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Month: May 2011

M-PESA and Mobile Money in Kenya

M-PESA and Mobile Money in Kenya

I’ve now been in Nairobi for two weeks and have settled in well.  I moved into my fairly upscale apartment in Kilimani, a section of Nairobi that is the beating heart of the tech and social enterprise scene here.  Up until last Saturday, I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor.  The landlord wanted to deliver a new bed frame, so I needed to let the movers into the apartment.  It was a total gong show getting this frame…

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Dispatch From a Shrinking Planet

Dispatch From a Shrinking Planet

“I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way.” – Carl Sagan Develop Economies, the alter ego for my life on the road, is almost a year and a half old.  I’ve been to three continents, eleven countries, and spent too many hours in buses, planes, ferries, and motorbikes.  And the people I have met along the way have been memorable. In the Philippines, I spent most of my time with Filipinos, a handful of laid-back Australians in…

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The Role of the Celebrity Activist

The Role of the Celebrity Activist

Aaron Burr vs. Alexander Hamilton.  Nas vs. Jay-Z.  And now, Easterly vs. Bono.  In an attack reminiscent of Jon Stewart’s epic takedown of the sheepish Jim Cramer after the financial crisis, Bill Easterly, a well-known development economist who favors bottom-up approaches to development rather than top-down technocratic solutions, uses the 30-year anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon to lament the decline of good celebrity activism.  Summing up the comparison in a sentence, Easterly pens: Lennon was a rebel. Bono…

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Does Per Capita GDP Matter?

Does Per Capita GDP Matter?

There are various ways of measuring the level of a country’s development.  Choosing the right methodology for quantifying economic status is critical for thinking about the problem of poverty effectively.  On a macroeconomic level, the most common indicator is per capita GDP.  But I am not sure if per capita GDP is really a good measuring stick for the relative prosperity of a country. This thinking stemmed from a conversation I had this afternoon over lunch comparing Ghana, where I…

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Music in Ghana: High Life, Hip Life, and Gospel

Music in Ghana: High Life, Hip Life, and Gospel

As a generalization, African music is some of the best in the world.  In fact, most of the rest of the best music in the world is derived from African music, in one way or another.  Jazz, blues, bluegrass, rock and roll, and reggae can trace their roots to an African lineage.  I’m not sure why the number of African bands to make it on a global scale is so limited, but it is a missed opportunity.  Graceland by Paul…

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The Challenges for Public Education in Ghana

The Challenges for Public Education in Ghana

For my last three weeks in Ghana, I have been, in the words of my brother Kwesi, absolutely chilling out and taking in as much of what this great country has to offer before I leave.  One of those incredible places was Cape Coast and Elmina, two towns a few kilometers apart in the Central Region of Ghana, where much of the citrus production takes place.  Both are beautiful towns.  On his first trip to Africa, Obama came here to…

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Develop Economies Moves to Kenya

Develop Economies Moves to Kenya

As loyal readers may have noticed, the postings on Develop Economies have been sparse of late.  That is because I have been running around Ghana, seeing friends and sights and beaches that I missed while I was working.  But now, six months after my arrival in this great country, I am on my way out again.  Tomorrow morning I’ll be flying to Kenya – Nairobi, specifically – where I’ll begin to work in social enterprise (I don’t have a job…

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The Economics of Solar Lanterns with Mobile Charging Stations

The Economics of Solar Lanterns with Mobile Charging Stations

Develop Economies is back after a brief hiatus.   I have finished up my work on my current project and am now taking some time to appreciate some of the aspects of Ghana I hadn’t had a chance to enjoy previously.  I spent a few days living with a rice farmer about 45 minutes by motorbike from Atsusuare in a small community along a lake fed by the Volta River.  I did some work in the field (very minor – I…

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Weekend at Bin Laden’s: Foreign Aid to Pakistan

Weekend at Bin Laden’s: Foreign Aid to Pakistan

The big news of the day is that Osama Bin Laden is dead.  Hooray!  He was killed in a special-forces operation coordinated and executed by the United States without the knowledge of the Pakistani government or the military.  Bin Laden was found in a medium-sized city 35 miles north of Islamabad living in a compound on the outskirts of town that is valued at $1 million and is said to be eight times the size of any other houses in…

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