Tuesday, September 2, 2014
15

Why Jeffrey Sachs Matters

SEATTLE – Bono calls the economist Jeffrey Sachs “the squeaky wheel that roars.” To me, Sachs is the Bono of economics – a guy with impressive intelligence, passion, and powers of persuasion who is devoting his gifts to speaking up for the poorest people on the planet. So it was no surprise to me that a journalist would find Sachs to be a compelling central character for a book – and a good way to draw readers into the potentially dry subject of international development.

In The Idealist, Vanity Fair writer Nina Munk draws a nuanced portrait of Sachs and his Millennium Villages Project (MVP) – a $120 million demonstration project intended to show the world that it’s possible to lift African villages out of poverty through a massive infusion of targeted assistance. It would have been easy, and perhaps more marketable, for Munk to draw a caricature, overly accentuating Sachs’s negative qualities at the expense of his great gifts. But she doesn’t. Munk spent six years researching the book, getting to know Sachs well and living for extended periods in two of the 15 Millennium Villages. She clearly appreciates the importance and difficulty of what Sachs and his team are attempting to do.

Unlike most books about international development, Munk’s book is very readable and not long (260 pages). I’ve told everyone at our foundation that I think it is worth taking the time to read it. It’s a valuable – and, at times, heartbreaking – cautionary tale. While some of the Millennium Villages have succeeded in helping families improve their health and incomes, Munk concludes that the two villages she spent the most time studying­ – Dertu, Kenya and Ruhiira, Uganda – have so far not lived up to Sachs’s vision.

Sachs did come to the foundation, asking us to support the Millennium Villages. His pitch was intriguing. He was picking a small handful of villages to be the focus of intense interventions in health, education, and agriculture – all at once. His hypothesis was that these interventions would be so synergistic that they would start a virtuous upward cycle and lift the villages out of poverty for good. He felt that if you focus just on fertilizer without also addressing health, or if you just go in and provide vaccinations without doing anything to help improve education, then progress won’t be sustained without an endless supply of aid.

My colleagues and I had a number of concerns about Sachs’s approach. We questioned his assumptions about how quickly the gains would materialize, what would happen when the MVP funding was phased out, how much governments would contribute to offset the high per-person costs, and how feasible it was to measure progress (given the likelihood that people from the surrounding area would stream into their villages once the MVP aid started flowing). So we decided not to invest in the MVP directly. Instead we funded his interdisciplinary work at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, because we felt it was invaluable to have him focused on the needs of poor countries.

Based on what Munk reports about the MVP, I’m not about to throw stones. We have many projects of our own that have come up short. It’s hard to deliver effective solutions, even when you plan for every potential contingency and unintended consequence. There is a natural tendency in almost any kind of investment – business, philanthropic, or otherwise – to double down in the face of difficulty. I’ve done it, and I think most other people have too.

So what went wrong? For one thing, the villages that Sachs picked experienced all kinds of problems – from drought to political unrest. For another, the MVP began with an idealistic “Field of Dreams” approach. MVP leaders encouraged farmers to switch to a series of new crops that were in demand in richer countries – and experts on the ground did a good job of helping farmers to produce good crop yields by using fertilizer, irrigation, and better seeds. But the MVP didn’t simultaneously invest in developing markets for these crops. According to Munk, “Pineapple couldn’t be exported after all, because the cost of transport was far too high. There was no market for ginger, apparently. And despite some early interest from buyers in Japan, no one wanted banana flour.” The farmers grew the crops, but the buyers didn’t come.

Of course, Sachs knows that it’s critical to understand market dynamics; he’s one of the world’s smartest economists. But in the villages Munk profiled, Sachs seems to be wearing blinders.

Warren Buffett likes to say, “The rear-view mirror is always clearer than the windshield.” Through that rear-view mirror, we can see that the project didn’t have an economic model that could sustain successes once the MVP dollars ran out. All of the interventions involved – health, agriculture, infrastructure, education, and business seed money – make sense if carried out carefully, over time. But I am surprised by how little Sachs dug into country budgets and that he didn’t work to convince governments to commit to additional taxation to fund more of these interventions domestically. Given his background, he surely excels in that area.

