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Hello Tractor: smart farming for Africa

Mobile phones are one of the best documented forms of leapfrogging – when people in developing countries skip a generation of technology. In this case, many households have a mobile phone now without ever having a landline. Because smartphones are so versatile, there’s also an opportunity to skip a whole load of other things. One […]

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How waste can save lives and create jobs

On Tuesday I dropped in on the launch event for the Virtuous Circle report, hosted by Tearfund and the Institute for Development Studies. The report is all about how the circular economy can deliver economic growth, create quality jobs, and save lives in developing countries, while improving the environment at the same time. It’s one […]

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Guest post: Leapfrogging in Ethiopia – myth or reality?

A couple of weeks ago I heard Steve Baines present some findings from his MA on low carbon development in Ethiopia. That’s a country I’ve had my eye on, and I asked Steve if he’d share his work in a guest post. It addresses one of the most pressing questions in development: Leapfrogging – Myth […]

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Why the world needs waterless toilets

The other day I was opening a charity magazine and found an insert from Practical Action inside. It’s about toilets in Bangladesh and I’ve seen it a couple of times now. Before I start, a word of warning – if you’re reading this over lunch, maybe come back later. The story in the flyer is […]

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The world’s most under-achieving countries

This week I’m reading Duncan Green’s book How Change Happens, and in one section he talks about a campaigning politician in a place where change isn’t happening. It’s one of just three countries in the world that failed to achieve a single one of the Millennium Development Goals. I wonder if you can guess what […]

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The planet’s four quadrants

Last week I reviewed Paul Collier’s book The Plundered Planet, and I mentioned that he often has useful shorthand ways of explaining things. One of them that appears in the book is the four quadrants. The world has just short of 200 nation states, but Collier suggests you can divide them into four rough quarters: […]

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The Plundered Planet, by Paul Collier

A few years ago I read Paul Collier’s book The Bottom Billion, and when I saw that his follow-up was about sustainability, it went on that long, long list of things to read. A couple of weeks back I spotted The Plundered Planet on my brother’s book shelves. I borrowed it, and have now slightly […]

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Rwanda’s drone flights begin

In October 2014 I wrote about how drones could be a leapfrog technology. A year later, plans were unveiled for the world’s first drone port, to be build in Rwanda. A year on again, and Rwanda clocks up another milestone: the world’s first regular commercial drone flights are underway. When I last looked in on […]

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The world’s least glamourous charitable cause?

One of the lessons of Effective Altruism is that we can make a bigger difference by directing our donations towards overlooked causes. When a natural disaster hits the news, an appeal may often raise hundreds of millions of dollars. Other causes might get celebrity backing or be able to afford prime time TV or radio […]

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The circular economy in the developing world

The circular economy is usually described as a strategy for industrialised countries, often as a response to over-consumption of energy and resources. The name itself distinguishes it from the ‘linear economy’ that it replaces, re-using materials rather than consuming them. But what if you haven’t got a linear economy to replace? What relevance does the […]

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