A solid business environment can help fragile states rebuild (Credit: World Bank)
One and a half billion people live in areas affected by fragility, conflict or large-scale organized criminal violence. Their hope at a better life is often marred by the realities that exist around them. It is indeed a vicious cycle as one of the findings from the Word Bank’s World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security and Development, confirms that lack of economic opportunities and high unemployment are key sources of fragility.
However, it is not completely hopeless in fragile states. Our work in the World Bank Group shows us daily that a favorable business environment in which entrepreneurs are enabled provides an opportunity for people to escape poverty. The key question is-- how can we build a solid business environment in fragile states to ensure strong private sector-led growth?
With as many as 12 million mobile phone users, mobile is booming in Afghanistan (Credit: USAID, Flickr Creative Commons)
Afghanistan has made significant progress in its development since 2001. Yet, these achievements remain fragile due to a volatile security situation and limited human capacity. Of an estimated 30 million inhabitants, 46 percent is under the age of 15 and with high population growth, the country is experiencing a classic youth bulge. In addition, literacy rates remain at extremely low levels (approximately 43% for men and 12% for women).
Local businesses can create jobs in Pakistan's conflict areas (Credit: Zerega, Flickr)
How can you effectively support areas shaken by years of regional instability? The Western border areas of Pakistan are one such region, where a 2009 insurgency and subsequent military operations in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) led to one of the worst crises in the country's history. More than 2 million people were forced to leave their homes and considerable damage was caused to physical and social infrastructure. The unprecedented floods of 2010 only made the situation worse.
Public-private partnerships can help rebuild post-conflict countries for future generations. (Credit: EU Humanitarian Aid, Flickr Creative Commons)
According to the numbers, the prospects for post-conflict countries are dim. Half of the world’s poor live in conflict-affected countries, a percentage expected to climb over 80 by 2025. They can also look forward to lower economic growth rates—a reduction of up to three percent for every year of conflict. And sustained peace is hardly a sure thing—a United Nations-World Bank report famously says that post-conflict countries have a 50 percent chance slipping back into war within 10 years. With stats like these, it’s tempting to write off the future of any country that’s had a shooting war in recent years.