The Globalist Daily online magazine on the global economy, politics and culture Sat, 19 Apr 2014 17:13:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 China’s Age-Old Matchmaking Traditions Sat, 19 Apr 2014 16:00:15 +0000 What is the history behind marriage matchmaking in China and where is it headed?

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1. China’s institutional matchmaking tradition stretches back more than 2,000 years, to the first imperial marriage broker in the late Zhou dynasty.

2. The goal of matchmakers ever since has usually been to pair families of equal stature for the greater social good.

3. Today, matchmaking in China has turned into a commercial free for all.

4. Marriage is often viewed as an opportunity to leap up the social ladder — or to proclaim one’s arrival at the top.

5. Match-making “mixer” events can have entrance fees of $15,000 and top match-makers can earn bonuses of twice that for successful pairings.

6. Three years ago, an eligible bachelor paid $1.5 million to matchmakers for a successful 12-city hunt for the perfect bride.

7. Powerful and wealthy unmarried women sometimes also pay hefty fees to find matches that won’t diminish their existing status.

8. While dowries remain common in rural China, urban families of the bride now expect the groom’s family to find a pricey apartment.

From The Price of Marriage in China by Brook Larmer (New York Times)



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America and India: So Much in Common Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:50:31 +0000 The world’s two largest democracies are engaged in plenty of unnecessary strife.

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America should manage its relationship with India with greater humility, modesty and respect. The world’s two largest democracies should focus more on what they have in common than what sets them apart.

America’s relationship with India has recently been shaken by some minor incidents – such as the arrest of an Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, in New York for breaching the employment contract of her maid. Or U.S. complaints about the quality control of Indian pharmaceutical products.

The United States may even be legally correct in these and other cases. But it must know that in India, a country no less proud than the U.S. itself – and one equipped with with a history spanning across millennia – these incidents reek of bullying by an arrogant superpower. The memories suffered centuries of British colonialism are not forgotten.

Focus on what unites – or divides?

The tendency to focus on bilateral strife is very unfortunate. The United States probably has much more in common with India than with other Asian powers like China or Japan.

The U.S. also has much to gain from a sound relationship with India. Giving in to its inherent legalistic tendencies may well prevent it from making the most of this potential.

Like the U.S., India is the quintessential multicultural country. It is very different from countries like China and Japan, which are proud of their perceived ethnic and cultural purity and homogeneity.

In fact, diversity is the very definition of India. It has many ethnic groups and over 700 languages. It also features the presence of all the world’s major religions (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Christians and others) in its population.

And while there have been times of conflict at home, overall India’s diverse peoples live together in relative harmony.

Among the large Western countries, only the United States of America comes close India in terms of diversity.

Natural democracies

India, with its cacophony of diverse voices, is a natural democracy, like the Untitd States. The most important national narrative in India concerns cricket. And yet, nothing could be more pluralistic than debates over Indian cricket.

Moreover, the U.S. and India both have openly warm and communicative cultures — in sharp contrast to the reserve and mystery that surrounds many other Asian countries. This alone should provide an excellent starting point for a constructive and budding relationship.

National politics in the two countries share common features. Both countries are basically federations of states which themselves have great political and economic powers. Thus, while Delhi and Washington, can seem and/or are quite dysfunctional, some states are well governed, even if others are not.

This generates much internal migration within the Indian “common market”, which means that the country is also a real melting pot. It can also generate healthy inter-state competition. Governance is not unhealthily monolithic in either country.

Curiously, in both countries the most effective national institution is probably the military. And regrettably, both countries share the problem of sporting an inadequate public infrastructure, even thought they certainly are at different levels of development.

Two countries with great internal contrasts

Both America and India are countries with great contrasts. The past two decades of globalization have seen immense generation of wealth in both countries. Dynamic global enterprises have driven this growth.

But in contrast to China, where state-owned enterprises still lead the economy, India’s most dynamic ones – such as Reliance, Tata, Hindalco, Bharti Airtel, Mahindra & Mahindra and Infosys — are in the private sector.

However, one disappointing feature of India’s development has been its relatively weak record on poverty reduction, especially compared with China. This is a product of its unequal growth.

For its part, the Untied States, for all its indisputable riches, has seen poverty rise to embarrassingly high levels — something which is not helped by Congress’s recent attack on food stamps. Some 17% of the citizens of the world’s richest country now live in poverty. And the figure rises above 25% for African-Americans and Hispanics.

