Monthly Archives: December 2012

Global Development Game

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How well do you know the world?

Global Development Game
“Think you’re good at geography? Know your rich countries from your poor ones? Ready to do battle with our sometimes cryptic pictures? And most of all, can you stay cool as the clock ticks down? Then play the Global development game: identify the world’s countries and territories, rank them according to GDP per capita then fingers at the ready for the picture round.”

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The Atlantic on Africa’s Growth

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A Sponsor (T. Rowe Price) posted this “article” in The Atlantic. It highlights Africa’s recent growth, and it is interesting data to see from a corporate, investment-based angle. They are quick to emphasize growth and the potential for more, painting a very positive picture for the continent’s future.

Africa’s steady and robust economic growth over the past decade has thrust the continent onto the world stage as a serious player. Local economies stagnated in every part of the world during the global recession of 2008 and 2009, but Sub-Saharan Africa was one of the least affected regions due to its relatively weak ties to the crisis epicenters in Europe and the U.S.–and its growth rate has returned to previous heights.”

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The Numbers on US Aid

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The combination of United States Aid, including USAID, the State Department, and military spending, amasses to roughly 50 billion dollars. This is about 1 percent of the US federal budget, “not 25 percent, as Americans routinely tell pollsters.”

PBS analyzed the numbers for 2010 in the chart above.
For reference, on Friday NRA chief Wayne LaPierre suggested that “with all the foreign aid, with all the money in the federal budget, we can’t afford to put a police officer in every school?” Well, Foreign Policy did the math, and this would cost $8 billion annually. That’s 16 percent of the total aid budget. Consider how many lives US foreign aid saves with their food security, conflict resolution, and healthcare programs. As FP states, “to a policymaker, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense” to follow through on Mr. LaPierre’s proposal.

Should Obama cut $8 billion in foreign aid to protect 20 American schoolchildren?

Rwandan Demographics

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Recently World on Safari worked on:

A comprehensive report on the Republic of Rwanda’s social, political, and demographic trends in the past quarter century; including entries on the country profile, demographics, population pyramids, diseases, urbanization, economy, debt and development, millennium development goals, geopolitics, and human rights and conflict.

Here’s one of the first entries on demographics:

Entry 2, Demographic Overview

As shown in Figure 2.1, the total fertility rate in Rwanda is on a steady decline. The graph below shows that the fertility rate has been slowly decreasing for the past 25 years, the primary reason being that Rwanda has had all of the proper ingredients for a demographic transition, including a lower death rate and rising GDP.[1] Every country in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the exclusion of South Africa, has a higher fertility rate than 4.0 children born per woman.[2] Rwanda is thus just above the cusp at a rate of 4.6 children born per woman, which is high for the worldwide average of 2.4, but low for the Sub-Saharan Africa regional average of 5.6.[3],[4]

Figure 2.1, Rwanda’s Total Fertility Rates, 1987-2010

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Source: Data from World Bank World Development Indicators, Chart by Author

K. Bruce Newbold states in his book Six Billion Plus that, “where death rates are high, high fertility ensures the survival of children to an economically active age, and there is no incentive to control fertility.”[5] There is thus a strong correlation between a country’s mortality rate and fertility rate. Rwanda’s crude death rate was at 12 per 1,000 people in 2010, brought down from a high point of 38 in 1993 due to the massive genocide that took place in Rwanda.[6] While mortality rates continue to decline, parents will stop feeling the pressure to have many children and ensure some reach adulthood.

Infant mortality rates, which also impact fertility rates, are on the decline as well as depicted in Figure 2.2. This suggests that hospital technology and healthcare are improving in the nation, resulting in more children surviving through infancy and marking a positive trend for Rwanda.[7]

Figure 2.2, Rwanda’s Infant Mortality Rates, 1987- 2010

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Source:  World Bank World Development Indicators, Chart by Author

From the most recent estimates in 2012, Rwanda’s birth rate of 36.14 per 1,000 people and death rate of 9.64 per 1,000 combine with the estimated net migration numbers of 1 per 1,000 to give Rwanda a population growth rate of 2.751 percent, the 18th highest in the world.[8]

Overall, the trends for Rwanda’s high population growth rate, fertility rate, and infant mortality rate are constant with most Sub-Saharan African LDCs. Because of a relatively high death rate and infant mortality rate, many Rwandans have felt the need to have many children for security purposes, and have thus raised the fertility rate. These rates are therefore all significantly higher than the average MDC rates. On the positive side, however, Rwanda relative to most LCDs is showing remarkably positive trends, and the long-term future looks bright in terms of stabilizing the population of Rwanda.


[1] John C. Caldwell and Pat Caldwell, “Regional Paths to Fertility Transition,” Journal of Population Research 18.2 (2001): 99.

[2] K. Bruce Newbold, Six Billion Plus: World Population in The Twenty-First Century (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007), 18.

[3] “Population Reference Bureau: Rwanda.”

[4] Newbold, Six Billion Plus, 42.

[5] Newbold, Six Billion Plus, 22.

[6] “World Bank World Development Indicators,” The World Bank Group, http://data.worldbank.org/data-catalog/world-development-indicators.

[7] John C. Caldwell and Pat Caldwell, “Regional Paths to Fertility Transition,” Journal of Population Research 18.2 (2001): 105.

[8] “CIA- The World Factbook, Rwanda.”

Regional Variation in Deaths

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Chris Blattman‘s blog recently featured this histogram, which depicts the causes of death by region in 2010. The emphasis on variation is what makes this such an important visual for understanding deaths in the modern era. Note especially the diseases in yellow.
Blattman, as advertised, is a Assistant Professor of Political Science & International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, and has arguably the most comprehensive and genuinely interesting development blog out there.

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Here’s the link.

The Cure to AIDS: Bats?

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In the heat of biologists and zoologists struggling to find the reason for the white-nose syndrome in bats, they have discovered something very interesting about the tiny, flying mammals. Some of the bats had been killed not by the infection, but instead by their own immune systems, which had become hyper-aggressive to combat the disease and had fought the bats’ own cells. This phenomenon of “cellular suicide” struck those examining the animals as similar to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) in humans, and researchers have decided to do more studies on the connection. Something in the bats triggers “a mad army of white blood cells massed for a lethal attack,” and what AIDS researchers are hoping to discover is how the bats immune system can recognize the attack with no clear chemical signal. If this signal can be properly understood, it may lead to insights on how the human immune system functions as well.
Although very little progress is made on this research, and though there are drastic differences between the immune systems of humans and bats, this stuck out as a great discovery to hope for.

World Bank Data Viz

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Tumblr has proved itself unexpectedly awesome with World Bank Data Viz, a blogged compilation of visual data created by the World Bank relating to issues of international development. Here’s a post on The Health and Wealth of Nations that is especially stunning.
The minimalist description of the site reads: “Visualizing the fight against poverty.”

And if you happen to be in the development mood, also check out the World Development Indicators, because it is arguably the best organized and most comprehensive data available to the public.