Bangkok, Thailand — November 25, 2011: A flooded factory in the Nava Nakorn Industrial Estate at Pathumthani.
Photo @ photonewman
“No one can tackle climate change alone.” Those words, by Abdelouahed Fikrat, General Secretary of the Moroccan Ministry of Environment, aptly summarized the challenge that we face today in dealing with climate change. He made that declaration at the recent Dialogue for Climate Action event in Vienna, organized by The World Bank Group and the Government of Austria on May 24 and 25.
The Vienna event marked the launch of six Principles on Dialogue for Climate Action — a set of tenets aimed at guiding businesses and governments as they embark on productive conversations on how to cooperate effectively to fight climate change.
The World Bank Group and 12 international partners got together to collaboratively formulate the six principles: Inclusion, Urgency, Awareness, Efficiency, Transparency and Accountability.
In endorsing the principles and signing on to the Community of Practice (CoP) for Dialogue for Climate Action, Fikrat said, “The principles of dialogue launched at this event hold potential to contribute significantly to the COP 22 agenda and offer a tool to policymakers for engaging the private sector. We need to build on the current momentum to speed up the implementation of concrete actions.”
The tone for the event was set by Dimitris Tsitsiragos, Vice President of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), who stressed in his keynote address that “stopping the catastrophic impact of climate change requires urgent, comprehensive and ongoing public-private dialogue”.
Dialogue for Climate Action in Practice
So what does this mean in practice? How do we avoid pursuing a dialogue that is devoid of action? There is significant pressure on all actors to avoid “post-Paris blues” and stagnation. There is also a need to avoid actions in a vacuum, where everyone is doing something but without cohesion and coordination.
The six principles for climate action are based on the premise that all actors, working together, will create greater results. Bangladesh PaCT (Partnership for Cleaner Textiles), a project managed by the World Bank Group, makes a strong case for that approach. The project, which was launched in 2013, aims to introduce cleaner, more environment-friendly production methods in the textile sector, and dialogue is a key pillar of its project design.
At a recent European Commission SME Envoy meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia, the European group responsible for advising on policy and strategic directions for SME support in the EU discussed options for the way forward.
Battered by continued anemic growth since the 2008 global financial crisis, hit with a flood of Middle Eastern refugees, and (in early June) facing the possibility of Brexit, the mood was anything but upbeat and the future of “Project Europe” seemed to hang in the balance.
, account for 60% of jobs in many countries, and supply as much as 50% to national income. All of this makes SMEs’ contribution to the economy crucial. Yet, since the financial crisis, banks in many countries haven’t managed to bring their SME lending portfolios back up to pre-crisis levels. Many are deleveraging out of riskier lending such as SME loans. Venture capital in Europe remains well below its levels of 8 years ago. And SME capital markets and SME securitization of loans continue to be severely battered by the continent’s ongoing economic malaise.
Globally, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up 95 percent of all businesses, employ 70 percent of the workforce, and are frequently argued to be the “missing link” between growth and inclusiveness. In the words of Anabel Gonzalez, Senior Director of the World Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness (T&C) Global Practice, SMEs hold the potential to be “an engine of growth and employment,” but “they face hurdles in competing in domestic and international markets.”
Marion Jansen, Chief Economist of the International Trade Centre, shared her insights on this question in April, when she presented ITC’s new SME Competitiveness Outlook at the inaugural event of a new learning series organized by the Investment Climate Applied Research team. Drawing on the input of thought leaders, case studies and detailed country profiles, the report’s framework organizes relevant micro-, meso-, and macro-data from well-known sources (including the Bank Group’s Enterprise Surveys) along three pillars — connect, compete and change — illustrating that advancements in SME competitiveness must cut across three layers: the firm’s own capabilities, the immediate business environment, and the broader national environment (from customs tariffs to the efficiency of government procedures).
While it is common knowledge that SMEs are far less internationalized than large firms, the report finds that access to information about export opportunities is the Number One bottleneck that SMEs face. By both mapping out new export markets for a country’s existing exportable products and identifying the top products with diversification potential, the report provides an interesting combination of trade-potential analysis and SME policy guidance.
Indonesia, for example, was found to hold unrealized export potential for tin, rubber and palm oil within the Asia Pacific region, while the SME analysis showed that firm-level constraints were the main factors holding back local SMEs eager to capitalize on these opportunities. Moreover, an analysis of Colombia revealed that the country has not been realizing its full export potential to OECD countries. The main issues for Colombian SMEs appear to be less related to firm-level constraints than related to the general investment climate — in particular, in terms of customs efficiency.
