Economic Development

  • Technology for economic growth: How mobile money expands financial inclusion in Malawi

    What is mobile money?

    Mobile money is currency stored on your mobile phone. Typically, a customer will bring cash to a local agent who deposits the cash onto the customer’s phone in the form of mobile money. Agents are also able to withdraw money from a customer’s phone and provide cash. These agents, often local shopkeepers, are selected and trained by mobile network operators.

    Why is mobile money important?

    An overwhelming majority of Malawi’s population lives in rural areas, where agriculture is the source of income for more than 85 percent of the population, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). A 2009 FinScope Demand Survey found that 55 percent of Malawians do not have access to any type of financial institution, and only 19 percent of the total population uses a formal bank. Because bank accounts are so rare, mobile money offers an accessible alternative for safely depositing, withdrawing, transferring and even saving money.

    Why has mobile money been adopted so quickly in Malawi?

    FHI 360’s Mobile Money Accelerator Program has been working to create an environment that is ready to receive and adopt mobile money systems. We provide financial literacy trainings that help increase understanding and acceptance of mobile money.

    The Government of Malawi has shown its support by signing and participating in the Better Than Cash Alliance, which aims to transition government cash payments to electronic payments in an effort to increase transparency and expand financial inclusion across the country.

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  • The future of workforce development

    goldmark-lara-2015-200x220How has the definition of workforce development changed?

    Workforce development used to be considered the “poor cousin of education.” It was defined as providing training to produce more and better-prepared workers. Thought leaders have since pushed for a more expansive view. Workforce development is now considered to be more than a single program or initiative. It is an interconnected set of solutions to meet employment needs: It prepares workers with needed skills, emphasizes the value of workplace learning and addresses the hiring demands of employers from the outset. The goal is to place workers in jobs where there are career development opportunities.

    Why does workforce development matter globally?

    Unemployment is a major issue for countries at various stages of development. A rapid increase in the youth population combined with social and political challenges has exacerbated the unemployment crisis in some of these countries. Workforce development is a logical and important solution to these problems, but only if it is approached in an effective way.

    What are key elements of an effective approach to workforce development?

    At the national or regional level, there must be an alignment between skills development and public- and private-sector investments to ensure that job creation keeps pace with the preparation of the workforce. Also, program quality — especially demand responsiveness — should be emphasized over scale. Scale is important, but there have been too many large-scale supply-driven efforts in the past.

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  • Easing the transition to mobile money in Bangladesh

    Like many countries, cash is an extremely common form of monetary transaction in Bangladesh, including among U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) implementing partners. Paying for something as basic as participant expenses at workshops, for example, often entails a finance person from Dhaka, the capital, traveling to rural communities with a bag of cash to make disbursements directly. This method is costly (in terms of travel and per diem costs for the cash runner) and risky (in terms of potential for theft and graft) and can result in lost productivity.

    The introduction of mobile money to Bangladesh in 2011 changed this equation by making it possible for implementing partners to send money directly to individual program participants and staff without leaving their desks in Dhaka. Mobile money is an emerging technology that provides convenient and affordable financial services through use of a mobile phone.

    Having the option of using mobile money is great, but making the change to any new technology or process is rarely easy. And, unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Finding the right mobile financial service for a project’s needs is crucial but not the end-all. Staff and program participants need to understand the benefits of mobile money and feel comfortable using it.

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  • Gender, economics, and ART adherence: What’s the connection?

    In a rural village in central Africa, my colleagues and I stood over a registration book for antenatal care clients with the goal of identifying clinic-level data that could be extracted for a project evaluation. As we made our way through the book, the left sides of the pages were filled with names of women, dates and HIV test results — it was clear that almost all of the women who tested HIV positive received some form of antiretroviral therapy (ART). As my eyes ran to the right across spaces for follow-up records, however, the fields became increasingly emptier, and our team began to discuss the various barriers to services, even a highly effective service like prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT).

