As the 2012 Annual Meetings opened Thursday, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim held a press briefing and fielded questions on a range of topics including the role of emerging economies, food prices, climate change, and more.
A woman works in a small shop in Ghana.
Photo by Arne Hoel
What will it take for the world to wake up and realize the advantages of supporting women entrepreneurs in the developing world?
If that sounds like an odd question to be asking in the 21st century, just consider some facts. We know that globally women make up almost half the world’s workforce. And we know that in developing economies, 30-40% of entrepreneurs running small or medium sized businesses are women.
But here’s something you may not know – at least 9 out of 10 women-owned businesses have no access to loans. So, just imagine the frustration of a woman in a developing country, who has started a small business, is attracting a good clientele, has a business plan to grow her business, but can’t get a loan to expand. That's not an isolated story. It’s a frustration shared by many women in the developing world. And the frustration of those women sounds echoingly similar to the frustration still lingering in the voices of older women from rich countries, telling how some three decades ago they were refused bank home loans, despite having a guaranteed income.
Is Russia’s economy just about to shift a gear downwards?
In the decade before the global financial crisis, Russia’s growth averaged 7 percent, thanks to rising oil prices, rapid credit expansion and policy reform. Then, after the economy took a nosedive in 2009, Russia rebounded to growth above 4 percent even though the global economy was sluggish and the euro area soon went back into a recession.
But now, as we begin the final three months of 2012, Russia’s economy is settling onto a lower growth trajectory. In our new Russian Economic Report, we project that Russia will grow only 3.5 percent this year. Excluding the crisis years of 1998 and 2009, this would be the lowest rate in a decade and a half.
PRETORIA, South Africa - I have to admit it. I’m a bit of a development junkie. For most of my adult life, I’ve been reading thick tomes describing the success or failure of projects. I talk to friends over dinner about development theory. And I can’t stop thinking about what I believe is the biggest development question of all: How do we most effectively deliver on our promises to the poor?
So you can imagine how excited I was to have a day full of meetings with South Africa’s foremost experts on development: the country's ministers of finance, economic development, health, basic education, water and environmental affairs, and rural development and land reform - and then with President Jacob Zuma.
I chose to travel to South Africa as part of my first overseas trip as president of the World Bank Group because of the country’s great importance to the region, continent, and the world. It is the economic engine of Africa, and its story of reconciliation after apartheid is one of the historic achievements of our time.
Photo: © Michael Morris / World Bank
When the World Bank’s Food Price Watch reported last week that severe drought pushed prices of staples such as maize and soybean to an all-time high this summer, people everywhere took notice. What will it mean for the poor in regions most affected by rising prices? What will it mean for us?
ABIDJAN, Cote d’Ivoire – At a jobs training center in this key capital city in West Africa, a young man showed me his newfound skills as an electrician. At a workshop, light bulbs flickered on and off. And then he told me something really important:
“It’s been 10 years since I graduated with my secondary school degree, and because of our conflict, I have never held a job. So this is a blessing to me,” said the young trainee. “But my brothers and sisters and so many people haven’t had this opportunity. I wonder how they can get jobs, too.”
Photo Credit: Arne Hoel/World Bank
The numbers are jarring: Global prices for key food staples such as corn and soybean were at an all-time high in July 2012, with corn rising 25 percent and soybeans 17 percent in a single month.
Globally, food prices jumped 7 percent between April and July. In some countries, people now pay more than twice as much for sorghum  as they did a year earlier, the latest issue of the World Bank’s Food Price Watch shows.
This is expected to hit certain regions with high food imports, such as the Middle East and much of Africa, especially hard.
We’re looking at a significant price shock, but does that mean we’re headed for a food crisis similar to the one we experienced in 2008? World Bank economist José Cuesta, the author of the quarterly Food Price Watch report, gives his perspective on the situation.