We all know by now that there is a distinction between the majority of small firms in developing countries that fail to expand beyond a few employees (‘survivalists’) and a small group of high-performance firms (‘gazelles’) that experience rapid growth (Nichter & Goldmark, 2009). In fact, in developing countries, the productivity gap between large firms and SMEs is double that observed in developed countries. Closing that gap could yield large payoffs that are more likely to reach the bottom of the income pyramid. The argument is that, because SMEs are, on average, less productive than large firms, employees are paid lower wages. To remedy this situation and help elevate those at the bottom of the pyramid, the development community in the past decade has committed billions of dollars worldwide to support SMEs.
Source: Jansen, M., 2016: “SME Competitiveness Outlook 2015.” Presentation at the World Bank.
Members of the World Bank Group’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship team – along with two of the entrepreneurs supported by the team (with their affiliations in parentheses) – at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. From left to right: Temitayo Oluremi Akinyemi, Loren Garcia Nadres, Natasha Kapil, Kenia Mattis (ListenMi Caribbean), Ganesh Rasagam, Charity Wanjiku (Strauss Energy), Komal Mohindra, Ellen Olafsen.
What do you picture when you hear of new technologies and hot startups? Perhaps a trendy office space overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and tech moguls from San Francisco? Well, think again.
At the recent Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Silicon Valley — an annual event hosted by President Barack Obama and attended by nearly 700 entrepreneurs — one message came across clearly: Great ideas come from anywhere. And, increasingly, they’re coming from talented entrepreneurs who are overcoming the odds in cities like Nairobi, Kenya or Kingston, Jamaica.
Increasing internet and mobile-phone access is bringing new opportunities to young entrepreneurs from developing countries. More than 40 percent of the world’s population now has access to the internet and, among the poorest 20 percent of households, nearly 7 out of 10 have a mobile phone.
Businesses that can take advantage of the widespread use of digital technologies are growing at double-digit rates — in Silicon Valley, as well as in emerging markets. Ground-breaking technologies and business ideas are flourishing across the world, and a new, more global generation of tech entrepreneurs is on the rise.
The potential impact — economic and social — is significant. Entrepreneurs have a powerful ability to create jobs, drive innovation and solve challenges, particularly in developing economies, where technology can address old inefficiencies in key sectors like energy, transport and education.
“[I]n our era, everybody here understands that new ideas can evolve anywhere, at any time. And they can have an impact anywhere,” said John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State. “In my travels as Secretary, I have been absolutely amazed by the groundbreaking designs I’ve seen, by the ideas being brought to life everywhere — sometimes where you least expect it. By the men and women striking out to create new firms with an idea of both turning a profit as well as improving their communities.”
But for many of the brightest minds in developing countries, entrepreneurship is not an easy path.
As President Obama said during the Summit: “It turns out that starting your own business is not easy. You have to have access to capital. You have to meet the right people. You have to have mentors who can guide you as you get your idea off the ground. And that can be especially difficult for women and young people and minorities, and others who haven’t always had access to the same networks and opportunities.”
President Barack Obama on stage at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit with Mark Zuckerberg and entrepreneurs.
The Ease of Doing Business Initiative (EDBI) is helping turn sub-Saharan Africa’s markets into attractive investment destinations.
Over the past 15 years, Sub-Saharan African countries have been on a tremendous journey to reform their business environments. The results speak for themselves: In the “Doing Business” 2016 report, Sub-Saharan Africa recorded about 30 percent of the reforms that were implemented worldwide, and the region boasted half of the world’s top 10 improvers – making it the best-reforming region worldwide. As one example of what those trends mean: It takes four days to register a company in Kenya today, as compared to 54 days as recently as 10 years ago. In Rwanda, it takes an entrepreneur 32 days to transfer property – less time than it takes in Germany – compared to the 370 days that were required 10 years ago.
Despite the encouraging improvements, however, most Sub-Saharan African countries rank in the lower tier of the Doing Business measurements. Beyond the data about business conditions, it takes an average of 130 days for a business in the region to get a new electricity connection – yet, even after that business has such a connection, it experiences frequent power outages. The outages consume almost 700 hours per year – the highest such figure in the world.
We know that good practices, which are being implemented in the region, can help address such problems. The great challenge is to share that knowledge of good practices across reforming countries.
The EDBI is a peer-to-peer learning event that was requested by African countries that hope to facilitate knowledge-sharing about Doing Business reforms. For three days last month, Kenya hosted this year’s conference, whose theme focused on leveraging ICT to improve governments’ service to businesses – and ultimately to each country’s citizens. That theme seemed fitting for Kenya, which is a global success story on seamlessly integrating technology in citizens’ lives. Kenya, as you may recall, is the country that invented MPESA, the unique mobile-money payment system, and that is now rolling out “eCitizen,” the online government service portal.
Before memories start to fade about a stellar springtime conference – at which several of the Bank Group’s Global Practices (including those focusing on Governance and on Health, Nutrition and Population) assembled some of the world's foremost authorities on tax policy – it’s well worthwhile to recall the rigorous reasoning that emerged from one of the year’s most synapse-snapping scholarly symposia at the Bank.
