At a candid discussion yesterday with African ministers of education and a range of education experts from the public and private sectors, one thing was very clear – that higher education was recognized by everyone in the room as being critical for Africa’s development in the 21st century. All participants—from the Gambia’s education minister, who pointed out that his country went without a university for 30 years after independence and was facing a severe resource gap, to his counterpart in Senegal who wanted to catch up with Tunisia on the number of students enrolled in universities—agreed that higher education was key to diversifying Africa’s growing economies and reducing their dependence on natural resource extraction.
There’s another reason higher education is so important in Africa—the region has burgeoning numbers of young people, some 7 to 10 million of whom knock on the doors of the labor market every year. These young people constitute a huge opportunity for Africa. Yet of today’s unemployed in the region, a full 60 percent are youth. Good quality, relevant education that goes well beyond the primary stage will turn out the types of employable graduates and professionals that Africa so urgently needs. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, and entrepreneurs—but also agriculturists and environmentalists. This morning’s news about intensifying drought in West Africa’s Sahel region, with 10 million people thought to be short of food, only underscores the great urgency to build human resource bases in each country that can help tackle the environmental and health issues that confront Africa.
At the launch, World Bank Africa Chief Economist Shanta Devarajan explained that, "although Africa was the hardest hit by the crisis, its recovery has been so remarkable that we could be at the beginning of what history will describe as Africa’s decade."
The outlook isn't all rosy, of course. With the global financial crisis halting the steady rate of growth in the region, Africa will now likely miss most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by their 2015 deadline, despite the remarkable progress. n estimated 7-10 million more Africans were driven into poverty and about 30,000-50,000 children died before their first birthday because of the crisis.
In a recent speech at Harvard University, Africa Region Vice President Obiageli Ezekwesili outlined the importance of the capital increase as a critical source of funding for the International Development Association (IDA), the concessional window of the World Bank that provides grants and interest-free credits to low-income countries; the majority of which are in Africa. IDA will be seeking its 16th replenishment in 2011.
A panel on strengthening partnerships that took place earlier this week at the Civil Society Policy Forum during the 2010 Spring Meetings looked at how partnerships were integral to the response after the earthquake in Haiti.
The panel, which featured speakers from the World Bank, USAID, IMF, Save the Children, and the German Marshall Fund, explored the ways various organizations came together to ensure effective post-disaster revitalization and development outcomes after the disaster in Haiti.
At a press briefing earlier today at the Spring Meeting, Philippe Le Houérou, World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia, spoke of how the region has faced the greatest fiscal pressures among all the world's regions during the global economic crisis.
20 out of 30 countries in Europe and Central Asia have experienced a decline in GDP in 2009, and Le Houérou remarked that the region will face a slow recovery in the year ahead:
"2010 is going to be a tough year for the Region with growth projected at around 3 percent. The prospects for 2011-2013 are only slightly better. Rising joblessness is pushing households into poverty and making things even harder for those already poor."
In their discussions this weekend, the Development Committee will be assessing five strategic priorities for the Bank in a post-crisis environment. Gender is considered a cross-cutting issue that will factor into all of the Bank's work in these priority areas.
On April 21, a few days before World Malaria Day, we announced some very encouraging results from a pilot project in Zambia through which we were testing various improvements in the public sector supply chain for lifesaving drugs. What we had been trying to do, with support from DfID and USAID, was to remove bottlenecks and get key supplies like pediatric malaria drugs off the shelves in district storage facilities and out to patients in rural areas on time.
When private sector techniques--like hiring someone to plan drug orders based on actual consumption in rural public health centers--were used to strengthen the public sector supply chain, we saw that the availability of pediatric malaria drugs nearly doubled in rural health centers in the 16 pilot districts.
This is a very significant finding, as just 7 percent of children in rural Zambia receive first-line treatment for malaria within 24 hours of developing fever (Zambia National Malaria Indicator Survey, 2008). We estimate that if these techniques are scaled up nationwide, 27,000 children could be saved from malaria deaths between now and 2015—cutting child mortality from malaria by 37 percent in Zambia.
With the global economic crisis in the rearview mirror, Latin American economies are on a fast track to full recovery and will post a solid 4 percent growth for 2010.
This is no small feat, says the Bank’s chief regional economist Augusto de la Torre, in his new report on the region’s economic prospects ‘From Collapse to Recovery’ (pdf). The region’s rebound, he explains, is one of the world’s strongest, second only to Asia’s, which is the main engine pushing global economies towards a full-fledged recovery.
In most cases, achieving real development outcomes on the ground is very complicated. But in the case of protecting people from malaria, it is simple. The disease is easily preventable and treatable.
On the prevention side, we know that insecticide treated nets work. So, everybody in countries with high malaria prevalence should have one. 200 million mosquito nets have been already delivered across sub-Saharan Africa.