2017 was a busy year in the world of infrastructure and public-private partnerships at the World Bank Group: from new knowledge products and tools, to innovations and success stories in places ranging from Peru and Ukraine, to Jordan, Pakistan, and Fiji. As we look at our top content that resonated most with you, our blog readers, we can categorize these posts into three broad categories:
Several years ago, after almost two decades at various investment banks, I joined the World Bank’s Financial Solutions team. I had always thought of the World Bank as the leading concessional lender to governments, the financial muscle behind large infrastructure projects, and the coveted supranational client of investment banks. I have since discovered the power of World Bank guarantees and how they can help borrowers maximize their World Bank country envelopes. Since joining, I have helped various clients raise over $2 billion in commercial finance. And all this with a fraction of World Bank exposure.
Recent World Bank investment climate surveys find that the top two constraints for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa are access to finance and access to energy. Given that SMEs contribute disproportionately to boosting job creation, GDP, and exports, addressing these two constraints is critical to promoting economic development on the continent.
A new project combining skills across the World Bank Group and IFC is taking advantage of disruptive advances in the energy and finance sectors to address these longstanding challenges for SMEs.
Current access to electricity remains woefully low and is a major impediment to economic growth. More than half of Africa’s population isn’t connected to the energy grid and has no access to reliable power. At the same time, fewer than 50% of adults have an account with a formal financial institution.
In recent years, however, two important developments have made it possible to begin addressing these challenges:
Off-grid energy solutions—notably solar power—have fallen dramatically in price with new business models working to scale them
New digital-based financing mechanisms, such as crowdfunding, cryptocurrencies, peer-to-peer lending, psychometric testing, big data, and blockchain have emerged as tools for under-served finance markets.
Bhutan is a challenging environment in which to develop commercial agriculture. The country has limited areas for agriculture, and its geography and road conditions make logistics and market access costly.
Therefore, commercial agriculture is critical to increase productivity, which will help create jobs and access to more and better food. This can be achieved not only through focusing on high-value products and investing in traditional infrastructure such as irrigation, but also through using information and communication technology (ICT). Based in eastern Bhutan, Mountain Hazelnuts has developed innovative uses of ICT for its commercial agriculture operations.
One of the great frustrations of top-down reform is that it rarely works out as planned.In the 58 years since independence, Senegal has undertaken public administration reform 68 times—and on 14 occasions public administration quality was specifically targeted, according to a new study. On the donors’ side, the country saw 27 projects costing over $11 billion between 1998 and 2008 that included public sector institutional reform.
With more jobs and competitiveness in mind, many economies worldwide have simplified their business start-up rules and regulations over recent years. Since the first Doing Business report was launched 15 years ago in 2003, a total of 626 national reforms that reduced the time and the costs of starting a business were recorded globally.
As Washington, D.C.’s infrastructure braces for its first winter freeze and 2017 draws to a close, this feels like the right moment for a recap on what the year has brought us in terms of closing the infrastructure gap across emerging markets and developing economies; policy directions within and outside of the World Bank Group; new instruments, tools, and resources; and—the proof in the pudding—actual investment levels.
There may not be one blog that can capture all of those themes in detail, but here is a brief overview of what 2017 has meant and what is on the docket for 2018 and beyond.
Growing up in Pakistan, I often wondered why boys were expected to become doctors or engineers while girls, including me, were encouraged to pursue teaching or home economics. So, when my cousin Sana became the first woman in my family to start a career in engineering, she also became my idol. But a few months later, my excitement soured when Sana quit her job halfway through her first pregnancy. Sana’s story, however, is not unique. Women make up less than 18 percent of Pakistan’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals. Traditional gender roles and lack of access to formal childcare often play a critical role in many women’s decisions to forgo STEM careers.
Tanzania is set towards becoming a middle-income country as the economy grew by an average of 6.5% per year in the past decade. The “Tanzania Development Vision (TDV) 2025” highlighted small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector as one important contributor to the country’s long-term development. It is estimated that Tanzania’s SME sector consists of more than 3 million enterprises which contribute to 27% of overall GDP. Most of them are in the agricultural sector, and more than half are owned by women.