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October 2010

Forum opens doors to annual meetings…and more

Angie Gentile's picture

Open Forum session on open development. Credit: World Bank

The World Bank's first-ever Open Forum—an interactive online conversation about pressing development issues—threw open to the public discussions normally held behind closed doors.

Three sessions, held Oct. 7 and 8, brought together all-star thinkers and actors in three key areas: the open development movement, jumpstarting jobs, and today’s development challenges.

Can Africa trade with Africa?

Obiageli Ezekwesili's picture

Obiageli Ezekwesili chairs the seminar: Can Africa Trade with Africa? (Photo: Arne Hoel, The World Bank)

I chaired a very lively seminar on Friday afternoon that focused on the question, “Can Africa Trade with Africa?”  The answer was a resounding yes. 

Today, there is strong consensus among African leaders that regional integration is indispensable to unlock economies of scale and sharpen competitiveness. And promoting intra-African trade has emerged as a top priority, in recognition that the African market of one billion consumers can be a powerful engine for growth and employment.

Yet despite the introduction of free trade areas, customs unions, and common markets within the Region, the level of intra-African trade remains among the lowest in the world -- only about 10% of African trade is within the continent, compared to about 40% in North America and about 60% in Western Europe.

Still waiting for that new road to come your way?

Jan Walliser's picture

Anyone who has ever been to the Central African Republic (CAR) knows that the country has huge infrastructure needs after years of internal turmoil and strife. But when you look up how much of the government’s investment budget actually was implemented and financed infrastructure development in 2009 for instance, you find a stunningly low execution rate of 5 percent.

Young people want to work, but where are the jobs?

Tamar Manuelyan Atinc's picture

 Young people have been disproportionately hit by the economic downturn. Youth are just 25 percent of the global workforce but they may comprise up to 40 percent of the unemployed. And unemployed youth are more likely to live in poverty or be at-risk for crime. This was our focus Thursday in a session called "Jumpstarting Jobs".

This is a tough challenge for any country, rich or poor, but we do have some of the answers. We need to get children on the right track from the very beginning. It starts with investing in pregnancy with healthy mothers, proper nutrition for infants in the critical window of the first 2 years of life, and early childhood development programs for cognitive stimulation. Ninety percent of our brain development takes place before age 6, so if we don't invest properly in these early years, the damage may be irreparable. 

Mapping the development aid landscape: www.aidflows.org

Axel van Trotsenburg's picture

Aidflows shows the total volume of aid coming from OECD members and the total being received by developing countries.

As we heard last month during the MDG Summit at the United Nations, progress has been made but much work remains if we are to come close to halving poverty or reaching other targets we all agreed to in 2000. These issues are very much at the center of the Bank-IMF Annual Meetings this week in Washington.


Making development aid more accountable, transparent and effective is at the heart of this week’s discussions. New partnerships and players are emerging. Donor and client governments, along with their constituents, are demanding measurable results.  That said, it is challenging to measure aid when there are multiple channels and types of assistance, from bilateral to multilateral, from loans to trust funds, and the data generated is not always presented in a comparable way.

Food prices and food security underlying concerns at the Meetings

Fionna Douglas's picture

Higher food prices are again a concern as the World Bank and IMF head into their Annual Meetings. In the last several months, volatility in the price of wheat has been reminiscent of the kinds of market movements that occurred during the food price crisis of 2008. While that volatility has decreased somewhat, the World Bank Group is asking the World Bank Board of Directors to reinstate its food crisis emergency fund – the Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP)--so the Bank can be ready to respond quickly again if needed.  The $2 billion program provided support for policy change, social safety nets and agricultural inputs to boost food production in hard-hit countries.
 

The longer term worry, of course, is food security, especially in light of a continued higher food prices, underinvestment in agriculture in the last decade, and changing weather patterns related to climate change. The Bank Group increased agricultural assistance last year to $6 billion, and will likely keep lending in the $6 billion to $8 billion range for the next several years, as recommended by our Agriculture Action Plan (pdf) for fiscal years 2010 to 2012. The plan calls for increased investments in agricultural productivity, especially in areas of Africa where the land is suitable and farmers currently struggle to make a living.

Annual Meetings week: The Bank opens its doors

Julia Ross's picture

Development results are hard to capture sometimes, but if you take a walk through the World Bank’s lobby this week, you’ll see a string of successes in 79 of the world’s poorest countries.

Giant colored circles pasted across our entrance detail results reported by IDA, the Bank’s Fund for the Poorest:  33 million mosquito nets purchased and distributed to prevent malaria; 11 million people benefiting from crisis response programs; 300 million textbooks distributed.