Through the rear-view mirror, we can also see that many of Sachs’s ideas have proved to be exactly right. Munk details his 2007 fight with international aid donors who were refusing to distribute insecticide-treated bed nets for free because they favored a market-based approach where people would pay a small amount for each net. To put it mildly, Sachs didn’t make any friends in the process of advancing his case for free bed nets. Through increasingly ruthless tirades, he wound up alienating potential allies who want to defeat malaria just as badly as he does. But history will show that Sachs was absolutely right. Since then, we’ve seen that the free model has allowed for much broader distribution of bed nets – and much greater reductions in malaria – than market models.

In the end, I hope poverty fighters will not let what they read in this book stop them from investing and taking risks. In the world of venture capital, a success rate of 30 percent is considered a great track record. In the world of international development, critics hold up every misstep as proof that aid is like throwing money down a rat hole. When you’re trying to do something as hard as fighting poverty and disease, you will never achieve anything meaningful if you’re afraid to make mistakes.

I greatly admire Sachs for putting his ideas and reputation on the line. After all, he could have a good life doing nothing more than teaching two classes a semester and pumping out armchair advice in academic journals. But that’s not his style. He rolls up his sleeves. He puts his theories into action. He drives himself as hard as anyone I know.

I have no doubt that Sachs, like all relentless thinkers and doers, will come back with stronger ideas and approaches. Sachs will always be a squeaky wheel that roars. And the world will be a better place for it.

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  1. CommentedAlfred Moser

    Alfred Moser;
    Our Programme supports Conservation, stops deforestation, illegal mining, poaching not only direct through our programme, we also support our conservation, through Gender Equality, safe and Clean Water projects, education, support of maternity clinics, dispensaries, ........

    Our Trust, The Jane Goodall Tendaguru Wildlife Trust, founded by Dr. Jane Goodall, Hugo van Lawick (son of famous Dutch Filmmaker H.V. Lawick and Dr. Jane Goodall), Hon. R. Lulida, Hon. J. Lembeli, Addison Fischer and Alfred Moser is based in Tanzania, our aim is to conserve a vast area in southern Tanzania, Kilwa/Lindi district from further deforestation through various individuals and companies, e.g. timber logging, pastoralists, radical agriculture methods, mining, poaching, just to mention a view. Part of our long term programme is to supply in co-operations with village groups, stop rural youth migration, reduce greenhouse gas emission, deforestation, conservation of the area, education, sustainable agriculture, gardening, fish farming, safe and clean water........

    But our programme goes further as through all the positive activities on village level, it reduces rural migration to urban areas. What will keep the young work force in the villages what will guarantee the continuation of the programmes? It also will stop the spread of aids, poverty, all problems faced through youth migration to the cities.

    Girls are vulnerable to all kinds of treats; end up as house girls, early pregnancy. High risk of HIV infection, prostitution, poor salary, lack of education for girl and when pregnant, child face the same if not worse scenario, begging, drug trafficking, all kinds of illegal activities,
    Boys end up with low paid activities, watchman, gardener, house boys, casual labours, street vendors, begging, drug trafficking – dealing, theft, prostitution

    Aim:
    Stop migration of youth, girls and boys to the city.
    Girls are vulnerable to all kinds of treats; end up as house girls, early pregnancy. High risk of HIV infection, prostitution, poor salary, lack of education for girl and when pregnant, child face the same if not worse scenario, begging, drug trafficking, all kinds of illegal activities,
    Boys end up with low paid activities, watchman, gardener, house boys, casual labours, street vendors, begging, drug trafficking – dealing, theft, prostitution

    This can be stopped, reduced through sustainable income generation at village level. Make village level attractive for the younger generation.

    Benefits for the village:
    Training and education, communication, exchange of knowledge between Trainers and villager’s, villagers and villagers, volunteers and villagers,
    Health, water, nutrition and education


    If you need our Profile, presentation document, to fully understand our vision, who we are and our plans please let me know so that I can mail it to you.

