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  1. South Korea

South Korea’s recent development has been nothing short of spectacular. In less than half a century, it has gone from being wracked by poverty and dependent on foreign aid, to one of the most advanced countries in the world. In 1960, the average income per person was the equivalent of just $155 a year in today’s money. But by 2014 it had reached almost $30,000! South Korea’s development is made to look even more miraculous when you consider the fate of its infamous northern neighbough. How did it do it? The country’s secret to success is a matter of controversy, with pro-market commentators claiming victory for free-market liberalisation and others pointing to the value of state planning. According to the Economist, however, “the Korean model had four distinctive features: a Stakhanovite workforce; powerful conglomerates; relatively weak smaller firms; and high social cohesion.” (In case, like us, you have no idea what Stakhanovite means, it is “an exceptionally hard-working or zealous person”.)

  1. Kerala 

The state of Kerala in the south of India is remarkable in the world of international development. The state has consistently outperformed other Indian states in terms of literacy, life expectancy, infant mortality, and a whole host of other social indicators. What makes Kerala remarkable, however, is that it has done all this with very little economic growth. General development theory suggests that for a country or state’s social development indicators to improve, first it must get rich. Yet Kerala’s experience suggests this need not always be the case. The reasons for its successes are complex (for the full story, my riveting 8,000 word Master’s dissertation is available on request), but it seems likely that the state’s strong history of education has played a key role. 

  1. Medellin

 The Colombian city has recently become famous as the setting of the latest Netflix addiction, Narcos, in which the drug-infested city does not come off particularly well. Heralded by time magazine as the most dangerous city in the world in 1988, the city has since managed to escape its chequered history of drugs and narco terrorism and is now a hub of innovation and social urbanism. According to Alex Warnock-Smith, the founding director of Urban Projects Bureau, Medellin’s success can be attributed to a “series of radical programmes to reorganise the social fabric of the comunas and mobilise the poor. The city’s planners began addressing its endemic violence and inequity through the design of public spaces, transit infrastructure and urban interventions into the slums.”

  1. Somaliland

The countries of the Horn of Africa have long been embroiled in violence, instability and conflict, and none more so than Somalia. Yet within this country lies a pocket of relative peace, stability and democracy, in an area called Somaliland. Whilst still not officially recognised by the international community, Somaliland declared itself independent following the end of a bloody civil war in 1991. Since then, it has done a remarkable job of building a stable society, by minimising clan rivalries and demobilizing thousands of young gunmen. As the New York Times points out, whilst not perfect, Somaliland’s efforts to build a functioning state serves as an important reminder that Somalia is not an inherently ungovernable country, thus building hope that peace can be restored to the rest of the region. 

  1. Africa’s mobile phone revolution

 The mobile phone industry in Africa has ballooned at such an extraordinary rate over the last decade that it will soon account for almost one-tenth of African GDP. Recently we wrote about how mobile money is filling the gap left by the absence of traditional banking in the continent, but the benefits for Africa don’t stop there. Widespread access to the Internet through mobile phones is changing the way societies interact with their government. John Githongo, one of Kenya’s leading anti-corruption campaigners, believes the mobile phone revolution will have a hugely democratising effect: “We are already witnessing a transformation in the way people relate to their governments, as we saw in Zimbabwe recently, where a protest movement sprang simply from a post on the internet that captured the imagination of the public.” It also has brought success in promoting healthy behaviour and disseminating education.

Bonus – Seed Change

Our donors are helping us to build a development success story right here in Kigoma. If you haven’t already, then check out our ‘Value for Money’ report, and see if you agree.

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