Drivers of development unlock remarkable progress

12 June 2011

The key drivers of development progress are effective leadership, smart policies, proper institutional foundations and international partnership, according to an Overseas Development Institute report released today.

The report, Mapping Progress: Evidence for a new development outlook, systematically analyses and ranks development progress in 24 countries across the global south. It shows that countries often better known as hubs of war and famine have made remarkable progress across different sectors – including growth, education, healthcare, governance and agriculture – and identifies the crucial role of the drivers of development progress. Countries are categorised as stars, surprises, potential performers and lastly conundrums, where progress in some areas has not led to expected improvements in the lives of the poor.

ODI Director Alison Evans said:

“Development is a highly complex business – people can get it wrong, but quite often they get it right. The purpose of the Mapping Progress report is to show that progress is not only possible, it’s happening.

“The real question we need to answer is ‘what works and why?’. Why have some of these countries seen such remarkable progress? What have been the most interesting innovations? Looking at the strongest examples across Africa we can see that the most transformative and sustainable developments have occurred when the commitment to change has come from within the countries and communities.”

The drivers of development

  • Smart leadership – Transformation in Ghana, Rwanda and Brazil would not have happened without Presidents Rawlings, Kagame and Lula.
  • Smart policies – Progress has involved a changing role for government away from controlling (markets and prices) to facilitating and enabling (investment and production), and, in the best cases empowering citizens. Policies have been built on clear vision or national strategy and have been evidence based.
  • Smart institutions – In many countries, progress has been achieved through governance reforms that have decentralised and strengthened local institutions. Reforms have not only led to improved service delivery but also enabled more effective revenue collection and management of public finances.
  • Smart friends – Effective international partnerships can be important catalysts for progress. These partnerships can take various forms beyond aid, including the transfer of knowledge and technology, international trading relations and diplomatic interventions.

Development Progress Stories include:

Ghana (Star performer)

Government-led reforms of the domestic cocoa market have driven a tremendous record of agricultural growth – averaging over 5% for the last 25 years. Ghana is on track to meet Millennium Development Goal 1 – halving rates of poverty and malnutrition by 2015. Having raised food production per capita by more than 80% since the early 1980s, Ghana is largely self-sufficient in staple foods.

Star performers, such as Ghana, have shown sustained progress for more than two decades. By diversifying products and services they have added considerable value to national performance. Star countries display a more mature level of development and are now beginning to face challenges more common to developed countries such as environmental degradation, aging populations and non-communicable diseases. Other Star perfomers include Bhutan, Thailand, Brazil and Uganda.

Ethiopia (Surprise performer)

Since emerging from civil war in 1991, Ethiopia has significantly improved access to education for its population. Primary school enrolment rates have risen by more than 13 million since 2005. A sustained Government commitment matched by increased spending, allowing the removal of school fees, has triggered this astonishing rise. Other surprise performers are Rwanda, Cambodia, Laos and Somaliland.

Surprise performers such as Ethiopia have delivered progress against the odds, often recovering from crisis and war or dealing with ongoing conflict, challenging political situations and highly inaccessible topography. The surprise elements of progress in these countries often lie in the speed of recovery, sometimes allowing them to eclipse previous levels of development.

Malawi (Potential performer)

Malawi has the potential to deliver significant progress towards its development over the next decade according to a newly published global research project. The country’s recent progress in providing economic stability has begun to have a positive effect on development indicators, placing Malawi in the top 20 performers on several of the Millennium Development Goals. Growth of over 7% per year for most of the last decade and a steady fall in rates of inflation suggest a bright future for the country. Potential performers such as Malawi have shown recent examples of progress, often achieved over a short period of time. Progress may be limited to individual sectors or regions. Whilst these countries have already produced impressive results they now need to sustain them into the future. Other potential performers include Benin, Malawi and Burkina Faso.