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Poverty

Technology works for getting poor people’s problems fixed – we just have to get it right

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية
© Sarah Farhat/World Bank

One of the encouraging signs that I pick up whenever I travel is the difference that technology is making to the lives of millions of marginalized people. In most cases it’s happening on a small, non-flashy scale in hundreds of different ways, quietly improving the opportunities that that have been denied to remote communities, women and young people for getting a foot on the ladder.

And because it is discreet and under the radar I dare as an optimist to suggest that we are at the beginning of something big – a slow tsunami of success. Let me give you some reasons why I believe this.

The miracle of mangroves for coastal protection in numbers

Michael W. Beck's picture
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© Ursula Meissner/The Nature Conservancy
© Ursula Meissner/The Nature Conservancy

The North Atlantic hurricane season officially opens June 1, and there are predictions that storms this year could be worse than average again. That would be bad since last year was the costliest year on record for coastal storms. Communities and countries across the Caribbean and SE USA were particularly hard hit. The need for resilient solutions to reduce these risks is paramount.

There has been growing though largely anecdotal evidence that mangroves and other coastal habitats can play important roles in defending coastlines. Nonetheless it has been difficult to convince most governments and businesses (e.g., insurance, hotels) to invest in these natural defenses in the absence of rigorous valuations of these benefits.

So in 2016 The Nature Conservancy teamed with the World Bank and scientists from the public, private and academic sectors to identify how to rigorously value the flood protection benefits from coastal habitats. In short, we recommended that we value this ecosystem service by adopting tools and from the engineering, risk and insurance sectors and following an Expected Damage Function (EDF) approach. This approach assesses the difference in flooding and flood damages with and without coastal habitats such as mangroves across the entire storm frequency distribution (e.g., 1-in-10, -25 and -100 year storms).

The gender gap in financial inclusion won’t budge. Here are three ways to shrink it

Kristalina Georgieva's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français
Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation
Marie Hortense Raharimalala visiting a bank agent in Antananarivo, Madagascar. A biometric fingerprint is used for identification. © Nyani Quarmyne/International Finance Corporation


I opened my first bank account as a new student at the London School of Economics in 1987. This seemingly small act meant that I could manage my own finances, spend my own money, and make my own financial decisions. It meant freedom to decide for myself.

That financial freedom is still elusive to 980 million women around the world. And, worryingly, this does not seem to be improving. Our Global Findex database shows that while more and more women are opening bank accounts, a global gender gap of 7 percentage points still exists—and it has not moved since 2011.

There are some bright spots. In Bolivia, Cambodia, the Russian Federation, and South Africa, for example, account ownership is equal for men and women. And in Argentina, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the gap we see at the global level is reversed—women have more accounts than men. 

But there are also some very troubling, and persistent gaps. The same countries that had gender gaps in 2011 generally have them today. In Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey, the gap in account ownership between men and women is almost 30 percentage points. Morocco, Mozambique, Peru, Rwanda, and Zambia also have double-digit differences between men and women.

One of the main reasons that both men and women cite for not having a financial account is that they simply are not earning enough to open one. We need to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to work, earn, and participate in his or her economy. This is at the core of our work at the World Bank Group, especially as we look at the skills people will need for the jobs of the future.

But there are some reasons that keep women specifically from opening accounts. The gender gap in financial inclusion can be traced back step by step through unequal opportunities, laws, and regulations that put an extra barrier on women’s ability to even open that simple bank account.

Countries have to do better in unraveling the complicated web that women face when they try to do something that for a man, is quite simple. How can we level it up? Let me suggest three things as a start: 

How is your life different from that of your parents?

Venkat Gopalakrishnan's picture
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© You Ji/World Bank
© You Ji/World Bank


Yunus owns a fabric store in Blantyre, Malawi. The store was founded by his grandfather, who immigrated to Malawi in 1927, and has now been in his family for three generations. Business is good, Yunus said, but that the cost of essential services like electricity and water has gone up since his grandfather and father owned the store. Even so, he remains optimistic.
 
Marija Bosheva is a student at an agriculture and forestry vocational high school in Kavadarci, Macedonia. Like many high school students around the world, she takes daily lessons in history, math, biology, and chemistry. However, unlike many of her peers, she is also studying oenology — the art of making wine.
 