Everyone continues to be shocked by the enduring class and caste system in India, despite the progress being made in urban areas.

With at least 12 million migrants in the United States remaining undocumented, and with little immediate hope of their regularization, the U.S. has its own lower castes.

As the NGO Human Rights Watch has documented, hundreds of thousands of immigrant farm-worker women and girls in the US now suffer from or face a high risk of sexual violence and sexual harassment in their workplaces because U.S. authorities and employers fail to protect them adequately.

Indians in the United States

The large population of Indian-Americans is much more successful than any other group of the already high-achieving pool of Asian Americans. Both groups are much more successful than average Americans.

The median annual income per head in an Indian-American houeshold is $88,000, about 77% greater than the American national median. And that figure is well above Americans of Chinese, Filipino, Vietnamese, Korean or Japanese origin.

In other words, Indian-Americans are now realizing the American dream much more than Americans themselves. Satya Nadella, the newly appointed CEO of Microsoft, is just the latest headline example.

Other Indians in America’s C-Suite include Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Sigma-Aldrich CEO Rakesh Sachdev and Cognizant CEO Francisco D’Souza.

Not hung up on history

When it comes to international relations, India is not seeking to play an historical blame game in the region, as China and South Korea do. Nor is it not trying to be a rival of the United States, as China is, in the Pacific Ocean.

Indeed, India is very interested in cooperating with the U.S. as a hedge against potentially unpredictable and feisty behavior on the part of China.

India also does not act the part of a perplexed, stunningly junior partner like Japan.

True, India is a proud and independent country. But the U.S. government should welcome that. In so many ways, the country is a natural friend for the United States of America, even if it will always stay independent and keep some distance.

For their own good, Americans would be well served to have a deeper understanding of how much they and their society have in common with India.

True, when they engage much openly and more fully, Americans will probably find India a frustrating country to deal with. And so it may be at times. But the reverse is also surely true.

India is in the midst of a long and complex process of modernization. This calls for much greater patience and understanding from America. It should exercise much greater humility, modesty and respect in its dealings with India — even though the two countries’ economic and political power is still far from equal.

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Nigeria: An Incentive for South Africa Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:43:50 +0000 Bigger GDPs for other countries in Africa are not a zero-sum game.

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That Nigeria is now Africa’s largest economy is the best news that South Africa could have hoped for.

This milestone not only gives South Africa the most obvious reason to strengthen its ties with a key player across the African continent that is growing in clout. It also affords South Africa the best possible incentive and opportunity to reflect on itself and its future path.

Nigeria should be among the world’s 15 largest economies by 2050, when its GDP is projected to exceed $4.5 trillion in purchasing power parity terms (PPP). This forecast comes from Moody’s, the credit rating agency.

It is also shared by Jim O’Neill, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He believes that Nigeria has a much better chance to be in the top 15 by 2050 than in the world’s top 20 economies by 2020. The latter goal, O’Neill said, was too soon to be likely.

I tend to agree with him. Before it can realize its full economic potential, Nigeria needs to overcome formidable structural obstacles in the short to medium term. In that regard, Nigeria faces many of the same general challenges as South Africa (and many of the continent’s other economies).

Even so, nothing could be a better indication that Africa is on the rise than Nigeria’s economic ascent.

Much more than a new set of statistics

Nigeria recently completed an exercise to recalculate the constituent parts of its economy. The end result of that recalibration process was that the country’s 2013 nominal GDP was $510 billion, 80% higher than previously reported.

On that scale, Nigeria became a global front-runner overnight. It now ranks as the 26th largest economy in the world. And it did not just surpass South Africa (with a GDP of $356 billion as of 2013) — but also Austria, Venezuela, Columbia, Thailand, Denmark, Malaysia and Singapore.

The latter figure – that Africa’s most populous nation now has a GDP larger than Singapore with almost six million people – shows just how much growth potential Africa still has, if and when it gets its act together for real.

A pacesetter for all of Africa

In many ways, Nigeria’s ascent to the top of the economic league in Africa marks an important development for the African continent as a whole. For the first time, there is now an indisputable sign of the changing economic fortunes in this part of the world.

True, many remain skeptical about Africa’s true economic potential. However, there is a growing body of evidence to show that those who underestimate Africa’s prospects do so at their own peril.

How about South Africa?

