+ Where to spend aid? New report for African Union
A new Copenhagen Consensus Centre
report produced in partnership with the African Union identifies the most effective policies to reduce poverty, and advises governments to - 'just do those, if they really want to make a difference.'
"... many efforts to improve Africans’ lot risk being penny-wise but pound-foolish—fretting more about whether a policy is well implemented than whether it was well chosen," writes the Economist magazine
(paywall) this week.
A government could spend 10% of any additional aid on the best initiatives, squander the rest and still do more good than if it spent all the extra money on a middling policy, the report confirms.
The difference between the most effective policies and the 'middling ones' is mind-boggling.
The most effective policy interventions across Africa, according to the report, would be family planning, followed by support for Women's Self Help Groups and Rotavirus vaccinations.
"The winners are those with a deafening bang for buck."
"Extending a pan-African high-speed rail network to Mozambique, for example, yields only three cents-worth of benefits per dollar spent, the ccc calculates. And a lot of dollars would have to be spent: the upfront capital cost for a ten-nation network could amount to $878bn".
"A more modest policy, such as building latrines in villages (and shaming people into using them rather than defecating in the open) can bring $3.40-worth of benefits for every dollar spent, thanks to the diseases prevented and the time saved. But the gains decline to 60 cents if, as often happens, the new social norms fail to take hold and the latrines fall into disuse."
This kind of report allows governments to compare policies that affect mortality with others that affect prosperity.
"Priorities can then be set on a sounder basis than gut instinct, sentimental appeal or the political clout of the people hurt or helped. That matters because some good causes are not nearly as good as others," writes the Economist.