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Travelogue: Nepal, Part 1

Travelogue: Nepal, Part 1

On December 3rd, 2014, I flew to Nepal by way of Istanbul for a wedding in Kathmandu. I’d spent the last week writing papers and preparing to leave school a week early for the trip. My flight was at 11 PM, so I had to leave for airport at 9. The Lonely Planet guides for Nepal and India I’d ordered the day before arrived at 4 in the afternoon, but I missed getting my new Capital One card with no…

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Some Countries Just Can’t Catch a Break: A Review of the Theories

Some Countries Just Can’t Catch a Break: A Review of the Theories

In the last post, I explained the concept of “least developed countries” and discussed some of the characteristics shared by the 48 countries that bear the label. In this post, I’ll review a few different theories for why some countries are so much poorer than others. In Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson, economists at MIT and Harvard, respectively, argue that the key to prosperity are strong institutions. This is a common refrain among a lot of…

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The End of an Era: Leaving Nairobi

The End of an Era: Leaving Nairobi

On Sunday, I leave Nairobi for Thailand, where I will spend a month visiting various beaches and diving various reefs.  Of the many transitions I have documented on this blog, this one is most significant, as it is the most final.  After Southeast Asia, I return to the United States for the foreseeable future, embarking on the next phase of my career as an MBA student at MIT.  Right now, from the Flamingo Cafeteria in the Julius Nyerere International Airport…

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Burma Finally Opens Up

Burma Finally Opens Up

For months – no, years – Develop Economies has been shouting it from the rooftops.  From a foreign policy perspective, the strategic value of Burma is undeniable.  It is the only country in the world (besides Pakistan, which is strategic for different reasons) that shares a border with three of the four BRIC countries (Russia, India, and China).  But now, in light of several major non-symbolic gestures by the ruling military junta in Burma, the U.S is finally dropping its…

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Design for Social Innovation at the iHub

Design for Social Innovation at the iHub

When I moved to Nairobi, I did not really know what to expect.  I’d been here once before and moved on a whim.  Fortunately, in the first week, I discovered the iHub.  The iHub was started a few years ago by Eric Hersmann, the founder of Ushahidi, a crisis mapping organization whose roots can be traced to the post-election violence that rocked Kenya in 2008, and a TED Global fellow.  It is a co-working space for software developers, entrepreneurs, researchers,…

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Mitigating Political Risk for Investors in Africa

Mitigating Political Risk for Investors in Africa

According to the global thought leaders in finance, Africa is primed for growth.  McKinsey, the global management consultancy, released a report a few months ago titled “Lions on the Move” highlighting the collective buying power of the continent – $1.6 billion, or roughly equivalent to the GDP of Brazil or Russia – and its uniform growth, with 27 out of the 30 largest economies growing quickly.  The Economist is quick to point out that, in its projections, seven out of…

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Primary Education is Critical for Growth

Primary Education is Critical for Growth

For the last six months, I have been working for a chain of low-cost private primary schools serving low-income and slum communities.  The business model is innovative – by standardizing as much of the practice of building and operating a school as possible, Bridge has essentially created a “school in a box.” This is my first experience working in education, so the learning curve, as always, has been steep.  But the world is complex and the systems that govern it…

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Up and Out: Income Inequality and Political Polarization in the U.S.

Up and Out: Income Inequality and Political Polarization in the U.S.

This graph is very interesting.  It tracks the degree of political polarization over time and plots it against the Gini coefficient, which is a measure of income inequality in a country.  Develop Economies frequently references the Gini coefficient when discussing repressive kleptocratic regimes in Africa like Equatorial Guinea.  Only recently, however, has he begun examining poverty in the United States.  And he is not alone – even the hippies have managed to put down their bongs long enough to protest…

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Support Kiva.org and Get Me a Free T-Shirt

Support Kiva.org and Get Me a Free T-Shirt

For those who do not know, Kiva, the online microlending website, gave me my first shot at trying to improve the lives of the poor.  When I joined the Kiva Fellows program, I was placed with Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation, a micofinance institution in the Philippines.  I loved it there, and loved the work.   I began to write a blog about microfinance in Southeast Asia, which expanded in scope as my interests broadened to agriculture, energy, education, and…

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