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Higher education in Africa – time to pull out the stops

Christopher Thomas's picture

Higher Education in Africa

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.

TEDx World Bank Group focused on gender, agriculture, climate change, and water

Bahar Salimova's picture

Kojo Namdi at TEDxWBG

Yesterday, I attended the TEDxWorldBankGroup event, entitled Global Challenges in the New Decade. This first TEDxWorldBankGroup event was organized by the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) to add to the critical discussions taking place during the Spring Meetings. The event aimed to encourage conversation on gender, climate change, agriculture and water, and to find possible solutions to these global issues.  

The speakers at the event were great and made excellent points about each of the chosen issues. One of the takeaways from the event was that the development community should act as one in addressing critical issues and take a wholesome approach to resolving global challenges instead of tackling them piecemeal.

Jason Clay, Senior Vice President of Market Transformation at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who presented on water issues at the event said that every time the development community tries to maximize efforts in one area, it takes away from another; therefore looking at all of these issues as a whole is the most effective way to solve them for the future generations.

Stepping up engagement with civil society

Molly Norris's picture

“Engagement with civil society has stepped up in so many ways—in terms of quality and also in terms of quantity. This engagement is critical because we have different roles that we can play. I think that there is a realization between civil society and the World Bank that we have a single mission and we need to forge ahead towards that mission.”

Compelling issues of the day drew the highest volume of civil society organizations to register for this year than ever before for Spring Meetings, though volcanic ash caused some panels to be cancelled, according to Edith Grace Ssempala, a World Bank senior advisor.  Talks ranged from the ongoing effects of the financial crisis to the Bank’s energy strategy and new Access to Information policy. 

Africa's Pulse: Now is the time to invest in Africa

Herbert Boh's picture

Africa's Pulse, a new publication highlighting economic trends and the latest data in sub-Saharan Africa, launched on Friday with a clear message: this is the time to invest in 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.

Bank VP Obiageli Ezekwesili on the importance of the capital increase

Angie Gentile's picture

 
This weekend, shareholders gathered for the Spring Meetings in Washington, DC, will decide on a request to replenish the World Bank Group’s capital base. The request comes in the wake of unprecedented demands for the Bank’s financial assistance stemming from the global economic 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.

Civil Society Forum: Haiti response shows need for collaboration

Sameer Vasta's picture

Large parts of Haiti's capital of Port-au-Prince have been destroyed by a 7.3 magnitude earthquake on 12 January. Photo taken on 15 January 2010.. Photo: IFRC/Eric Quintero

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.

One such example of collaboration and partnership was in the sharing of Bank geo-spatial data with community groups like Random Hacks of Kindness and CrisisCamp. (More on the Bank's new open data initiative here.)

Putting safe water on the development agenda

Christopher Walsh's picture

April 23, 2010 - Washington DC., World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings. Water and Sanitation Event.

Not even the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull could keep the Netherlands’ Prince of Orange, the chair of the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation, and the World Bank’s Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala from participating in a Davos-style panel discussion of solutions for the 2.6 billion people who still lack access to sanitation.

The BBC’s Katty Kay moderated today’s official Spring Meetings event, which also included South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Buyelwa Patience Sonjica; Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator at USAID’s Bureau for Global Health Gloria Steele; Ek Sonn Chan from Cambodia’s General Director of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority; and IFC’s Executive VP Lars Thunell.

I haven’t seen the Bank’s J building mini-amphitheater filled with that much energy since, well, ever.  The standing room-only event started with a delighted Ngozi acknowledging the crowd for bringing the issue of water and sanitation to such a high level on the occasion of the Spring Meetings.

Europe and Central Asia facing a slow recovery

Sameer Vasta's picture

April 23, 2010. Washington DC - World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings . Europe and Central Asia regional press briefing. Philippe Le Houerou, Regional Vice President for Europe and Central Asia. Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

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."

Photographers jostle and nudge for the perfect shot of a dark suit

Alison Schafer's picture

Photographers prepare to snap EU leader, 22 February 2009

One of the benefits of working the spring meetings is getting to watch the press at work (work which is really a lot of waiting around for things to happen).

But occasionally, everybody rushes off to earn their paychecks.  And the ones who rush fastest are the still photographers. When they move, you know something is happening.

At Bob Zoellick’s kick-off press conference on Thursday, about 15 still photographers lurked in the bottom of the IMF building, their lenses gleaming in the dim light. It appears to be a macho business, capturing the perfect image of that prolific species, the DC policy maker.

A minute before Zoellick arrives, a staffer gives a heads up. A brief hush and then the photographers pick up their cameras and their foot long lenses (big enough to photograph a lion far across the watering hole) and rush to get the best angle. All 15 of them want to stand in the same spot, of course, and so they jostle and nudge and, when Zoellick sits down, retreat back to their lair just below the dais.

Then comes the talk, and most of the photographers tune right out. They’re waiting for movement—anything even remotely resembling action—so if Zoellick raises his hand off the table, or makes the most minimal gesture, they leap into gear. And the whirr of their lenses is just about loud enough to drown out the talking.  What they don’t want is just “a head”—press corps lingo for just another dude in a navy blue suit. They want something, anything, that makes this picture of a guy in a navy blue suit different from last week’s.

Global Monitoring Report 2010: What about Population Growth?

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

April 23, 2010 - Washington DC., World Bank/IMF Spring Meetings 2010. Global Monitoring Report: The MDGs after the Crisis.

Measuring human progress is a messy, complicated effort. The Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, are an effort to bring some standardization to that process, but the 8 globally agreed goals are viewed by some as a construct that handicaps the poorer countries into a race where they started a lap behind many other nations.

It's 10 years since the goals were agreed and 2010 has been designated the 'Year of the MDGs' by the UN and its partners. If all this helps feed hungry families, educate more kids and increase the distribution of antiretroviral drugs, I'm all for it. Good thing I feel that way, since I was working with the team that launched the Global Monitoring Report 2010: The MDGs After the Crisis on April 23.

Yet beyond the goals, targets and exhortations, as well as useful forecasts of extreme poverty rates in 2015, I wonder about the elephant in the room: population growth.

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