Can we slash poverty and starvation by 2015? Yes, if we get to work [op-ed]

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JOHN MCARTHUR

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


If global development targets followed a National Football League format, we would be approaching the two-minute warning. December 31, 2015, marks the final deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, the global anti-poverty targets that have mobilized an unprecedented generational success in tackling extreme poverty around the world, most notably the burdens of disease in the poorest countries. We are now facing the final moment to bend the relevant curves of progress. For decision makers, 2013 is the real 2015. [Read more…]

The Need for a New Canadian Conversation on Foreign Aid

I have a new post at OpenCanada.org, the first of a 3-part series that aims to help kick start a new Canadian conversation around how the country approaches foreign aid over the coming generation.  Please feel encouraged to share comments directly!

New-Conversation

Canada’s foreign aid conversation is lost.  The recently announced merger of CIDA into the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade prompted a spate of agitated commentary across the country.  But the public debates underscored the extent to which an institutional tail is wagging the policy dog.  The issues to be resolved are much more fundamental than problems of bureaucratic org charts.  They require systematic and robust thinking, rather than the loose commentary commonly trotted out during moments of sporadic media debate.

Most significantly, there is one central question that needs to be flipped on its head.  Instead of becoming stuck in the supply-driven query, “How should Canada’s foreign aid structures be improved?” the country needs to start with a demand-driven approach, mapping out the nature and scale of the global development challenge, and then asking how Canada can best organize itself to help to tackle the problems at hand.

To that end, this post marks the start of a three-part series.  To help set the stage, below we start by unpacking some of the most common misconceptions around foreign aid.  The second installment provides some historical context for the current debates, and some recent assessments of global need.  The third proposes a way forward, not just for the Canadian government, but for the range of key constituencies that will be essential for moving Canada’s national development strategy forward.

 

[Read more…]

An International Credit Facility for African Smallholder Staple Farmers

Early last year I wrote a 3-page concept note proposing “An International Credit Facility to Support Commercialization of African Smallholder Staple Crop Farmers”  This would be a mechanism to tackle the “missing rural middle” of African farmer finance.

It would target staple crop farmers, rather than cash crop farmers, who typically have much greater access to capital, for many reasons.  (It is also the same mechanism cited in a recent blog post for Rio+20.)

The basic idea is as follows:

A systematic financing mechanism is needed to address the “missing middle” of rural Africa, whereby smallholder farmers can coordinate to access “patient capital” loans of perhaps $25,000-$100,000 at a time. This mechanism should be focused on making capital available in the context of a broader ecosystem of business support and agricultural extension services that help farmers identify market opportunities based on agronomic comparative advantage, then develop business plans, introduce new farming techniques, and implement successful marketing programs. Importantly, the complementary services are not a substitute for the patient capital itself. The financing facility would focus on neither pure public subsidy nor pure private capital. Instead it would focus on covering the risk-adjustment component of private loans.

The cost would be roughly $5 billion per year of public finance to leverage roughly $25 billion per year of private capital.

I wrote this as an input to a working group that was chaired by Mthuli Ncube, chief economist of the African Development Bank, and which included people like Nancy Birdsall of CGD.  Everyone in the group seemed to support the idea, but in the busy-ness of life we didn’t have a chance to spend more time on it.  As a minimum step I thought it worth posting the note online here.