I know you will immediately point out that the Worldbank already announced on the 20th of April that they will open up access to it developmental data. But then I know that many development practitioners are working so close to the ground that data from the Worldbank may seem to be very far from the problems in rural economies.
I think it is time that we stand back a little. Perhaps it is time to ask some old questions in new ways. And then to look at the data to see if it supports our logic.
For instance, why are development practitioners trying to stimulate “growth” in rural areas? Can you even remember why? Or maybe ask “what happened to wealth and prosperity?”.
Is building wealth in Africa still important to us? Or are we now all working on poverty alleviation?I. I think we all know that we have to find ways to stimulate local capital accumulation, savings and investment in Africa. But is this possible if we all work on rural development?
Please do not read anything into these questions, other that I sometimes get the feeling that we have forgotten what we are working for. And the more I play with the data from the Worldbank and Gapminder, the more I wonder if we are perhaps pushing the rope rather than pulling it.
Back to the data. Take a look at a report about the opportunities offered by better data according to some experts (Hans Rosling and Beth Noveck). The data is now presented at a new website of the Worldbank. Hans Rosling is better known for Gapminder, a site that you should definitely look at for its innovative visual presentations of data.
To me it seems that we should be supporting the more advanced sectors in Africa. We should be asking questions about stimulating innovation, private sector development, and economic growth in the cities. We’ve known for more than 100 years already that cities play an important role in economic growth and prosperity of nations. That is why I bet that you prefer to live in a city if you are a knowledge worker! It makes me wonder why so many development practitioners seem to want to keep people in the rural areas…..