    Access and adherence to the greater continuum of HIV care is influenced by several factors, including community-level gender norms and related behaviors. For example, HIV-positive men may avoid HIV testing and may spend a significant amount of their income attempting to address symptoms of their illness rather than confirming their HIV status. Often, these behaviors are driven by fear that knowledge of a positive HIV test result could compromise their leadership at home and cause family instability. Research has also identified instances when men undermine their wives’ access and adherence to ART, even taking their wives’ medication for themselves. Interestingly, despite such challenges, women are more likely to access and adhere to HIV-related treatment and care than men.

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  • Innovative technologies address youth unemployment in Iraq

    What is the Foras project?

    The word foras means “opportunity” in Arabic, an apt name for this project, which seeks to dramatically accelerate individuals’ access to employment opportunities in Iraq. USAID-Foras has launched web-based and mobile technology platforms to overcome barriers to employment, linking jobseekers with employers. Our immediate goal is to increase the number of youth and adults placed in jobs, but ultimately we want to introduce a more efficient model for how employers hire their workforce.

    Why is this project needed in Iraq?

    What USAID-Foras is doing in Iraq is essential to growth of the country’s economy and its stability. About 50 percent of the population in Iraq is 25 years or younger, and roughly half of that demographic is unemployed. Even more alarming, about 400,000 new jobseekers or eligible workers are added the economy yearly, but a vast majority of these individuals remain unemployed. This problem will only worsen without intervention.

    What technologies has Foras launched thus far and who has access to them?

    In 2013, we launched an online jobs portal, which is used by jobseekers and employers looking to hire. We adapted our portal from a similar tool developed by Microsoft in partnership with Silatech, a Qatar-based nonprofit organization. The original portal allowed jobseekers to upload a personal profile and resume or curriculum vitae (CV) and to look for available positions. We improved on this portal by adding a feature that matches jobseekers based on their skills and experiences to jobs that have been listed on the site by employers. We also made it available in English and Arabic.

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  • Business-education partnerships: Johnson & Johnson helps to change the landscape

    Too many students, more than 1.2 million, drop out of school every year in the United States alone and increasing numbers of young people are unemployed globally. Sadly, of the 13 million children growing up in poverty today, only 1 in 10 will graduate from college. There is evidence that the private sector can to help with filling the academic and skill gaps that hinder our young people from succeeding in high school. Business volunteers in communities around the world inspire students to set career goals; they guide young people in building their confidence through mentorship and project-based learning. The business community and the education community need each other now more than ever but the collaboration between schools and businesses is not always happening at a necessary scale.

    I had the pleasure of participating in a regional business-education conference in Fresno, California, recently and walked away with renewed optimism and a few important learnings. First, business-education partnerships are two-way and, when successful, engage all stakeholders including parents and students. Second, to be successful, we have learned that business-education partnerships must have clearly articulated goals and a means of measuring progress including outputs and outcomes. In the end, we need to define the value that these collaborations bring to all of the stakeholders at all stages of the partnership.

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  • Creating and sustaining economic opportunity in Ukraine

    What is the Public–Private Partnerships Development Program in Ukraine?

    The Public–Private Partnerships Development Program (P3DP) is a five-year initiative to help Ukraine’s national and municipal governments engage the private sector in improving the country’s infrastructure and public services through effective public–private partnerships (PPP). When implemented, successful PPPs can directly benefit both individuals and communities, supporting greater confidence in government’s ability to deliver needed services to its citizens, and enhance a country’s economic competiveness. P3DP is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and led by FHI 360, with additional field expertise provided by the William Davidson Institute of the University of Michigan.

    What are the objectives of P3DP?

    P3DP has five key objectives: Improve the PPP legal and policy frameworks to create a viable environment for long-term contracts; establish a PPP unit within the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade of Ukraine to ensure continuity of legal and policy improvements; develop the capacity of individuals and institutions to implement and sustain PPPs; implement a series of pilot PPPs across the country in key sectors; and integrate environmentally conscious practices throughout each pilot.