I do not subscribe to the notion that Nigeria’s gain is South Africa’s loss. Africans do not believe that Africa’s prosperity would come about as a result of some popularity contest between countries. It is decidedly not a zero-sum game.

In fact, this point was reiterated by Gill Marcus, the governor of the South African Reserve Bank. She said recently that said the real issue was “how do we use our different strength to benefit Africa as a whole”.

South Africa has often talked about the need to build linkages that will lead to a more integrated Africa, from the Cape to Cairo. But now, Lagos has also come into full view.

For South Africa, that means that the emerging future requires the country to pursue a more multi-dimensional approach in engaging with the rest of the African continent.

This approach begins with recognizing that South Africa’s future is inextricably linked to that of all of Africa. That is how Rob Davies, the South African Minister of Trade and Industry, put it last week.

Oil helps

With a population of 170 million and oil reserves estimated at around 37.2 billion barrels (or roughly 28% of total African oil reserves), it should be no surprise that Nigeria has turned out to be the largest economy in Africa.

More than anything, Nigeria represents an important catalyst to fuel the emergence of a more dynamic economic landscape on the African continent. From what I hear, it sounds as if South Africa, my home country, understands what is at stake and its role in bringing about this dynamism.

Moreover, it appears as if South Africa also recognizes the opportunities that are inherent in Nigeria’s economic rise. Rob Davies, our country’s trade and industry minister, hinted that South Africa could even possibly begin pushing for Nigeria’s inclusion into multilateral institutions as the G20.

Stronger together

Such a move would strengthen Africa’s voice in the global governance structures. That would be the smart thing to do. In fact, Africa should not have to wait for 2050 before Nigeria joins South Africa in the G20.

Even with its displacement from the top, South Africa’s economy remains about three times larger than Nigeria’s on a per capita basis. Also, South Africa’s regulatory institutions remain the best on the continent — and our financial markets and banking institutions are rightfully deemed to be the strongest in Africa.

Going forward, South Africa and Nigeria should focus on finding ways to complement each other’s strengths and find ways to draw from the experiences of others to tackle the key issues.

First and foremost, there is the perennial problem of chronic corruption, an all too present problem in both countries. Everything else can then be expected to follow from that.

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Birth Rates in Africa: Not Following Asia Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:09:25 +0000 More contraception would help Africa educate the young and govern itself.

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1. In 1970, there were 360 million Africans, accounting for a tenth of the world’s population.

2. If fertility were to drop roughly in line with Asia’s 1970-2000 trajectory, there would be 2.1 billion Africans by 2050.

3. If Africa continues on its current path, there will be 2.7 billion Africans — equal to a quarter of the global population by 2050.

4. Africa’s population could almost triple in 40 years.

5. With an extra half-billion people, Africa will find it hard to educate the next generation of young people.

6. By 2050, there could be twice as many Africans below 14 years of age as there are now.

7. If population growth and urbanization continue at their current pace, Africa’s big cities could become ungovernable.

8. Kenya’s Kinshasa could have 30 million people by 2050 and Lagos 40 million.

9. Africa’s big cities could become larger and harder to manage than China’s giant cities are now.

10. In most developing countries, 60% of women of childbearing age have access to modern contraceptives. In much of Africa, the rate is only 20%.

From African demography, Fertility treatment by The Economist



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The Other Data Revolution Mon, 14 Apr 2014 19:41:39 +0000 Can you conceptualize how much data is created these days?

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1. Facebook says its user content makes up more than 100 petabytes of stored photos and video.

2. A petabyte is 1015 in the International System of Units (SI), and therefore one petabyte is one quadrillion (short scale) bytes.

3. Just analyzing those data generates about 500 terabytes of new information at Facebook every day.

4. A terabyte is 1012 in the International System of Units (SI), and therefore is one terabyte is one trillion (short scale) bytes.

5. In the 1990s, WalMart – at 180 terabytes – was believed to have the largest commercial data warehouse in the world.

6. Thus, Facebook every day generates 2½ times more than Wal-Mart had in its entirety in the 1990s.

7. in the 1990s had single-digit terabytes of stored data.

From How Big Data is Changing the Whole Equation for Business by Steven Rosenbush and Michael Totty (Wall Street Journal)



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Key Takeaways From the GM Safety Debacle Mon, 14 Apr 2014 17:06:34 +0000 What have we learned about General Motors from the latest mess?