    More information is available on Facebook Jane Goodall Tendaguru Wildlife Trust
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNhoRFIHGt4&feature=youtu.be

  2. CommentedAlfred Moser

    Village development can only work if we create a sustainable cooperation between villagers and organizations, investors.
    What we try to achieve:
    Our Programme supports Conservation, stops deforestation, illegal mining, poaching not only direct through our programme, we also support our conservation, through Gender Equality, safe and Clean Water projects, education, support of maternity clinics, dispensaries, ........

    Our Trust, The Jane Goodall Tendaguru Wildlife Trust, founded by Dr. Jane Goodall, Hugo van Lawick (son of famous Dutch Filmmaker H.V. Lawick and Dr. Jane Goodall), Hon. R. Lulida, Hon. J. Lembeli, Addison Fischer and Alfred Moser is based in Tanzania, our aim is to conserve a vast area in southern Tanzania, Kilwa/Lindi district from further deforestation through various individuals and companies, e.g. timber logging, pastoralists, radical agriculture methods, mining, poaching, just to mention a view. Part of our long term programme is to supply in co-operations with village groups, stop rural youth migration, reduce greenhouse gas emission, deforestation, conservation of the area, education, sustainable agriculture, gardening, fish farming, safe and clean water........

    But our programme goes further as through all the positive activities on village level, it reduces rural migration to urban areas. What will keep the young work force in the villages what will guarantee the continuation of the programmes? It also will stop the spread of aids, poverty, all problems faced through youth migration to the cities.

    Girls are vulnerable to all kinds of treats; end up as house girls, early pregnancy. High risk of HIV infection, prostitution, poor salary, lack of education for girl and when pregnant, child face the same if not worse scenario, begging, drug trafficking, all kinds of illegal activities,
    Boys end up with low paid activities, watchman, gardener, house boys, casual labours, street vendors, begging, drug trafficking – dealing, theft, prostitution

    Aim:
    Stop migration of youth, girls and boys to the city.
    Girls are vulnerable to all kinds of treats; end up as house girls, early pregnancy. High risk of HIV infection, prostitution, poor salary, lack of education for girl and when pregnant, child face the same if not worse scenario, begging, drug trafficking, all kinds of illegal activities,
    Boys end up with low paid activities, watchman, gardener, house boys, casual labours, street vendors, begging, drug trafficking – dealing, theft, prostitution

    This can be stopped, reduced through sustainable income generation at village level. Make village level attractive for the younger generation.

    Benefits for the village:
    Training and education, communication, exchange of knowledge between Trainers and villager’s, villagers and villagers, volunteers and villagers,
    Health, water, nutrition and education


    If you need our Profile, presentation document, to fully understand our vision, who we are and our plans please let me know so that I can mail it to you.

    More information is available on Facebook Jane Goodall Tendaguru Wildlife Trust
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNhoRFIHGt4&feature=youtu.be

    Kind Regards

    Alfred Moser

  3. CommentedLeo Arouet

    Me parece que no es adecuado reprochar el trabajo de Sachs debido a que un proyecto no funcionó, en verdad el proyecto funcionó sino que no hubo mercados cercanos para vender los productos. Es evidente que Gates no ha reflexionado sobre los complejos ámbitos por los que un proyecto camina. Como dije el proyecto es un éxito, lo que no han tomado en cuenta es la visión de otros profesionales más que podría haber ayudado a tener una visión de completa y más burocrática del proyecto.

  4. CommentedDenis Burakov

    Dear Mr. Gates,

    Professor Sachs is indeed "one of the world’s smartest economists," but he is in no way a superman who can rid the world of poverty and make the flowers bloom, as many people think. Jeffrey Sachs is a visionary, a quixotic intellectual who has been telling us how to fix the failed state of our world for a course of decades. However, most of the developing world today is still under the yoke of dictatorship: unequal, poor, and repressed. Should we wait a little more to understand that Sachs' ideas are only good on paper? The dictatorship of Vladimir Putin in Russia is partly a consequence of Sachs' economic advice during Russia's transition to democracy and market economics.

    I admire J. Sachs' passion, but I think he should no longer be the dominant voice in the debate on economic development. Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson's latest work is much more powerful tool than Sachs' works and projects. To overcome poverty, we need to help poor nations craft inclusive institutions that will provide the means to solve inequality, poverty, and other social ills. The first world cannot solve the third world's problems, and helping developing nations create effective political and economic institutions should be our priority. Funneling money into poor communities with the hopes consistent with modernization theory is erroneous at best and pointless at worst.