Are you carrying on a family tradition, like Yunus? Do you work or study in an entirely new field that didn’t exist when your parents were your age? How has life changed for you compared to your parents or grandparents when they were your age, and how do you see your children’s lives and possibilities compared to your own? Are you in the same position vis a vis your peers as your parents were vis a vis theirs?
 
Share your story, using the hashtag #InheritPossibility.

A tipping point for solar energy?

Joaquim Levy's picture
Manik, a solar pump operator for Nusra works near the solar panels in Rohertek, Bangladesh. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
Manik, a solar pump operator for Nusra works near the solar panels in Rohertek, Bangladesh. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank

​Solar energy is poised to transform low-income economies, many of which are in the world’s sunniest regions. Solar’s growing share of the energy mix is being driven by better storage capacity and attractive generation costs. Large solar parks are now competitive with most alternatives; their average cost is below 5 cents per kilowatt-hour in some developing countries. Smaller-scale solar grids are also getting more competitive, opening new paths to financing this clean energy source. With rapid improvements in energy efficient lighting, refrigeration, water pumps, and other technologies for households, solar may soon be as game-changing as mobile phones have been in the last decade.

Solar’s potential is evident from its quick growth in India, where installed capacity recently topped 20 gigawatts (GW), putting the country closer to its ambitious target of 100 GW from clean energy by 2022 (an amount comparable to total installed capacity in the United Kingdom). Solar offers key advantages: facilities can be built quickly, do not need fuel to be transported to power plants, and can eliminate transmission costs where mini-grids or off-grid units are built to serve local communities. 
 

Maximizing finance for development works

Hartwig Schafer's picture
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People in Saint-Louis, Senegal. © Ibrahima BA Sané/World Bank
People in Saint-Louis, Senegal. © Ibrahima BA Sané/World Bank


Massive investment is needed to meet the ambitious goal of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity by 2030. By some estimates it could cost as much as $4.5 trillion a year to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and obviously, we will not get there solely with public finance. And there’s the rub: Countries will only meet the SDGs and improve the lives of their citizens if they raise more domestic revenues and attract more private financing and private solutions to complement and leverage public funds and official development assistance. This approach is called maximizing finance for development, or MFD.

Why investors must take a chance in the world's most fragile countries

Stephanie von Friedeburg's picture
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Microfinance in DRC. © Anna Koblanck/IFC
Microfinance in DRC. © Anna Koblanck/IFC


Fragility, conflict and violence affect more than two billion people across the globe. And while poverty on the whole is declining, that's not the case in countries affected by conflict.

It is these countries plagued by near-constant political and economic instability that are often the ones most in need of private investment. Yet they are also the places few private investors are willing to go. The risks seem to outweigh the rewards.

What keeps the President of the World Bank up at night?

Jim Yong Kim's picture
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Residents of Kashadaha village visit the Kashadaha Anando school in Kashadaha village, Bangladesh. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank
Residents of Kashadaha village visit the Kashadaha Anando school in Kashadaha village, Bangladesh. © Dominic Chavez/World Bank


This year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting comes at a time of good news for the world economy. As we said in this month’s Global Economic Prospects report, for the first time since the financial crisis, the World Bank is forecasting that the global economy will be operating at or near full capacity. We anticipate growth in advanced economies to moderate slightly, but growth in emerging markets and developing countries should strengthen to 4.5% this year.

For social programs, social registries serve as a tool for inclusion

Kathy Lindert's picture
Also available in: 中文
© Julia Pacheco/World Bank
© Julia Pacheco/World Bank

Celina Maria migrated from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro when she was just 17 and pregnant with twins, without completing her education and therefore have had difficulties finding good formal jobs. Over her life, she faced many challenges from being homeless to unemployed, while living in food insecurity with her children. Like Celina Maria, millions of people around the globe face multiple constraints – low earnings, limited assets, low human capital, idiosyncratic shocks and exposition to natural shocks, violence, and more – yearning to live with dignity and a decent and economically independent life.

To address the diverse needs of the poor, many countries offer a myriad of social benefits and services. Despite good intentions, this can lead to fragmentation in the absence of a clear strategy and coordinated processes and systems.   

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