Growth poles can help create jobs for Africa's one billion citizens (Credit: World Bank)
We were asked the other day by our senior management to be outrageously aspirational when we engage with growth poles. I have been reflecting on what this means for our work on this topic in Africa, especially in light of the findings of the Africa Competitiveness Report. I think we need to be aspirational in three broad directions: (i) developing the capacity to get things done in Africa, (ii) ensuring all stakeholders benefit from growth, and (iii) mobilizing as much capital as we can, whether it be private, philanthropic or public.
How can countries create 600 million jobs for its citizens?
As the World Bank convenes its Spring Meetings in Washington this week to discuss the state of international development, the question on everyone’s mind is: How to restart growth and create jobs?
Job creation on an unprecedented scale is needed to avoid severe social dislocation: About 22 million jobs were lost worldwide during the global financial crisis – at a time when many developing countries face an explosion in their working-age population. According to the Bank’s “World Development Report 2013,” 600 million jobs need to be created in the next 15 years just to maintain current employment rates.
In geometry, three points define a plane. In journalism, three events establish a trend. In public policy, three strategy forums might not conclusively confirm a consensus – but a recent think-tank trifecta suggests that a dramatic change is taking shape in the policy community’s thinking about economic competitiveness.
Thrice in recent weeks, activist strategies to inspire innovation and growth have been the front-and-center topic in major policy conferences – suggesting that an energetic new Competitiveness Consensus, applicable to developing and developed countries alike, is emerging among economic thought-leaders.
Judging by the three forums, not just academic scholars, but policymakers and lawmakers, now seem eager to apply the lessons from a slew of analyses advocating industry-focused and productivity-driven growth strategies, taking pragmatic steps to invest in stronger competitiveness. In a global economy starved for growth and desperate for job creation, the focus on activist policies – including targeted interventions at the industry level – is relevant to countries large and small, developed and developing.
In the wake of the first global recession since World War II, governments around the world are looking for ways to boost growth and competitiveness. Given the fragility of the business and economic climate—and strained public coffers—the responsibility to get policy right is acute. But can public policy makers improve on their hit and miss record of intervention in the past? I would pick out three useful lessons that we have learned, often the hard way:
■ Don’t focus on single industries in the hope of “picking winners.”: Governments need to take a broad-based, inclusive approach to growth, particularly if a key aim is the creation of jobs. Large domestic service sectors that are labor-intensive are creating all net new jobs in high-income economies and 85 percent in middle-income countries. Don’t get me wrong. New technologies can have a transformational impact beyond their particular sectors, enabling future productivity improvements and growth—think IT. But it is the low-tech green jobs in local services, such as improving building insulation and replacing obsolete heating and cooling equipment, that have a greater potential for creating jobs in the near term.
One of the year’s largest conferences focusing on international development, European Development Days (EDDs) will be convened by the European Commission this week in Brussels, bringing together about 6,000 development professionals to discuss the theme, “Supporting inclusive and sustainable growth for human development.” A large contingent from the World Bank Group will take part in the array of EDDs panels and seminars – many of them to be livestreamed – on such topics as the global food crisis, environmental sustainability and resilience, women’s entrepreneurship and inclusive urbanization.
How can we spur competitive industries? Tune in Saturday, October 13 at 10:30 JST to hear from Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala , Minister of Finance, Nigeria; Hideto Nakahara, Senior Executive Vice President, Mitsubishi Corp.; Byron Auguste, Social Sector Practice Global Leader, McKinsey & Co. and others.
With the global economy struggling to rebound from the prolonged financial crisis, the world’s policymakers are now assembling in Tokyo for crucial policy discussions at the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Yet the chronic crisis may lead to new opportunities, if it provokes policymakers to re-think and recalibrate how they approach the challenge of competitiveness, growth and job creation.
Success doesn’t just happen automatically – not in the economy, and not in any competitive arena of life. But by focusing your resources realistically in the areas of your greatest strength, you can maximize your chances of coming out on top. Perhaps in some long-vanished world of effortless monopolies and protected markets, passivity might once have been enough – but in a world of relentless global competition, a lazy laissez-faire abdication cannot deliver optimal results.
