. The House Appropriations Committee is now calling for OPIC to provide reporting on the volume and destination of all new loans, guarantees, and insurance transactions.
This August, President Obama will host 47 African Heads of State in Washington. The agenda will focus heavily on promoting greater trade and investment ties between the US and the region’s fast growing economies. Amongst other things, this emphasis will play a critical role for the Obama Administration’s Power Africa Initiative and plans for modernizing the African Growth and Opportunity Act.
The imperative for US development finance has increased significantly due to a number of factors over the last decade. There is growing demand for private investment and finance from businesses, citizens, and governments in developing countries. Given the scale of challenges and opportunities, especially in promoting infrastructure investments and expanding productive sectors, there is an increasingly recognized need to promote private sector-based solutions.
Ghana’s recent recalculation of its GDP led to an overnight $500 per capita jump, putting in motion unexpectedly rapid graduation from the International Development Association (IDA) and ultimately a new relationship with the World Bank. In this week’s Wonkcast, I speak with Todd Moss, vice president for programs and senior fellow at CGD, about his recent trip to the newly categorized lower-middle income country, the implications of IDA graduation, and a sudden influx of oil wealth.
While I was plowing through Morten Jerven’s enlightening book Poor Numbers last year, my mind concentrated on Nigeria. It stayed with Nigeria. At that time, I was consumed with figuring out what on earth was going on with Nigeria’s poverty figures. How was it possible for the country to experience growth in both its GDP and extreme poverty rates at the same time?
Following its recent 90 percent GDP adjustment, Nigeria is now a solidly middle-income country. With an income per capita of $2,700, it now stands alongside countries like the Philippines and Morocco. Not exactly a rich country per se, but with a GDP of roughly $500 billion, it’s far from an impoverished one in terms of national resources. With donors providing $2 billion a year in aid to Nigeria, this raises the natural question: If Nigeria is significantly wealthier than previously thought, then should we still be providing large-scale assistance there?
There is a growing paradox on the US aid transparency front. The US government is simultaneously home to the world’s most open and most opaque development agencies. And the chasm between them has grown wider over the last year. That’s our main takeaway from Publish What You Fund’s (PWYF) latest Aid Transparency Index rankings of 67 major donor organizations.