Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Publications

 

Cover of Policy Paper 120
February 20, 2018

What Can We Learn about Energy Access and Demand from Mobile-Phone Surveys? Nine Findings from Twelve African Countries

We conducted phone-based surveys on energy access and demand in twelve African countries. From these findings, we draw several potential policy implications. First, both grid electricity and off-grid solutions currently are inadequate to meet many African consumers’ modern energy demands. Second, grid and off-grid electricity are viewed by consumers as complementary, rather than competing, solutions to meet energy demand. Third, a market exists for off-grid solutions even among connected, urban Africans.

Cover of Policy Paper 116
January 17, 2018

Comparing Five Bilateral Development Finance Institutions and the IFC

Development Finance Institutions (DFIs)—which provide financing to private investors in developing economies—have seen rapid expansion over the past few years. This paper describes and analyses a new dataset covering the five largest bilateral DFIs alongside the IFC which includes project amounts, standardized sectors, instruments, and countries. The aim is to establish the size and scope of DFIs and to compare and contrast them with the IFC.

Practical Considerations with Using Mobile Phone Survey Incentives: Experiences in Ghana and Tanzania
July 25, 2016

Practical Considerations with Using Mobile Phone Survey Incentives: Experiences in Ghana and Tanzania - Working Paper 431

As mobile phone surveys are gaining popularity among researchers and practitioners in international development, one primary challenge is improving survey response and completion rates. A common solution is to provide monetary compensation to respondents. This paper reports on our experience with using incentives with a mobile phone survey conducted in Ghana and Tanzania in June 2015. 

OPIC
May 24, 2016

How Does OPIC Balance Risks, Additionality, and Development? Proposals for Greater Transparency and Stoplight Filters

As the U.S. government’s development finance institution, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) provides investors with financing, political risk insurance, and support for private equity investment funds when commercial funding cannot be obtained elsewhere. Its mandate is to mobilize private capital to help address critical development challenges and to advance U.S. foreign policy and national security priorities. However, balancing risks, financial needs, and development benefits comes with tradeoffs.

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April 19, 2016

Inside the Portfolio of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is the US government's development finance institution.  Balancing risks, financial needs, and development benefits is riven with numerous tensions, statutory restrictions, and tradeoffs.  This raises an important policy question - how well does OPIC’s actual portfolio balance these competing goals?  Since much data about the OPIC portfolio is unavailable in an accessible format, we built the OPIC Scraped Portfolio database to address this question. 

March 22, 2016

Financial Regulations for Improving Financial Inclusion (brief)

As recently as 2011, only 42 percent of adult Kenyans had a financial account of any kind; by 2014, according to the Global Findex, database that number had risen to 75 percent. In sub-Saharan Africa, the share of adults with financial accounts rose by nearly half over the same period. Many other developing countries have also recorded gains in access to basic financial services. Much of this progress is being facilitated by the digital revolution of recent decades, which has led to the emergence of new financial services and new delivery channels.

March 22, 2016

Financial Regulations for Improving Financial Inclusion

As recently as 2011, only 42 percent of adult Kenyans had a financial account of any kind; by 2014, according to the Global Findex database, that number had risen to 75 percent, including 63 percent of the poorest two-fifths. In Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, the share of adults with financial accounts, either a traditional bank account or a mobile account, rose by nearly half over the same period. Many countries in other developing regions have also recorded, if less dramatic, gains in access to the basic financial services that most people in richer countries take for granted. Much of this progress is being facilitated by the digital revolution of recent decades, which has led to the emergence of new financial services and new delivery channels.

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February 3, 2016

Alternatives to HIPC for African Debt-Distressed Countries: Lessons from Myanmar, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe

Despite the success of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) in reducing the debt burdens of low-income countries, at least eleven Sub-Saharan African countries are currently in, or face a high risk of, debt distress. A few of those currently at risk include countries that have been excluded from traditional debt relief frameworks. For countries outside the HIPC process, this paper lays out the (formidable) steps for retroactive HIPC inclusion, concluding with lessons for countries seeking exceptional debt relief treatment.

working paper 418 cover
October 19, 2015

Asking What the People Want: Using Mobile Phone Surveys to Identify Citizen Priorities - Working Paper 418

Using an experimental design, we assess the feasibility of interactive voice recognition (IVR) surveys for gauging citizens’ development priorities. Our project focuses on four low-income countries (Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe). We find that mobile phone-based approaches may be an effective tool for gathering information about citizen priorities.

July 20, 2015

Making USAID Fit for Purpose — A Proposal for a Top-to-Bottom Program Review

Since its establishment more than 50 years ago, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has become a $17-billion-a-year agency stretched across the globe, operating in 125 countries and 36 different program areas. It covers nearly every development challenge, including those surrounding health, food security, microfinance, governance, counterterrorism, macroeconomic stability, trade, and transnational crime.

But USAID, the largest bilateral provider of development assistance in the world in absolute terms, could better maximize its development impact. It has been three decades since a US president instructed the agency to conduct a comprehensive top-to-bottom review of its programs. This is despite dramatic changes in basic development challenges around the world and in the broad economic and political landscape within which the agency operates.

July 20, 2015

Bringing US Development Finance into the 21st Century

The future of development policy is in development finance. Developing countries need aid less and less as their incomes rise and economies grow. What they need now is private investment and finance. US development policy, however, has failed to bring its development finance tools in line with this reality. Related US efforts have not been deployed in an efficient or strategic manner because authorities are outdated, staff resources are insufficient, and tools are dispersed across multiple agencies.

Other players are doing more. Well-established European development finance institutions (DFIs) are providing integrated services for businesses, and these services cover debt and equity financing, risk mitigation, and technical assistance. Moreover, emerging-market actors — including China, India, Brazil, and Malaysia — have dramatically increased financing activities in developing regions such as Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

USDFC
March 17, 2015

Bringing US Development Finance into the 21st Century: Proposal for a Self-Sustaining, Full-Service USDFC

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. 

February 5, 2015

The Face of African Infrastructure: Service Availability and Citizens' Demands - Working Paper 393

The need for infrastructure improvements is a top-tier economic, political, and social issue in nearly every African country. Although the academic and policy literature is extensive in terms of estimating the impact of infrastructure deficits on economic and social indicators, very few studies have examined citizen demands for infrastructure.

January 21, 2015

Time for FAO to Shift to a Higher Gear

Originally published in October 2013 and updated January 2015

Food security has arisen again on the development agenda. High and volatile food prices took a toll in 2007–08, and in many low-income countries agricultural yields have risen little, if at all, in the last decade. Moreover, food production in these poor countries is especially vulnerable to climate change. Meeting this demand is a global challenge. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is expected to lead the way in meeting this challenge and, with the arrival in 2012 of the first new director-general in 18 years, it has an opening to restructure itself to do so.

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