Does inequality matter? What are the effects of wealth being concentrated in the hands of a few individuals?
Well, if you believe some of the world’s most respected economists – people like Thomas Piketty, Joseph Stiglitz, Branco Milanovic, Wilkinson and Pickett – it matters. And they say it is getting worse. The World Bank and the IMF made “shared prosperity” the theme of their annual meeting this year, and the IMF head, Christine Lagarde, described the rise in global inequality as “staggering”. Just in the past week, Bill Gates, the Financial Times and the (UK) Guardian have all made the case that inequality matters.
Mobile money has revolutionised financial services in East Africa, starting with M-Pesa in Kenya and spreading from there. The global association of mobile phone network operators, GSMA, has recently published a report on mobile money in Tanzania (pdf), which included the following chart, showing the total value of mobile money transactions each year since 2007:
Yearly value of mobile money transactions. Source: GSMA, data from Bank of Tanzania, Central Bank of Kenya
Two things are worth highlighting here. First, though Kenya was undoubtedly the trendsetter here, Tanzania is fast catching up, and looks set to overtake Kenya during 2014. Continue reading →
Uwezo released their latest report last week, looking at learning outcomes across Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. They surveyed well over 300,000 children aged 6 to 16, across all but a handful of districts in these three countries, with each child taking a short test in maths, English and Swahili (other local language in Uganda).
The tests are designed in line with the Standard 2 syllabus – though the vast majority of children taking participating are in higher classes.
Here’s my favourite chart from the report, showing test pass rates for older children (10+) in each country and each subject.
1. The chart suggests the quality of primary education is higher in Kenya than in either Tanzania or Uganda. (Though none of the results are “good”: even the top score in the chart (74%) means a quarter of children over 10 in Kenya can’t read very basic Swahili).
2. Tanzania is doing really, really badly at teaching English. With Secondary Schools using English as the medium of instruction, this could go a long way towards explaining the appallingly bad Form 4 exam results.
Is it time to reconsider the use of English in Secondary Schools? Or to focus a big push on improving English teaching in Primary Schools? Or both?
I treated myself to a trip to the theatre this week, to see Obama the Mamba, at the Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays. And a treat it was, sensitive, thought-provoking and surprisingly gripping for a show with only the bare bones of a plot.
For those who don’t speak Swahili, the title needs explaining – what is a “mamba”? – and is likely to lack punch as a result. But to the Swahili speaker the title hits home immediately, throwing up a very different question in the process: why is Obama being called a crocodile? The answer is that this not about the Obama you know, the US President, but rather about his half brother, George, and his life in Nairobi. George was given the street name “Mamba”, because of his quick aggressiveness as a member of a criminal gang in the Huruma neighbourhood of Nairobi. He has written a book that tells his story, the inspiration for this play. Continue reading →