By encouraging private investment in infrastructure, we can spur growth in the developing world
Later this month the United Nations is expected to finalize its Sustainable Development Goals, a global action plan designed to end poverty and support long-term growth. One of the goals states, “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.”
In many parts of the developing world, from Asia to Latin America, a massive infrastructure shortfall may be the single most significant obstacle to human and economic development. Addressing it will underpin progress on many of the SDGs.
In 100 countries around the world, women are barred from doing certain work solely because they are women. More than 150 countries have at least one law that is discriminatory towards women. And only 18 countries are free of any law disadvantaging women.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of legal barriers for women to achieve their full economic potential. New World Bank Group research in the Women, Business and the Law 2016 report shows that in 32 countries women cannot apply for passports in the same way as men and in 18 countries they cannot get a job if their husbands feel it is not in the family’s interest. Jordan and Iran are among them. In 59 countries, there are no laws against sexual harassment at work. Myanmar, Uzbekistan and Armenia are among 46 countries where there is no legal protection against domestic violence. In a nutshell, the research makes for depressing reading when you care about inclusion and ending poverty.
High income economies are dominating global innovation. Led by Switzerland, the top 10% are outpacing the rest in innovation as measured by the 2014 Global Innovation Index. This rich-poor innovation divide is striking with a handful of high income countries, mostly in Europe accounting for most of the top 10%. The bottom quintile consists of predominantly low income economies with more than half from Sub Saharan Africa.
The top innovating economies rate strongly on the quality of their institutions including a stable political environment and an effective regulatory and business environment. They benefit from and continue to invest heavily in human capital, research and development and infrastructure. They score highly on business and market sophistication – good management is fundamental for private sector innovation. They have also established most if not all of the elements of a successful innovation ecosystem. These countries consequently dominate in knowledge outputs including on most measures of knowledge creation, impact and diffusion as well as in technology and creative outputs.
It is difficult to imagine that poor countries or emerging markets without innovation will be able to catch up and become high-income economies in the 21st Century, an era already characterized by previously unimaginable technological progress and, importantly, international diffusion. Populations in these countries are in dire need of innovative solutions to deliver clean water and energy, health and education services, better housing, sanitation and transportation and increased food production while battling the adverse impacts of climate change. These economies need to create jobs for millions of unemployed youth leveraging the benefits of an increasingly digital global economy.
What can be done to bridge this yawning innovation and competitiveness gap?
The use of wood energy – including firewood and charcoal – is largely considered an option of last resort. It evokes time-consuming wood collection, health hazards and small-scale fuel used by poor families in rural areas where there are no other energy alternatives.
And to a certain extent this picture is accurate. A study by the Alliance for Clean Cookstoves found that women in India spend the equivalent of two weeks every year collecting firewood, which they use to cook and heat their homes. Indoor air pollution caused by the smoke from burning firewood is known to lead to severe health problems: the WHO estimates 4.3 million deaths a year worldwide attributed to diseases associated with cooking and heating with solid fuels. Incomplete combustion creates short-lived climate pollutants, which also act as powerful agents of climate change.
But wood is a valuable source of energy for many of the 2.9 billion people worldwide who lack access to clean cooking facilities, including in major cities. It fuels many industries, from brickmaking and metal processing in the Congo Basin to steel and iron production in Brazil.
In fact, the value of charcoal production in Africa was estimated at more than $8 billion in 2007, creating livelihoods for about seven million women and men, and catering to a rapidly growing urban demand. From this standpoint, wood energy makes up an enterprise of industrial scale.
So, instead of disregarding wood energy as outdated, we must think of the economic, social and environmental benefits that would derive from modernizing its use. After all, wood energy is still one of the most widespread renewable fuels at our disposal. We already have the technological know-how to enhance the sustainability of wood energy value chains. Across the European Union’s 28 member states, wood and solid biofuels produced through “modern” methods accounted for nearly half of total primary energy from renewables in 2012.
- world health organization
- Clean energy
- Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
- Clean Cookstoves
- indoor air pollution
- Urban Development
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Climate Change
- Europe and Central Asia
- Middle East and North Africa
- South Asia
- Latin America & Caribbean
- East Asia and Pacific
This fall is a pivotal time for the international development community. We are shifting from a Millennium Development Goal that challenged the world to halve the global extreme poverty rate, to a Sustainable Development Goal that asks us to build on that momentum and work toward a true end to extreme poverty.
Make no mistake; this will not be easy. We will need sustained, shared growth, with a special emphasis on agricultural growth in the poorest countries. We will need programs and policies that are equitable, ensuring that every child has the same opportunities to succeed in life, and that all citizens are able to benefit from fiscal and social systems and representative institutions. And we will need to ensure that those who live in extreme poverty, and those who are vulnerable to falling back in, are protected when global or local markets fail, and when disease and drought persist in their communities.
Youth is one of the largest demographics in the world — approximately one billion youth roam the globe today. The Youth Summit was established in 2013 by the World Bank Group, in partnership with the Office of the United Nations Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth, to provide a platform for the concerns of youth and empower young people to promote their ideas on development.
Until recently, archives users — including academics, development partners, and other researchers — had to travel miles, sometimes even across continents, to be able to access records kept in the World Bank Group Archives. But now, users will no longer have to be in Washington, D.C. to look at declassified materials.
In April 2015, as part of its commitment to transparency and openness, the World Bank Group launched its Archives Holdings website. This is a state-of-the-art platform, which maximizes the public’s online access to a vast amount of original primary source material in the custody of the Archives.
Created using the Access to Memory open source software, the website facilitates a faster, more efficient, and personalized online service delivery model. The software serves as a catalog that provides basic information about the resources of the Archives, and it is equipped with user-friendly finding aids compliant with the International Standard for Archival Description. The website delivers an increasing quantity of digitized records from the early 1940s onward, making them available for the first time to public users who cannot come to the Archives reading room in Washington, D.C.
What happens when you help a farmer succeed?
You create opportunities, not just for the farmer, but also for his family, often improving their financial standing, health and educational prospects.
But the impact goes much further than that. When you give a farmer tools to succeed, you can help grow prosperity in his community, and build a food system that can feed everyone, every day, everywhere—nutritiously and sustainably.
This is the story in West Africa, where the World Bank-funded West Africa Agriculture Productivity Program (WAAPP) has helped 13 countries generate, improve and disseminate agriculture technology to pave the way for a food-secure future for Africa. Already, WAAPP has developed 116 technologies that have been adopted by and directly benefited up to 2.5 million people across West Africa—or 17 million people in total, if you count both direct and indirect beneficiaries. WAAPP has also improved productivity on up to 2.74 million hectares of farmland and is estimated to have increased food production in West Africa by more than 3 million tons.