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1. GM’s culture is broken. The company can’t make reliably safe cars

Management’s mediocre commitment to quality and safety helped put GM into financial trouble a decade ago, and now we see that problem continues unabated.

GM has heavily layered and highly compartmentalized management and product design structures. Problems like the ignition switch can be discovered by GM engineers – as the result of customer complaints or tragic accidents – but go unnoticed by other units and senior leadership.

All this results in top management left unaware of tragic defects, and the public driving unsafe vehicles that should have never been put on the road.

Mary Barra, now the CEO of General Motors, was Executive Vice President for Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain until January 2014. And yet, she told members of Congress that she had no knowledge of the switch problem prior to the recent recalls.

2. The safety of all GM vehicles is now in question

The first three months of 2014, more than six million GM vehicles were recalled to repair product defects. Of 23 auto brands ranked by Consumer Reports for quality – Chevrolet and Cadillac are 19 and 20.

And that consumer watchdog only recommended for purchase about one-quarter of models produced under those nameplates, even before this scandal broke.

If Barra did not know about the ignition switch problem in her position heading product development, purchasing and global supply chain management, what other safely issues is she unaware – or is she aware but not yet revealing?

Until she can certify all GM products are free of suspected but unpublicized safety defects, it is irresponsible to put a child in a GM vehicle.

Starting in 2009, the U.S. Treasury put $51 billion into General Motors – through loans and stock purchases. Part of President Obama’s strategy to put GM through “quick wash” bankruptcy, this left most of the existing management in place.

Now, the failure of the bailout to break the GM culture of complacency toward poor quality and inattention to safety has been fully demonstrated by the ignition switch scandal.

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Heartbleed: National Insecurity Agency Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:35:00 +0000 When did spying itself, instead of security, become the NSA's mission?

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Last year, security contractor Edward Snowden walked out of the United States with reams of secret documentation on the monitoring practices of the U.S. National Security Agency. The incident highlighted the vulnerability of a security apparatus that provides four million people with “top secret” clearance.

The media is abuzz now with the discovery of a major cybersecurity vulnerability known as “Heartbleed.” The breach may have been exposing passwords and credit card data to thieves for several years.

To add insult to all the mega-monitoring injury, the NSA now finds itself alleged to have known about this flaw for more than two years, without alerting anyone.

In the past, the NSA and its defenders have claimed that – beyond its controversial surveillance role – it provides a major service to the modern U.S. economy.

The argument goes that the NSA has the best of the country’s best cybersecurity experts on staff – and thus helps shore up U.S. corporations and the nation’s citizenry at large from cyber threats, by identifying and closing flaws. That would indeed be a valuable service in pursuit of protecting the public good.

Now, it turns out that the NSA knew about what may prove to have been the biggest flaw in the history of internet security, yet said nothing.

Exploiting a threat

Why? Because the agency believed (probably correctly, from a technical standpoint) that keeping the flaw open would make it easier to snoop on “persons of interest” to the U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism community. With the vulnerability left open, the NSA would be free to enter accounts and track financial information via passwords and card numbers.

But in doing so, the agency exposed hundreds of millions of U.S. citizens and hundreds of major U.S. corporations – the same people and entities the NSA purports to protect – to the risk of major thefts of data and personal information over the past two years.

By comparison, the list of targets, even by the NSA’s broad standards, probably only included several thousand people – a far smaller number than those innocent civilians exposed to cyberattack and theft.

When attacks such as the Boston Marathon bombings have occurred, despite the years of mass surveillance and data vacuuming meant to stop them, we Americans are told that the government can’t possibly stop everything. That’s certainly true, but they also haven’t told us much about what they have stopped. We are unable to measure their success or utility.

Show your work

For years, the U.S. public has been told that the NSA can’t tell us about its successes because that information is classified. We’ve been assured over and over again that their increasingly massive surveillance was necessary for our safety and was doing its job – even if we can’t see the proof.

Instead, we now find out that they knowingly endangered hundreds of millions of Americans and countless major firms.

In what context is that calculation justified? Since 9/11, U.S. society has grudgingly accepted – tacitly, at least – their dubious claim that they needed to infringe indefinitely and without limit the rights of some to save the lives of many.

But now we citizens are supposed to accept a prioritization so warped that it twists the entire mission of the security apparatus on its head to where surveillance is the end, not the means.

Losing the thread

What was the point of the infinite surveillance in the first place? Wasn’t it to provide “national security” to the collective U.S. population, as they have continually insisted? Or is the goal, in fact, just to “catch bad guys” one at a time?

