Governments have been collecting data on their citizens almost from the first moment that they came into being. Data was needed to determine what was out there that could be extracted: The Egyptian Pharaohs conducted a census to find out the scale of the available labor force to build the pyramids, and in the Roman Empire, the five-yearly census was all about finding out who was available for military service and what wealth existed to be taxed. But governments have also used data to find out what people needed: The ancient Babylonians collected data from their citizens nearly 6,000 years […]

On Nov. 5, 2010, Ghana Statistical Service, the country’s government statistics office, announced that it was revising its gross domestic product (GDP) estimates upward, and as a result Ghana’s GDP per capita almost doubled. The country was upgraded in an instant from a low- to lower-middle-income country. A sense of bewilderment and confusion arose in the development community. When did Ghana really become a middle-income country? What about comparisons with other countries? Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa, struck a dramatic tone in an address to a conference organized by Statistics South Africa, calling the state of […]

U.S. development aid has long been characterized by public sector funding of socio-economic, political and security projects in the developing and underdeveloped world. Over the past few years, however, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun a number of programs that are being financed by private capital. Among them, in 2011, USAID launched the Private Capital Group for Africa, aiming to generate more than $500 million in private investments to assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in sub-Saharan Africa, and the African Agricultural Capital Fund to invest $25 million specifically in agricultural SMEs in East Africa. Last […]

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finished a three-country tour of Africa with an aim to create new opportunities for Japanese companies on the continent, a promise of dramatically increased loans and a pledge to bolster Tokyo’s role in the maintenance of peace and security there. Abe’s visit, which took him to Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique and Ethiopia, was the first trip to sub-Saharan Africa by a Japanese leader since former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi toured the continent in 2006. Abe’s renewed focus on Africa is driven by a range of factors but can be loosely characterized as an attempt […]

Editor’s note: This is the second of a seven-part series examining conditions in Afghanistan in the last year of U.S. military operations there. The series will run every Wednesday and will examine each of the country’s regional commands to get a sense of the country, and the war, America is leaving behind. The series introduction can be found here. Historically a crossroads of commerce and culture linking Persia and Central Asia, the ethnically mixed western region of Afghanistan has more recently been notable for the stability and wealth of its most important province, Herat, and its capital city of the […]

Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai made his third visit to India in 2013 and his 14th since first taking office in 2001. This time, the two governments announced they would deepen their defense and security ties, with several initiatives designed to increase the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) as most if not all NATO combat forces prepare to leave the country in 2014. Although Indian officials declined to fill Karzai’s entire shopping list, Afghan-Indian military cooperation will likely increase still further now that the United States, which has generally discouraged New Delhi from assuming a major […]

Since President Rafael Correa came to power seven years ago, U.S. relations with Ecuador have been rocky. Most recently, in December 2013, the U.S. Agency for International Development decided to pull out of Ecuador in 2014 after the agency failed to reach an agreement with Quito over continued support of democracy promotion efforts, which the Correa administration regards as targeting the government. Just days later, the Correa government reacted angrily to a Washington Post report alleging that the CIA had offered crucial assistance to Colombia in a 2008 strike against FARC rebels in Ecuadorean territory; the U.S. had denied any […]

The United States played an important role in facilitating the independence of South Sudan, the world’s newest country. Now U.S. leaders are watching the unfolding of an ethnic-tinged civil conflict that has already left hundreds dead and displaced around 200,000 people. Fighting broke out in the middle of last month between government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those allied with former Vice President Riek Machar, whom Kiir removed from office last year along with all his other ministers. Kiir accused Machar of orchestrating a coup against his government shortly before fighting began. While violence continues in parts of […]