  5. Commentedj. von Hettlingen

    Mr. Gates, indeed Jeffrey Sachs "matters"! As a "thinker" with "strong ideas and approaches", he doesn't let them languish in an ivory tower. Instead he "rolls up his sleeves. He puts his theories into action". His goal is to challenge the biblical wisdom: "The poor you will always have with you," the Gospel of Matthew 26:11.
    As a "poverty fighter", Sachs envisions that it's possible to eradicate destitution in our lifetimes. With single-minded determination he had tried to put into practice his ideas, to show that the world's most destitute people can still one day climb Maslow's pyramid.
    His commitments are legendary. His Millennium Villages Project (MVP) was a daring five-year experiment designed to test his theories in Africa. The reasons why he aimed to "lift the villages out of poverty for good" is that he believed he could repeat the same success in Africa, like the one the "Green Revolution" of India, China and much of southeast Asia had had in the past 30 years. When Asian farmers could grow more food, feed their families and communities, and diversify into cash crops and into non-agricultural activities, the economic takeoff could get underway.
    The "Green Revolution" had been successful thanks to aid from the Rockefeller Foundation, the US government, and other donors. Sachs insisted donors could help Africa fight disease and achieve a "Green Revolution" as occurred in Asia, if only the American public would be convinced that Africa could be helped to finally escape from the trap of extreme poverty.
    Sachs's MVP was backed by one hundred twenty million dollars from George Soros and other likeminded donors. His focus was to distribute fertiliser and mosquito bednets, build schools and health centres. He refused to face the possibility that his ideas could be flawed as the MVP would run out of money,
    Nina Munk accompanied Sachs on his trips to Africa and came to realise the discrepancy between theory and real-life challenges. Often decisions are made in boardrooms by donors, who have no idea of the crude realities development workers face on the ground. The struggle of the herders and farmers to survive in some of the most inhospitable areas is note- and praiseworthy.

  6. Commentednick horslen

    Be in no doubt #stopthemyth http://annualletter.gatesfoundation.org/ don't let anyone make you think that book writers have the interests of the developing world at the fore ahead of their paying sponsors publisher and customers and Sachs delivers the facts (especially powerfully in the 2 and 3rd quarter) of this interview here http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2014/03/jeffrey_sachs_o.html

  7. CommentedJonathan Lam


    Gamesmith94134: Why Jeffrey Sachs Matters

    In the world of venture capital, a success rate of 30 percent is considered a great track record. In the world of international development, critics hold up every misstep as proof that aid is like throwing money down a rat hole.
    We need your garage and entity for knowledge for organizing the local co-operative that fits for storage and redistribution, more than funds; let me explain:
    It is true because donors may neglect the theory of “beggar thy neighbor”. When large inflow of investment or donation rolled in to stimulate the industries; it created dependency and turned unsustainable soon as the outflow appears. In the case of merger, it will hog-tied the local development that job loss is eminent that expansion may not help those need assistance. So, the donors turned in the black knight of the sovereign; often the recipient government can wait on the next donation to come and cut all subsidies or use the funding to other developments. I am not sure if we have destroyed their market system or it was just how they failed to enhance their cash corps; however, it was my experience of the seed exchange program I strongly opposed. Then,” The farmers grew the crops, but the buyers didn’t come” happened when their government or corporation turned themselves into the middleman in dealing with the hyped market by warehousing their low cost corps, or under its price control. In this case, we often attempt to donate or give; but we missed our goal and failed to rejuvenate the strength of opened market system; instead, we made them poorer when the government told them their equity is worth a million, and it is how we, donors made inequality plausible when we forget to give them a marketable environment. It is why we must think of the garage where small farmer and miner can get co-op to invest in their market to compete; like you started the Microsoft; a starting point where it can store and distribute through the genuine market system, and they can grow into corporation for these small farmer and others with their investors or donor. In which, we can offer them the intelligence they need without ruining their harvest just because they cannot sell. The focal point is we must start domestically; and we will provide both hardware and software to their college kids and professionals to explore and not being exploited. Besides, we can sell their product cheaper and not being purchased by the oligarchy at a price that no one can be profited from it.
    Recently, I am looking into the local bonds funding by World Bank and International financial Corp, I am sure such initiative can stabilize the local currencies and stop foreigner to manipulate the market or currency exchange. Also, I would prefer Sustainable development Goal (SDG) can insert its co-operatives entities to World Trade Organization or others to oversight the operations that can organize the small framers or miners to sustain its claims, both productivity and natural resources.
    Perhaps, it is how America can do its own thing to our employment if we are limiting the claim of profitability of free trade environment by eliminating the poorer nations’ market system. Some may still claim technology transfer and monetary assistance cannot be the villain for inequality; but the data shows a different picture of the rich and poor in the comparison by nations and groups. Profit over employment is a poison pill we cannot take it anymore. Such environment is reversing itself through the recession; many are looking into the local market rather than another macro economical policy to work since many failed. Nonetheless, never mind what the Chicago Mercantile Board. If IBM had branched out to Lenovo; why can’t we buy locally?
    After all, it sounds as a fantasy that your garage is challenging IBM in computing; when I was learning the 1s and 0s and punching my cards every day. However, time comes when the silicon started with memory and hardware that people need to carry his computer to work. Apple failed once, and it is Microsoft made it worked. Now, Apple excelled in its own way, Mr. Gates, it is your move now to put your garage to roll out the local market system.
    May the Buddha bless you?