If the NSA has indeed thwarted numerous terror plots on the homeland, they may have saved a few hundred lives, based on the average scale of a successful terrorist attack (and even that would be a high estimate). In isolation, that may be a good outcome, but in the meantime, they exposed millions of people. Thus, in the wider context, they failed their core mission.

They are now so far down the rabbit hole of “security” at all costs that they have failed to notice when they became the vulnerability.

The breadth of the “top secret” clearances is an avoidable weakness, but it was an internal weakness, exposing only the security agencies themselves. In contrast, with “Heartbleed,” the NSA decided to expose the U.S. population in their quest to “catch the bad guys” targeting that population.

The U.S. security apparatus’s intentional and self-serving refusal to disclose or close the gaping hole of “Heartbleed” should be a reckoning point. Their non-utility to the U.S. public is now clearer than ever.

The NSA isn’t searching for a needle in a haystack. They’re missing the forest for the trees.

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GDP at 70: What’s Next? Sun, 13 Apr 2014 16:47:00 +0000 The revolution of well-being and sustainability is under way.

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We are celebrating this year the 70th anniversary of the reign of GDP. Conceived in the 1930s by Simon Kuznets, it was crowned king of all economic data at the Bretton Woods Conference in July 1944, at the height of World War II, when western nations embraced it as their common power and success currency.

Across the world, scholars and policymakers are recognizing in growing numbers that standard economic indicators such as GDP are not only misleading horizons for societies but broken compasses for policy.

It will take time to complement and eventually replace those metrics by indicators able to yield true and lasting policy change. But the revolution of well-being and sustainability is under way.

This endeavor matters because un-measurability means invisibility – or, as the saying goes, “what is not measured cannot be managed.” Measuring is governing: indicators determine policies and actions.

Some twenty new indicators have actually been put forward by international institutions, academic teams, national and local governments in the last three years alone, relying on various approaches.

But can these metrics really change the reality they help us grasp? Can they deliver not only new analysis, but also new policy, and be as performative as they are informative?

A key part of this answer depends on what will happen in the world’s “Big Three” economies: the US, China and the European Union. The evidence one gathers from there is tilting toward being encouraging.

Shifts in the United States

The United States has long given priority to economic growth. But that “growth above all” mantra is gradually ceding ground to a long overdue national debate on the explosive and destructive level of income inequality in the United States.

Barack Obama has recently labeled the growing income gap “the defining issue of our time” and devoted a significant portion of his 2014 State of the Union address to the issue.

At the local level, Bill De Blasio, the new mayor of New York City, focused his entire election campaign on the very issue – and won big.

What is shining through this is that out-of-control inequality, which marks and mars the current U.S. economy, does not just show very poor sense or bad economics but terrible politics too.

The Democratic Party is bound to lose its identity if income inequality grows under its reign just as much as or even more than it did under Republican presidents.

China’s dashboard

In China, officials adopted in 2006 what amounts to a sustainable development dashboard, with environmental targets complementing economic and social objectives.

This new balanced development strategy recognizes that exponential economic growth can end up harming human development. This conceptual shift, first spelled out by then-Premier Wen Jiabao was reaffirmed not just with the 12th five-year plan in 2011, but more recently with the anti-pollution program launched last Fall.

China, like most nations in the word, is certainly quite far away from a sustainable development path. But, truth be told, which Western country in the 1960s, at the height of its industrialization wave, adopted such lofty environmental goals?

Where Europe leads?

It is well known that the European Union is the global environmental leader on key issues such as climate change, chemicals regulation or biodiversity preservation. But it was also a pioneer on the “Beyond GDP” agenda, embracing it at the highest level back in 2007

The region is currently integrating new sustainable indicators, balancing economic development, social cohesion and environmental sustainability, in its development strategy for the next decade.

By attempting to measure well-being, these new approaches – whether in Europe, the United States or China – try to identify the true drivers of a human success that goes beyond purely material status.

As Chinese Premier Li Keqiang put it in mid-March of this year, “We are not preoccupied with GDP growth. The growth that we want is one that brings real benefits to the people.” The revolution of well-being and sustainability is indeed under way.

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Russia and Europe: Separated at Birth Sun, 13 Apr 2014 16:38:19 +0000 What were the geographic and economic factors that marked Russia’s development?

