As World Bank Managing Director Caroline Anstey said in her remarks at last Thursday’s event on women in the private sector, women make up nearly 50 percent of the world’s population. Despite this, they are only 40.8 percent of the formal global labor market. This gap represents a vast economic potential that could have the power to create jobs, drive economic growth and transform the global economy as we currently know it—shaky, stagnant and according to some of the data, in recession.
PRETORIA, South Africa - I have to admit it. I’m a bit of a development junkie. For most of my adult life, I’ve been reading thick tomes describing the success or failure of projects. I talk to friends over dinner about development theory. And I can’t stop thinking about what I believe is the biggest development question of all: How do we most effectively deliver on our promises to the poor?
So you can imagine how excited I was to have a day full of meetings with South Africa’s foremost experts on development: the country's ministers of finance, economic development, health, basic education, water and environmental affairs, and rural development and land reform - and then with President Jacob Zuma.
I chose to travel to South Africa as part of my first overseas trip as president of the World Bank Group because of the country’s great importance to the region, continent, and the world. It is the economic engine of Africa, and its story of reconciliation after apartheid is one of the historic achievements of our time.
ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire – At a jobs training center in this key capital city in West Africa, a young man showed me his newfound skills as an electrician. At a workshop, light bulbs flickered on and off. And then he told me something really important:
“It’s been 10 years since I graduated with my secondary school degree, and because of our conflict, I have never held a job. So this is a blessing to me,” said the young trainee. “But my brothers and sisters and so many people haven’t had this opportunity. I wonder how they can get jobs, too.”
As a boy growing up in Africa, I always assumed that every country had its own airline. To me, a national airline was just another way a country defined itself, along with its flag, national anthem, and currency. Ghana Airways, which my family often flew (we lived in Kumasi), was a perfect example, with the red, gold and green colors of its national flag painted on every plane. They looked proud and elegant, a perfect symbol of statehood.
I met Roselynd Laubhouet in 2004 when, as a recent graduate, she accepted an assignment as a Junior Professional Associate with the World Bank's Africa Region in Washington, D.C. From day one, it was evident that Roselynd was special. Being an entrepreneur at heart, she was filled with dreams, aspirations, and a passion for her home country of Senegal (and her continent) that set her apart.
When Roselynd and I reconnected in Abidjan last December, eight years after our first meeting, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only had she moved home to Senegal, but she had also started a successful international business. The journey from bureaucrat to entrepreneur was not easy, but it was clear that--having returned home--Roselynd was realizing her dreams.
I was curious to learn the secrets of her success, to understand the challenges facing returnees, and gather any advice for other Africans in the Diaspora considering a return. Roselynd was kind enough to share her experiences with me in the hopes that other young women in the Diaspora might be inspired to follow in her footsteps.
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This year marks two especially significant milestones in sustainable development: the 20th anniversary of the United Nations’ Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the 25th anniversary of the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future.
How far have we come since the concept of sustainable development was elevated to the global policy agenda? To put it simply, not far enough....
Read this post in Bahasa.
Last week the World Bank launched a new approach to fostering green innovation called the Indonesia Green Innovation Pilot Program. Its aim is to learn how open innovation principles can foster the generation of market-based solutions to clean energy. A core team of designers (Catapult and Inotek) will work with rural communities, the public and private sectors to design clean energy solutions that can be adopted by the market. Keeping in line with open innovation, its first activity is to identify challenges or “problems” that will be addressed by the program through a crowdsourcing approach. So if you are in any way familiar with rural communities and energy issues in Indonesia, the program invites you to submit a challenge here until March 17.
But, if you think coming up with the kind of technology required to tackle climate change will require something akin to a Manhattan Project, rest assured, you're not alone. Googling "climate change" and "manhattan project" returns a whopping 1,540,000 results. But what does creating a "Manhattan Project" really mean? Besides uncomfortable thoughts of human-inflicted destruction, sheer scale is the first thing that comes to my mind. At its peak, during World War II, the US government employed 130,000 people in the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. The project's size together with several other features made it a classic case of what I would call "brute-force innovation": it was centrally-planned, closed, and science-driven. Even though the project included research teams across different universities, public research labs and companies across the United States, nothing was leaked in or out and each team had a very specific assigned task and plan. Through the Manhattan Project the government spearheaded the research, developed, testing and deployment of a revolutionary technology from start to finish over a span of four years. And there were no startups, spin-offs, royalty incentives, public-private-partnerships, venture capitalists, crowdsourcing, first-mover advantage, standard-setting or IPOs. Basically none of the buzzwords we associate with disruptive innovation in the 21st Century.
I spent a great couple of days earlier this week with representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs) from around the world who are members of our World Bank – Civil Society Consultative Group on Health, Nutrition, and Population. When it was launched earlier this year, we envisioned the consultative group as a forum for CSOs and our Bank-wide health team to share perspectives and discuss frankly any concerns we may have about our respective work in health, nutrition, and population, and to learn from one another. So it’s exciting to see this group beginning to move from theory to action.
I was at the Climate Investment Funds meetings in Cape Town last week with several other representatives from development banks, NGOs and governments to discuss results, impacts and the future of this financial mechanism. One of many themes cutting across meetings in Cape Town was the importance and challenge of engaging the private sector in climate finance. The private sector is by far the largest source of investment, the dominant provider of technology, and often essential for implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures. However, based on the discussions this week, it’s apparent there is much to learn about what is actually expected or sought from the business community. Here are some of my observations from the meeting:
- In my experience references to “the” private sector are common but largely meaningless and often confusing in failing to distinguish between entities as different as major multinational manufacturers, international financiers, and locally- based entrepreneurs. Some speakers even used the term more broadly to encompass markets, including policies directed at consumers.
- There are some unavoidable tensions between emphasizing country plans and priorities and the promotion of markets for climate-friendly products and services. This is particularly true in smaller and poorer countries. Control of donor resources is fundamental for many governments but sometimes difficult to reconcile with the flexibility, consistency, and speed required by investors. Public-private partnerships (the focus of a Cape Town session) is one solution but not always appropriate or workable. Finding models which can blend the two, as in the collaborative IFC/World Bank Lighting Africa project, will be increasingly important. The World Bank was able to build a relationship with energy ministries while IFC focused on helping businesses. Together, they have been able to address a wide range of issues from regulatory systems to that of supply chain development.