    What progress have you made so far?

    P3DP helped to establish a standing PPP unit within the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. This was an important step toward increasing national and municipal capacity to partner with the private sector. FHI 360 has worked closely with this unit to determine the most viable and attractive sectors in which to develop pilot partnerships.

    P3DP has also held trainings, practical workshops, study tours, large conferences and other informational opportunities on PPPs to build interest and trust in the process of developing and sustaining public–private partnerships. By laying this groundwork, Ukraine is now ripe, from a legal and policy standpoint, for PPP opportunities. Even in these times of political uncertainty, opportunities for PPPs exist. When stability returns, the use of PPPs is expected to grow dramatically.

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  • Why measuring child-level impacts can help achieve lasting economic change

    Why should economic strengthening (ES) projects monitor and measure how they affect children? Until recently, the development community has largely assumed that greater household economic welfare also leads to improved well-being for children. While evidence indicates that there is a correlation between increased household economic welfare and child well-being , studies have also shown that in the short-term, household economic activities may have no or even negative impacts on children’s well-being , such as risks of decreased school attendance or increased child labor.

    For the past six years, the Supporting Transformation by Reducing Insecurity and Vulnerability with Economic Strengthening (STRIVE) project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and managed by FHI 360, and the Child Protection in Crisis (CPC) Network’s Task Force on Livelihoods and Economic Strengthening have sought to increase our understanding of the link between households’ economic situation and children’s well-being. STRIVE and the CPC Network’s new technical brief Why Measuring Child-Level Impacts Can Help Achieve Lasting Economic Change is based in their experience and research, and shares emerging lessons and relevant recommendations for both practitioners and donors seeking to maximize the benefits of economic strengthening projects and support sustainable growth.

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  • Why family planning matters in the post-2015 development agenda

    The sun is setting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In 2015, the world will shift its focus toward a new development agenda. We know that family planning improves the health and well-being of women and families around the world. Now, as the next-generation goals expand the focus from social and human development to also include economic and environmental objectives, we should not underestimate the positive ripple effects of family planning across all three areas.

    Let’s first remind ourselves of family planning’s connection to all eight MDGs. Family planning: generates wealth and reduces hunger (MDG 1); prolongs education (MDG 2); empowers women and girls (MDG 3); saves infants (MDG 4); improves maternal health (MDG 5); prevents pediatric HIV (MDG 6); reduces pressure on the environment (MDG 7); and promotes global partnerships (MDG 8).

    Moving beyond 2015, the three health-related MDGs are likely to be condensed into one goal (Ensuring Healthy Lives). It is reassuring to see that “ensuring universal sexual and reproductive health and rights” is among the five sub-targets proposed within this goal. Moreover, exciting new support for family planning has been generated by passionate champion Melinda Gates and through global movements like Family Planning 2020. This promising momentum will not realize its full potential, however, without bold, outside-the-box approaches that reach people with family planning information and services. Given family planning’s wide-ranging benefits, we must now strengthen support for it in development sectors beyond health.

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  • Mobile money offers a unique opportunity for human development

    What is mobile money? How does it work?

    Many people in developing countries, particularly in rural areas, do not have bank accounts or live near a bank branch. It can be difficult and expensive for them to make simple financial transactions, such as cashing a government check. Mobile money allows people to use mobile phones or other mobile devices, which are increasingly more available, to transfer money and make payments or deposits.

    The mobile money process is straightforward. Local stores and businesses serve as “cash-in, cash-out” agents. In general, when users get funds sent to their phones, they receive a code that they show to an agent. The agent finds the code in a system and then allows the user to withdraw the funds. When users do not withdraw all of their funds, mobile money functions like a savings account. Mobile money systems differ by country, depending on the regulations governing electronic payments. It is a fast-changing field, because a wide variety of mobile financial products, such as savings accounts, are just now becoming popular around the world.

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