That lesson has come through clearly amid these elegiac end-of-summer days, as the world continues to bask in the Olympic afterglow of the Summer Games in London. The games lifted the spirits of sports-watchers worldwide – and the postgame analysis of just how the host country, Great Britain, ran up its highest medal count in 104 years has provoked some intriguing ideas about creating an “Olympic effect” for economic development.
The World Bank is actively expanding its portfolio in the world’s most troubled conflict zones. This invites the question: What can the Bank accomplish in countries riven by conflict? I would flip this question around and ask: What steps are needed by the country to rebuild itself?
Whenever I have asked in-country practitioners (whether Bank staff or local NGOs or journalists) what the country really needs, the answer I have heard most often has been: “Jobs.” Get them good jobs, higher incomes, and break the vicious trap of poverty and violence, is the common refrain.
Economic development succeeds best when public policy and the private sector work in harmony, not at cross-purposes. That’s the idea at the heart of the efforts by two former Chief Economists of the World Bank, Justin Lin and Joseph E. Stiglitz, to promote a renewed embrace of Industrial Policy, as Tuesday’s blog post described. Exploring their ideas on how activist government policies can help shape development, their recent International Economic Association (IEA) roundtable and forum at the Bank was a reminder that there are many variations on the Industrial Policy theme.
Industrial Policy practitioners, learning from experience, have adjusted many of their old tactics and techniques. Using a modernized, market-sensitive policy toolkit, a promising new approach is now being implemented by the Competitive Industries Practice within the Bank’s Financial and Private Sector Development Network.
A daunting development challenge will confront us for the next decade: More than 1 million jobs per month – every month, for a decade or more – will need to be created to raise the living standards of the 2.6 billion who live on less than $2 per day, and the billions who will soon try to enter the paid workforce amid one of the greatest demographic surges in human history. Job creation in the public sector is expected to be flat, at best, so most of the needed jobs will have to be created by the private sector. But how?
Focusing on the macroeconomic agenda is necessary but insufficient. Most countries have rolled out macro-level reforms, but policymakers increasingly argue that the macro policy agenda must be complemented by targeted growth programs focusing on specific industries and value chains. Policymakers urgently seek practical solutions to meet the job-creation challenge.
India’s economic growth rate in the past decade has been nothing short of spectacular. With its GDP growth around 7 to 9 percent per year, India is the second-fastest-growing large economy in the world. However, the country’s manufacturing sector accounts for a dismal 17 percent of its employment opportunities, as compared to 60 percent in agriculture and 23 percent in services.This summer, the World Bank’s Indian Visiting Scholars Program* invited two leading academics from Harvard University to visit India and to articulate potential pathways to sustain the country’s growth trajectory. These 2 scholars are Ricardo Hausmann, Professor of Economic Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and Director of Harvard’s Center of International Development and Dani Rodrik, Professor of International Political Economy at the Kennedy School. While there, they interacted with the private sector and key policymakers, including senior officials of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, the Planning Commission, and the Ministry of Finance.
With a view to assessing the practical implications of the Growth Identification and Facilitation framework (GIFF) (*for more on this, see the bottom of this post) in a concrete country case, Justin Yifu Lin and I are preparing a draft paper applying the framework to Nigeria. The paper (which is expected to be published shortly) identifies as appropriate comparator countries for Nigeria: China, Vietnam, India and Indonesia. The key sectors that are identified by the paper are TV receivers, motorcycles and motor vehicle parts, fertilizers, tires, vegetable oil, meat, meat products and poultry, leather, palm oil and rice, telecommunications, wholesale and retail and construction. Our key recommendation for Nigeria is to address power shortages in a targeted manner through Independent Power Plants located in industrial zones, as well as create other enabling conditions, e.g. through subsidized access to finance and promotion of research and development (agriculture). In the area of trade policy, the government could pre-commit to reducing tariffs over a period of years and at the same time to creating a set of enabling conditions that would obviate the need for tariff protection. That way, significant incentives would be in place for the private sector to lobby the relevant government agencies to keep up their commitment to addressing these constraints. Before finalizing the paper, I visited Nigeria to meet with a range of industries that had been identified by the paper as possible target sectors and better understanding their business prospects and constraints, as well as meet with senior government officials to gauge their reaction to the proposed framework.