  8. CommentedVal Samonis

    RE: The assessment will be based on the very considerable data that have been collected over the past decade, and on extensive new survey data that will be collected in 2015.

    And we should refrain from any major assessments until that time.

    Val Samonis
    Advisor, The African Capacity Building Foundation

  9. Portrait of Michael Heller

    CommentedMichael Heller

    Bill Gates, Jeffrey Sachs:

    Guys, forget the millennium and pack away your petty squabbles. Good lessons are available from the intensive 20-year short course based on the tried and tested 200-year capitalism graduate school experience, which was in turn a successor to the previous 200-year preparatory school experiment.

    For 400 years there was no A-I-D to help or hinder the pioneering students. Now that knowledge of capitalism and its institutions is widely available almost for free in books like the one I took the trouble to write, there is no reason why the replication of capitalism in individual nation states should take more than 20 years.

    Drip feeds and shelters -- no matter how sophisticated the inter-sectoral engineering -- keep stopping poor countries from simply having to grow up and go to Capitalism School.

    http://michaelgheller.blogspot.com
    Heller Economic History Entertainment

  10. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    Bill Gates and Jeffrey Sachs are both in their familiar territory on this debate- extending free public goods in the hope of making lasting contributions to the development of basic human conditions like health or education. But we cannot ignore the competing and conflicting forces that impede the success rates of such initiatives as the State actors of the different coalitions have conflicting goals as whether to extend standard public goods (vaccination) or to extend coordination goods (institution building, freedom of information, government transparency, or coordination skills) is a matter of what gains the actors can derive as smaller the coalition greater is the prospect of an uprising against the coalition given the supply of coordination goods, while looting the resources from such programs gives the State actors better survival strategies. The problem with the extension of standard public goods free of charge on the contrary is the increase of moral hazard which makes it impossible to withdraw from the schemes, something which would make any aid program falter in its very objective.

  11. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    As commendable Mr. Sachs's and also Mr. Gates's efforts and projects are, they might turn out to be just as unsuccessful as any other "solutions" people throw at the many, seemingly diverse facets of the global human crisis.

    First of all there are no separate crisis points, events they all originate from the same source and the all affect each other in today's global, integral system, where everything is interconnected and interdependent.

    And so far nobody actually tried to reveal and then cure the only problem that corrupts even the best intentions and best possible plans and actions.

    Our inherent human nature is utterly self-serving and egocentric, thus we are incapable of helping, serving others unconditionally at least not for the long term.
    This is the nature that derailed all previous civilizations, revolutions, social and economic systems, it turned modern democracy, freedom, free-market economy into oligarchy, social inequality and predictable collapse as markets and financial institutions decoupled from the actual people.