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As Russia and Europe face off over Ukraine and Crimea, it helps to see the structural differences wrought by their respective histories. Yegor Gaidar (1956-2009), Russia’s late prime minister in the early 1990s and a profound economic thinker, lays out key problems in his book “Russia, A Long View,” (MIT Press, 2012).

1. The specific traits of Russia’s natural environment were unproductive soil, a short growing season, an abundance of land and a small population.

2. Distance from navigable seas and land travel are the main features distinguishing Russia from Western Europe.

3. From the turn of the 13th century and for centuries afterwards, Russia was cut off from naval communications and the major trade routes.

4. Western European innovations reached Russia, but only with a noticeable lag of several centuries.

5. Russia was separated culturally, religiously, politically and ideologically from the center of innovation that Western Europe became.

6. Russia perceived Europe – and was perceived by it – as something alien and foreign, resulting in narrowed cultural exchange, suspicion and isolationism.

7. Cultural and religious communality along with the absence of political unity stimulated competition and innovation in Europe.

8. There is no record of the use of a taxation system in Russia before the Mongol invasion in the 13th century. The Mongols had adapted the Chinese tax system, including regular censuses and mutual responsibility in villages for taxes.

9. The Mongolian census-based tax system increased the resources appropriated by Russia from its peasants. This was a major factor in the financial strength of Moscow as the country’s center.

10. The Russian fiscal system did not include representation of the interests of taxpayers. It maximized the resources that the state could take from the peasants through a centralized bureaucracy and state enforcement.

From Russia, A Long View by Yegor Gaidar (MIT Press)



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Africa’s Electricity Poverty Sun, 13 Apr 2014 15:30:40 +0000 How many people in Africa live without any access to electricity?

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At its most basic level, Africa’s energy poverty means there is often no electricity to power lights to study or to work at night. It also means no access to safer electric cooking and heating, powered health centers, or electricity to run a business.

We wonder: How many people in Africa live without any access to electricity?

A. 84 million

According to International Energy Agency, 84 million people in Nigeria alone had no access to electricity as of 2011. Nigeria is Africa’s largest country by population. With a 2011 population of 162 million, that means that 52% of Nigerians lacked access to electrical power.

Many other African nations have even lower access rates. Across the continent, an average of 11 million people per country had no access to electricity.

By comparison, the whole of Latin America had only 24 million people living without access to electricity (or about 5% of the population in 2011). The Middle East had 19 million (9%).

B. 230 million

Approximately 230 million people do not have access to electricity in the six countries chosen to be part of the United States’ Power Africa Initiative: Ethiopia, Liberia, Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.

Announced by President Barack Obama in 2013, the initiative aims to increase energy generation capacity and access through U.S. support to private investment.

Each of the six countries has extremely low access rates — especially Ethiopia, Liberia, Tanzania and Kenya, where less than 25% of the people have electrical power.

However, all of these countries have recently discovered or are exploring for oil or natural gas, giving them abundant potential domestic energy supplies. With increased investment, more facilities could be built to process these supplies into electricity.

C. 306 million

India has more people living without access to electricity — 306 million, as of 2011 — than any single country. However, India still has a much higher percentage access rate, at 75%, than the majority of countries in Africa.

And while India still has long way to go before reaching advanced-country rates of electrification, data compiled by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis reveal that its electrification expansion has been accelerating over the last two decades. By contrast, Sub-Saharan Africa’s has been relatively stagnant.

D. 600 million

Roughly 600 million people in Africa — nearly twice the population of the United States — were living without access to electricity in 2011. They represented 43% of the 1.4 billion people worldwide who lacked regular access to electricity.

The majority of these people are concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa, although not necessarily in remote villages. For example, Kenya’s Electrification Authority reports that while 73% of Kenyans live within one kilometer (0.6 miles) of a transformer, only 18% are connected to the grid.

Even for those in Africa and elsewhere who are hooked up to the grid, the actual flow of electricity is sporadic, with rolling blackouts or brownouts a regular part of life. Because of outdated or insufficient infrastructure, countries cannot generate enough electricity to meet demand.

That is why energy access has become a top agenda item for international NGOs, foreign donors and developing country governments. The United States’ Power Africa Initiative and proposed Electrify Africa Act and the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All push for increased generation capacity, on- and off-grid solutions, and better governance for energy sectors.


This Globalist Quiz is based on data and analysis provided by Madeleine Gleave of the Center for Global Development.


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