Subtitled “Protecting Developing Countries from Global Tax Base Erosion,” the conference focused mainly on the international tax-avoidance scourge of Base Erosion and Profit-Shifting (BEPS). Coming just one week after a major conference in London of global leaders – an anti-corruption effort convened by Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom – the two-day forum in the Preston Auditorium built on the fair-taxation momentum generated by the recent Panama Papers disclosures. Those leaks about international tax-evasion strategies dominated the global policy debate this spring, when they exposed the rampant financial conniving and misconduct by high-net-worth individuals and multinational corporations seeking to avoid or evade paying their fair share of taxes.
The Bank Group conference, however, explored tax-policy issues that ranged far beyond the headline-grabbing disclosures about the scheming of rogue law firms and accounting firms, like the now-infamous Panama-based Mossack Fonseca and other outposts of the tax-dodging financial-industrial complex. Conference-goers also heard intriguing analyses about how society can levy taxes on “public ‘bads’ ” to promote investment in “public ‘goods’ ” – as part of the broader quest for broad-scale tax fairness.
Hot off the presses, this month’s edition of the journal “Finance and Development” has been generating both heat and light – and is helping propel a welcome reconsideration of some central elements of the long-dominant but now-disputed Washington Consensus.
The always-thought-provoking journal from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank’s Bretton Woods sibling, sparked some unusually intense debate recently by publishing a well-documented analysis that poses a succinct and straightforward question — “Neoliberalism: Oversold?”
That line of inquiry is surely familiar to all those who have been following the debate — supported by meticulous data from such scholars as Thomas Piketty (“Capital in the 21st Century”), Chrystia Freeland (“Plutocrats”) and Branko Milanovic (“Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization”) — over the intensifying economic inequality that is now corroding many societies, in both the developed and developing worlds. Yet the very invocation of the inflammatory term “neoliberalism” seems to have triggered an intense, if brief, summer storm.
Granted, the word “neoliberalism” is somewhat ill-defined, and, as the article’s authors point out, it is “a label used more by critics than by the architects of the policies.” And, true, it’s unusual to see such a freighted question being asked by the IMF, which has often been seen as a main driver of the Washington Consensus. Yet, no doubt about it, putting “neoliberalism” in the headline makes for a mighty arresting article.
The World Economic Forum describes this transformation as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” because the speed and extent of disruption is unprecedented.
A key trend of this revolution is the emergence of technology-enabled, peer-to-peer and business-to-peer platforms that facilitate commerce. These platforms – most commonly referred to as the “sharing economy” or the “collaborative consumption economy” – have grown exponentially in recent years, disrupting existing industry structures and value chains in developed and emerging markets.
Notably, growing internet and mobile penetration catalyzed the growth of disruptive firms and innovations, such as Uber and Airbnb, in a number of middle- and low-income countries. However, as highlighted by the 2016 World Development Report, for this digital revolution to be inclusive, and for it produce dividends for the poor, its “analog complements” – such as the institutions that are accountable to citizens and the regulations that enable workers to access and leverage this new economy – should also be in place.
The global proliferation of these collaborative platforms poses new challenges for regulators trying to keep pace with rapidly evolving business models. This issue was at the heart of discussions between former Head of Public Policy at Facebook, Uber and DJI, Corey Owens, and Professor of Law at Howard University and former regulator at the Federal Trade Commission, Andy Gavil, at the 2016 Business Environment Forum that took place in Washington from May 17 to 19.
In 2014, money transfer operators sending funds to Somalia were coming under increasing pressure. Western financial institutions, concerned about money possibly ending up in the hands of terrorists or persons on sanctions lists, decided the risk was too high and started pulling out. Although one channel remained open, the situation was so acute that the World Bank and the Somalia Multi-Partner Fund decided to take action and create a fallback position in case that last channel, too, should close. A scenario in which the Somali diaspora had no legitimate way to send money home to their families would have been devastating to Somalis who depend on these funds for their basic needs.
Photo Credit: Innovation Growth Lab.
Whether in Silicon Valley or Kenya’s furniture sector, innovation is a critical driver of job creation and economic growth. It could be a mobile app to connect farmers and buyers of agricultural products. Or perhaps an efficient and affordable solar roof tile. Innovation comes in many forms, from products and services to business models.
Yet despite the growing investment in policies to support innovation, we know surprisingly little about what makes these policies effective. To advance understanding of what works in innovation policy, Nesta, in collaboration with the Kauffman Foundation and the World Bank Group, organized the recent Innovation Growth Lab (IGL) Global Conference in London. The mission of IGL is to promote evidence-based innovation and entrepreneurship policies by funding randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and testing new policy approaches.
The conference was successful in discussing both research and policy challenges — a welcome change from typical innovation conferences, which often focus on either academia or policy.