    Until we focus on re-programming ourselves, learning how to rise above our inherent nature in order to connect to each other and start mutually complementing collaboration instead of the present ruthless competition and exploitation, all our efforts will fail at the end.

    The vast amount of money poured into different "world saving" projects could initiate, found the necessary global, integral education program that is the only tool to adjust human nature in a benevolent manner, with positive motivation.

    Not the usual education, teaching how to grow crops, become good factory workers, or even highly skilled professionals, but how to become humane, how our future, problem solving solely depends on the strength and quality of connection in between people.
    We have to learn how to adapt ourselves into the closed, finite, global, integral world we exist in.

  12. CommentedMalcolm Versel

    The concept of DEVELOPMENT requires adjustments over time. One may well have superior plans, but environmental and human variables and parameters are ever-changing. To presume otherwise, especially in the context of an African village setting, would be illogical and lead to unexpected or unwelcome outcomes, including disappointment.

    During my four decades working in African development, I have witnessed many failed efforts. Most were preceded by substantial and careful planning, expert assessment and even some local consultation. How could these well-planned efforts have failed?

    Human socio-economic development requires that one understand that there is little homogeneity among the people; some will benefit more or derive benefits more quickly than others; some will not benefit at all, or at least not during phase I or phase II.

    Importantly, experienced development practitioners understand that expecting technical transformation or rapid adoption of technologies in less than a generation, perhaps two, borders on excessive hubris. As the education levels of a society rise, technological adoption may happen more quickly. In traditional settings, where people likely have little or no experience with modern technologies, the likelihood for rapid adoption and change is relatively small.

    The process of development may be lengthy, but it is important to adopt a consistent approach, tweak it as necessary and continue. If one is constantly changing approach or technique, the audience may be lost or disinclined to participate in further efforts.

    If Dr. Sachs believes the approaches he has launched are viable, he and his minions should stick with their efforts. Their consistent application of these changes may take some time to show the results that MVP's promoters hope to see.

  13. Portrait of Jeffrey D. Sachs

    CommentedJeffrey D. Sachs

    In his review of Nina Munk’s error-filled and out-of-date book, Bill Gates oddly abandons the rigorous approach to measurement and evaluation that defines his foundation’s invaluable work. He simply accepts Munk’s assertion that the Millennium Villages Project – an ongoing development project across more than 20 African countries – has failed. In fact, it is flourishing.

    This credulousness is puzzling. Munk’s book covers only a sliver of the first half of a ten-year project, and only two of 12 villages. And she never “lived for extended periods in the Millennium Villages.” Munk spent an average of around six days per year – around 36 days over six years – actually visiting the villages, and usually at a stretch of 2-3 days. Moreover, she came to the story as a reporter for the magazine Vanity Fair, with no training or experience in public health, agronomy, economics, or African development.

    Worse, Munk’s observations frequently seem to have been, at the very least, greatly exaggerated for narrative effect. Does Bill Gates really believe that I advocated specific crops without worrying about whether there was a market for them, or that I failed to consider national taxation in my ongoing advice to government leaders? Moreover, the agricultural strategies and choices in the MVP have been led by African agronomists, some of the very best in Africa – often working hand in hand with Bill’s own agricultural staff in the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

    Bill will be happy to know that the MVP will be properly and professionally evaluated next year – on time at its conclusion (and at the end of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015). The assessment will be based on the very considerable data that have been collected over the past decade, and on extensive new survey data that will be collected in 2015. Moreover, the evaluation will include comparisons with areas surrounding the Millennium Villages. In fact, I hope that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will help to carry out the detailed, independently supervised survey work needed for a full evaluation of this complex project.

    Let me provide some more good news, based on the detailed data on community health delivery, morbidity (disease), and mortality that the MVP collects each month. Mortality rates are down sharply in the Millennium Villages. In fact, the current evidence, to be examined in greater detail next year, suggests that the bold goal of reducing under-five mortality rates to below 30 deaths per 1,000 births has been achieved or is within reach by 2015, and at a remarkably low cost to the health system.

