Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fragile Growth

Every now and then we post something on the topic of African growth. This time starting with a a new study published in the Journal of African Economies.

How Fragile Is Africa's Recent Growth?
Jorge Saba Arbache* and John Page1

Office of the Chief Economist, Africa Region, The World Bank, The Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C. 20433, USA

* Corresponding author: Jorge Saba Arbache. E-mail: jarbache@worldbank.org.

Has Africa finally reached the path to sustained growth? We find that much of the improvement in economic performance in Africa after 1995 is attributable to a substantial reduction in the frequency and severity of growth declines in all economies and an increase in growth accelerations in mineral-rich economies. We find, however, that growth accelerations have not been generally accompanied by improvements in variables often correlated withlong run growth, such as investment. We also fail to find evidence that substantial policy and governance improvements were associated with the post-1995 accelerations. We conclude that Africa's growth recovery remains fragile.

In an earlier post it was argued that sub-Saharan growth is largely achieved by a depletion of capital. It does not seem that the badly needed investments to maintain or expand the regions' productive base is realising. It was also pointed out earlier that economic growth does not lead to meaningful gains in social development.

The conclusion becomes stronger that the gains of growth in sub-Saharan Africa is dissipating. One of the reasons could be the high volatility of growth in Africa.

The obvious response is to question growth in itself, but to lift millions of people out of poverty growth is needed. Not less growth, but more (inclusive, transparent and environmentally friendly) growth is what Africa needs.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Low income countries benefit from open access

From Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE) website:

Online Access to Research in the Environment

Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE), an international public-private consortium coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Yale University, and leading science and technology publishers, enables developing countries to gain access to one of the world's largest collections of environmental science research.

Over 2,990 peer reviewed titles (as of 4/2009) owned and published by over 340 prestigious publishing houses and scholarly societies are now available in more than 100 low income countries. Research is provided in a wide range of disciplines, including Biology; Biotechnology, Genetics & Genetically Modified Species; Botany & Plant Biodiversity; Climatology, Climate Change & Meteorology; Ecology & Wildlife Conservation; Energy Conservation & Renewable Energy; Environmental Chemistry; Environmental & Natural Resource Economics; Environmental Engineering; Environmental Law, Policy & Planning; Fish & Fisheries; Forests & Forestry; Geography, Population Studies & Migration; Geology & Earth Sciences; Natural Environmental Disasters; Oceanography & Marine Biology; Pollution & Environmental Toxicology; Satellite & Remote Sensing Technologies; Soil Sciences and Desertification; Waste Management; Water, Hydrology & Wetlands; and Zoology & Animal Biodiversity.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Investing in Fynbos

Link to the presentation delivered at Fynbos Forum (see earlier post for abstract), exploring the tension between high economic value and low real world investments in fynbos ecosystems.

Image: Courtesy of Wim Gelderblom

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Biodiversity: From hotspots to human needs

Protecting ecosystem services and biodiversity in the world's watersheds

Authors: Luck, Gary W.1; Chan, Kai M.A.2; Fay, John P.3

Source: Conservation Letters, Volume 2, Number 4, August 2009 , pp. 179-188(10)

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing


Despite unprecedented worldwide biodiversity loss, conservation is not at the forefront of national or international development programs. The concept of ecosystem services was intended to help conservationists demonstrate the benefits of ecosystems for human well-being, but services are not yet seen to truly address human need with current approaches focusing mostly on financial gain. To promote development strategies that integrate conservation and service protection, we developed the first prioritization scheme for protecting ecosystem services in the world's watersheds and compared our results with global conservation schemes. We found that by explicitly incorporating human need into prioritization strategies, service-protection priorities were squarely focused on the world's poorest, most densely populated regions. We identified watersheds in Southeast Asia and East Africa as the most crucial priorities for service protection and biodiversity conservation, including Irrawaddy—recently devastated by cyclone Nargis. Emphasizing human need is a substantial improvement over dollar-based, ecosystem-service valuations that undervalue the requirements of the world's poor, and our approach offers great hope for reconciling conservation and human development goals.

Keywords: Biodiversity; carbon storage; conservation investment; conservation policy; ecosystem services; flood mitigation; human well-being; water provision;watershed

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1111/j.1755-263X.2009.00064.x

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, Albury, NSW 2640, Australia 2: Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 3: Geospatial Analysis Program, Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-9328, USA

A laudable effort!

Several research questions remain, for instance: is investment in biodiversity (and resulting ecosystems goods and services) an effective developmental strategy when compared to alternatives? Who pays for these investments? Will the benefits of investing in ecosystems in fact reach the poor? By which mechanisms?

Overlaying the supply of ecosystem goods and services to the demand from a human needs perspective is a vital first step. Placing this in context of alternative developmental programmes is next. Institutions that realise those remaining real values in a sustainable way are key to implementation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Saving Energy

From my Inbox:

As discussed, the National Energy Efficiency Campaign’s microsite, www.savingenergy.co.za, has been live for three months now. It isn’t an SA green blog but rather an online portal that links up all of the information that already exists on the internet about saving energy in South Africa.

Quick facts:

· South Africa holds the number 11 spot on the top 20 greenhouse gas emitters list, contributing 1.8% of global emissions and is responsible for 42% of Africa's emissions

· The load shedding that took place in 2008 cost the South African economy somewhere in the region of R50-billion

· The SA government introduced the National Energy Efficiency Campaign to increase awareness about the need to save energy

· The SA community has a growing interest in doing their part to save energy

· In three months, nearly 350 people have signed on online pledge to save energy


In March 2009 the National Energy Efficiency Campaign launched a microsite www.savingenergy.co.za to provide South Africa with a wealth of information that aims to educate South Africa about the energy crisis and provide useful tips to improve energy consumption from the home to the office.

Over the past three months the site has attracted many visitors from across the country (and a few from beyond our borders) with nearly 350 people declaring that they will do their part to save energy by signing the pledge at http://www.savingenergy.co.za/pledge/index.php.

How it can work for you:

The microsite aims to include a comprehensive listing of energy-relevant websites at http://www.savingenergy.co.za/explore/index.php. If you would like us to add your website to our listing, you can send us a short blurb and we will be happy to list you.

The site also has an abundance of information that is available for you to use such as facts and figures, an energy addiction quiz, and downloadable audits for home and business all can be found at http://www.savingenergy.co.za/recovery/index.php

We are also early awaiting the launch of the saveit game that will be available on the site within the next few weeks. The game aims to help kids aged 10-14 to learn about saving energy in a fun way. Watch this space for the launch.

Finally (and most importantly) we would like to invite you to take the Energy Savers Pledge. We are trying to grow a list of people who will publicly commit themselves to conquering their “energy addictions”. We hope that you will join this list.