This week, the World Bank launched a global conversation on social media centered around a question: what it will take to end poverty? People from around the world have begun responding using the hashtags #whatwillittake and #ittakes.
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.
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?
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.
Football players from across East and Central Africa will gather in the Ugandan capital of Kampala on September 21 and 22 to take part in the finals of the Great Lakes Peace Cup, a tournament organized to help former combatants – many of them abducted child soldiers – become part of their communities through the healing power of sport.
The Great Lakes Peace Cup is being organised by the World Bank’s Transitional Development and Reintegration Program (TDRP), and the government amnesty and reintegration commissions of the four competing countries.
What will it take …to improve your life? …for your children to be better off? …for mothers to be healthy? …for all to get a good education? …to end poverty? More than 1.3 billion people around the globe live on less than $1.25 a day. Fighting poverty in times of crisis may be challenging, but we can’t take our eyes off the most vulnerable.
As we drive along the semi-paved roads leading out of Juba, I wonder somewhat despondently how this one-year-old country that has been so deeply affected by conflict can prosper and grow with a literacy rate of just 27 percent. When we reach our destination—a tiny school that caters to poor children who are orphaned or with no family support, we are greeted by a loud welcome song. Children chant in a colorfully decorated hut led by a swaying young teacher whose baby sleeps peacefully on her back.
The vibe in the hut energizes me, and I begin to realize what the resilience of this nation is all about. Some of the facts in a new report on education in South Sudan start to come alive to me. This country has come a long way within a short period of time, but still has a very long way to go to catch up with the rest of Africa. Some of the children in this hut are among the 700,000 more students who were able to enroll in school between 2005 and 2009.
At a fishing enclave called Baie des Anges on Guinea Conakry's Atlantic coast, the country's development challenges are laid bare. In this make-shift settlement shrouded with blue tarpaulins and weighted down with stones and old tires, families battle the constant threat of flooding while they struggle to make a living from fish they smoke on cinder-block stoves. For the poor people of Guinea, better times can't come fast enough.
The statistics are tough to read. Here in Guinea, it rains for six months a year and yet drinking water is hard to find. The country has some of the world’s largest deposits of bauxite and iron ore, and still one in two people lives in grinding poverty. And it’s getting worse. The poverty rate has jumped from 53% of the population in 2007 to more than 55% in 2012. Blessed with some of Africa’s most significant agricultural and hydro-electric potential, few homes outside downtown Conakry have power at night unless they run generators; and food is often in short supply.
I joined the World Bank’s Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, on a recent trip to Guinea where he held development talks with the President, Professor Alpha Condé, the Prime Minister, Mohamed Said Fofana, Cabinet Ministers, and local business leaders. In his discussions Diop was optimistic about the country’s development future and its potential to tackle its energy shortages, boost its agriculture production, and use its rich mining resources to transform the economy and development prospects of some of Africa's poorest people.
On the occasion of International Literacy Day, World Bank President Jim Kim talks about the World Bank's Education Strategy 2020, and its role in promoting literacy and achieving universal learning.
Never mind that it is drizzling throughout the opening ceremony, forcing many people under a undulating roof of red, green, blue, and pink umbrellas. The re-opening of Cote d’Ivoire’s leading university here in Abidjan’s Cocody district, after its closure two years ago because of the long political crisis which culminated in the disputed results of the 2010 presidential election, isn’t going to be deterred by the last fading days of the rainy season. Academics in their green robes sit good naturedly under tents. Student reps wait nervously by the entranceway for Cote d’Ivoire’s President Ouattara to arrive. The music is loud and exuberant. The place is humming with expectation and excitement. It’s a new start for higher education.
The government has been planning for this moment for the last eight months, hiring legions of workmen, builders, and gardeners to refurbish the old University of Cocody, one of Africa’s longest-running and best-known tertiary institutes which opened before the country won its independence in 1960.