    Recently, one of the Gates Foundation’s senior staff members visited the Millennium Village site in northern Nigeria. Afterwards, he confirmed to me personally that he and his team were deeply impressed by what they saw of the Millennium Village health system in operation.

    So let me take this opportunity to reiterate a challenge that I have posed to Bill. He can pick any district in rural Africa, and our team will work with the local communities using the Millennium Village health approach to reduce the under-five mortality rate to below 30/1,000 – a rate characteristic of many middle-income countries – at an annual health-sector cost of just $60 per person. And we will do it in five years or less. That success, I believe, would help Bill and others to recognize the remarkable value of investing in low-cost rural health systems that follow the design principles of the Millennium Village Project.

    Finally, given concerns, shared by Bill, about the MVP’s sustainability and scalability, it is no small matter that host governments are strong advocates of the approach. These governments’ leaders have seen the Millennium Villages day in and day out over almost a decade. They are putting their own money and policies behind expanded implementation of the MVP’s guiding concepts.

    For example, Nigeria has used the MVP concepts for national-scale delivery of health and education services in all 774 of the country’s Local Government Areas. Governments across the region have taken over $100 million in financing from the Islamic Development Bank to scale up the MVP concepts themselves. Around a dozen countries are now starting or have approached the Millennium Village Project to help them start their own Millennium Villages. And the Pan African Youth Leadership Network, Africa’s own young people, recently visited the Millennium Village in Senegal, and requested the support of the MVP to expand the Millennium Village Project’s techniques and strategies in their home countries and regions.

    This spread of the Millennium Village approach throughout Africa shows that African political and community leaders consider the MVP’s methods, strategies, and systems to be highly useful in combating poverty in rural Africa. Nina Munk’s book is out of date and misses the mark. I invite Bill Gates to visit one or more Millennium Village sites on an upcoming trip to Africa to see first hand why the approach is of such practical interest across the continent.

      CommentedMoctar Aboubacar

      Prof. Sachs, this challenge of yours to M.r Gates is exactly the problem I was talking about. Who cares about villages?
      That you can improve under-5 mortality by focusing resources and expertise in one single region proves only that with enough money and time invested and under good management things tend to improve. Well, yes, we know that already; we don't need a whole new project to tell us this.

      I'm happy to read that other countries are convinced about the MV model and are taking it to scale; that doesn't say a thing about the successes of either the original villages or the scaled-up projects, and it does not say anything about their sustainability either.

      Look I am sure that there have been both great successes and failures in your project, but in spite of those we can't learn much from this if you are focusing myriad interventions at a small scale, without a large state coordinating role/integration into national policies plans and strategies, etc. I remain thoroughly unconvinced.

  14. CommentedJeremy Sobotta

    I could not agree more with the concerns Mr. Gates raised in his consideration of whether or not to invest. Therefore, I am a bit surprised that so many people are so quick to call the MVP a failure already. The kinds of shifts (cultural, economic, social, etc.) that are required to achieve the goals set out do not happen in years or decades - they happen in generations. While a relatively short-term capital injection did not, and probably will not ever, bring about the change the goals set out; if it sparked something in even 100,000 of the 500,000 people it set out to enrich, it could yet be a catalyst to reducing poverty.
    The bottom line message of this article of persistence and learning from adversity is what should be taken from MVP. Africa can be a very challenging place for outsiders trying to accomplish anything, and one projects efforts towards poverty reduction should not be judged so absolutely.

  15. CommentedMoctar Aboubacar

    Honestly, even if the MVP project was a spectacular success, it would still not give much insight into how to allocate aid money or how to 'do' development.
    What always got me about the millennium villages and the many imitations they spawned was the absence of integration into larger national level plans and strategies. No mention is made of that in this article, but it's another important matter. Even if all the outcomes of the villages were achieved, you would have proved little more than that with large injections of money into individual villages, you can lift people out of poverty. The whole premise does not strike me as particularly insightful.
    Far more interesting is how aid can help governments to create, not model villages, but model regions, model demographics, etc. bringing their own knowledge and resources to bear, augmented by foreign aid.
    The premise of those villages was flawed from the beginning- their success or failure does not particularly add to or detract from those flaws and the more substantive critique of Sachs view of aid.

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