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Let’s Turn the Lights on Across Africa

Makhtar Diop's picture

I’m in Tokyo this week for the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings and on Friday I will open the Bank’s global conference to look more closely at the serious energy challenge facing Africa.

Consider this stunning fact―only 1 in 3 Africans has access to electricity on the continent.

And that is why too little electricity is one of the biggest challenges I see standing in the way of Africa achieving steadily higher growth rates, better education for its children and teenagers, good quality health services that work, farms and agribusinesses that can grow enough cheap nutritious food for Africans to eat, just to name some of the transformational priorities which can happen when we turn the lights on across Africa.

I confess I am passionate about lighting up homes, schools, businesses, clinics, libraries, and parliaments across the continent. As a child growing up in Senegal, I knew first-hand about power shortages. More power for Africans will allow them to transform their living standards and turn the continent’s growth into tangible benefits for all.

Energy security is a key priority for my work as World Bank Vice President for Africa, and my team is moving ahead relentlessly to put power infrastructure in place to plug regional communities into cross-border power pools, more irrigated land to grow food and create jobs, galvanize more trade and commerce within the region, and to unlock all the other development potential that electrical power makes possible.

The Reality About the Land Grab Issue and the World Bank Group

Rachel Kyte's picture

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Today in Tokyo, on the side of our annual meetings where food security is a major issue being discussed, I had a few minutes to join Oxfam's session about land in developing countries.

I made the point that one of the best ways to help manage pressure on land is through the Bank Group's staying engaged in agriculture, working to build good practices and capacity in countries to manage investments better. As a result, we are saying no to Oxfam's call for a freeze on our work.

In fact we have ramped up our investments in agriculture in recent years, helping smallholders increase productivity, reduce waste, and get clear land tenure, and we want to do more.  It was reassuring to hear from Oxfam directly that the Bank is not the primary target of their efforts. That's good because the vast majority of our agricultural investments help poor farmers grow food and involve no land purchase.

Who’s writing what in the ‘Knowledge Bank’? And is it being used?

Adam Wagstaff's picture

An organization with ‘motor company’ in its name might produce several types of vehicle (cars, trucks, etc.) in several variations (models) at several different plants, and might sell these vehicles in several different regions of the world. The company wouldn’t last long if it didn’t know how many of each model – and at what cost – it was producing in each plant, and how many – and at what price – it was selling in each region. In the World Bank – where we like to think of ourselves as the ‘knowledge bank’ – we produce several types of document in several vice presidencies (VPUs) and we make them available in hard copy and in electronic format in all regions of the world. Yet as far as I know we don’t systematically track how many of each document type each VPU produces, let alone how successful each is in terms of sales and downloads. We have these data for World Bank books, but they’re a small fraction of our overall document output.

The lack of data ought to make it hard to think about how the institution might do things differently in its knowledge work to serve developing countries better. What type of Bank documents are produced most? And which are used most? Which VPUs are the big producers of knowledge? Which document types are downloaded most? Which VPUs produce the most downloaded documents?

How do we manage the environment without compromising efforts to reduce poverty?

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture

I always say, environmental management is woven into something bigger, much bigger than simply saying “Let’s do some good, let’s not pollute.” For me, it’s a question of how we encourage the development boom underway in Africa today, while still keeping our eyes focused on environmental management.

Photo credit: Jonathan Ernst/World BankIn the World Bank’s Africa Region, we are working on the belief that we can find a way to support sustainable development that combines the least amount of environmental damage with the best desirable outcome possible.  Put simply, we can “green” growth and make it more inclusive. 

The way to do this is to weave environment into all development programs. We believe that development is key to reducing poverty and improving livelihoods in Africa.

For example, let’s say that you are planning to build a really big road going through a national park. This is an opportunity for all stakeholders, government officials, community members, donors, NGOs, and others to gather and ask themselves not just how this road will improve economic growth, but what is the future of this national park? Will this road provide poachers with new access to pristine woodlands and endangered wildlife?

In a new report, "Enhancing Competitiveness and Resilience in Africa", we lay out a new approach to environmental management that makes it the core of everything we do. This means that when we think about a project or program in any sector, we also think about how it will impact the environment.

Football helps to heal the scars of war

Chantal Rigaud's picture
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Young men from four formerly war-torn African countries put years of conflict and hardship behind them last weekend as they played each other in the finals of the Great Lakes Peace Cup.

I did not expect Burundi to win, but they did! And what a beautiful victory it was. The team came from Bubanza, a small town about an hour north of Burundi’s capital Bujumbura. The players had journeyed more than 18 hours by bus, including about three hours to cross the border into Uganda.

Compelling Ideas at the UN: Energy, Health, Education and #whatwillittake

Jim Yong Kim's picture

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UNITED NATIONS | It has been a week of inspiring ideas and action plans at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. I met with a number of world leaders, including Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. We talked about the importance of creating jobs for ex-combatants, the pressing need for more energy sources, and more. You can hear my thoughts on our meeting in the video below.

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Tracking withdrawals from the ‘Knowledge Bank’

Adam Wagstaff's picture

As I reported in my last post, Jim Kim’s arrival as World Bank President has reinvigorated the debate about the idea of the World Bank being a ‘knowledge bank’. In the post, I argued that the knowledge produced by the Bank – whether gleaned from its lending operations, or from its research and other analytic work – is a global public good, and that we should therefore assess the success of the institution in its knowledge work not in terms of how specific ‘client’ governments value the outputs of its knowledge work but rather in terms of how people around the world use and value them.

A Question Going Global: What Will It Take to End Poverty?

Jim Yong Kim's picture

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It’s not every day that you see a video in the back of a New York City taxicab asking people to tweet about ending global poverty. Though the most recent data tell us that global poverty has been declining, it’s shocking that some 1.3 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day.

That's half the amount of the base fare of a taxicab ride in Manhattan. It's not right.

The taxicab video, which is airing this week during the UN General Assembly, is part of a new conversation we’ve launched at the World Bank. We’re asking a simple question: What will it take to end poverty?

So what exactly is a “knowledge bank”?

Adam Wagstaff's picture

Unsurprisingly, with the recent arrival of a new president fresh from the groves of academia, the halls and meeting rooms of the World Bank are buzzing once again with talk of the “Knowledge Bank” or KB for short. But what exactly is a “knowledge bank”?

To my mind the paper that pins the idea down best is “Positioning the World Bank” by Chris Gilbert, Andrew Powell and David Vines in the Economic Journal in 1999.

Knowledge as a public good
Gilbert & Co argue that knowledge about best-practice development is a global public good – the entire world stands to benefit from it, even though some may benefit from it more than others. Given the public good character of global knowledge on development, too little of it would appear if production were left to the free market.


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