What IFS?

16 Jul

Using software algorithms to predict the future, the good people at IFs (International Futures System) sent me some Ethiopian themed fortunes.  Actually, the good people at IFS is my friend from the Pardee Center at Korbel, and Ethiopian themed fortunes are a combination of fertility rates, HIV prevalence, education, and infrastructure data that are mathematically calibrated to give you pretty graphs:

Ooh, multiple population scenarios!

Ooh, multiple population scenarios!

The IFS software is used in some of the world’s most influential documents (lips are sealed) and works very similarly to the United Nations predictive algorithms, though we at Korbel like to think IFS is more accurate (more factors go into the system). It is a long-term predictive software that has been used on research from national security to rate of water conflict, to just a great source for international big data. Just for funsies, and because I’m a nerd, I asked my friend to pull up some Ethiopian data to give you all a broader look at the country, where my work fits in, and more international and sub-Saharan African trends.

As most people in this field know, the population of Africa is set to grow at the highest rate than any other region in the world over the next 5o years. That means that by 2050, 1 in 4 people of the world’s population will be African. What drives this growth? A myriad of factors, but mostly high fertility rates on the continent, with sub-saharan Africa having some of the highest in the world. Interestingly, the correlation between fertility rates and female education is clear (more education means less babies), and as these nations (Ethiopia included) work towards the Millennial Development goals you will see fertility rates drop:

Fertility rates through 2009

A significant drop over the past decade

Of course, right now, all these babies mean a pretty sizable youth bulge in the population distribution. And for anyone following the news, youth bulges, especially unemployed youth bulges, tend to be the foundation for revolution (see Egypt, Tunisia, Syria).







It also means that the largest segment of society will in theory be at their most productive age over the next few decades. The question is whether that talent will be wasted in a one-sided economy (agriculture makes up 85% of the workforce here) or if innovation and job creation will be fostered.  The private sector is one of the smallest in Africa, with stringent national laws allowing only majority Ethiopian owned enterprises to be registered. That’s one of the reasons that even in a big city like Addis you don’t see worldwide chains that you might see in Nairobi or Amman.  It’s the “import substitution” mentality of 1980s Latin America applied to small business growth… and it’s a bet I wouldn’t have made. We will see if it works in the long run, though history tends to say otherwise.

Ethiopia’s infrastructure is also leaps and bounds behind the rest, and the communal good is really slowing down growth. Rainy season all but kills export in some areas of the country when the roads are impassable. Though Chinese investment, specifically in road construction, has been ramped up over the years. It’s a tenuous relationship, the local perception of the Chinese investment here is less than positive even if the photo ops say otherwise. Though Addis Ababa is slated to be home to Africa’s tallest building soon with help from a Chinese construction company.

But that’s enough graphs for now…  the broad trends are interesting even when I’m working at the most rootiest of grassroots levels.

4 Responses to “What IFS?”

  1. Hanna C. July 16, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

    You forecaster you! This is really fun to see.

    How’s life, Sarah!? I’m actually in South Africa at the moment, maybe one day with multiple fingers crossed, several hours’ travel and a ton of luck I could see you in Ethiopia.

    • sarahjcrozier July 17, 2013 at 11:19 am #

      I would LOVE for you to come visit Ethiopia! I may or may not be down the in Cape Town area next April (Africa Burning Man anyone?) if you’re still around too. Keep me updated!

  2. Victoria July 16, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    Wow- thanks for sharing! The fertility rate graph is incredible. These graphs provide insight into the demographics of the groups you are working with and the impact of your work.

    Love this blog, keep ’em coming 🙂

    • sarahjcrozier July 17, 2013 at 11:18 am #

      Thanks lady! Send me your update post graduation!

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