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Pushing water downhill: Considering ICT PPPs

Jeff Delmon's picture
Students using new high-speed Internet in Tonga. Photo: World Bank Group

For private financiers, official government support to information and communications technology (ICT) projects might seem like trying to push water downhill. After all, isn’t ICT incredibly profitable? What’s the point of a public-private partnership (PPP) in this sector, anyway?

Here’s the rest of that familiar argument: Government should stay out of the way and let the private sector carry the communications sector; it is a waste of effort and inefficient to try to push forward something that has its own momentum. Like a rushing river, the naysayers conclude, ICT needs no help advancing down its inevitable course.

It sounds reasonable in theory, but in practice, that approach just doesn’t work. The government needs to guide the river down the best course for the citizens it serves, building a weir or mill to help the river provide maximum benefits to the people who need it. And, just as water is the foundation of life, communication technologies are necessary to prosper in today’s world. Knowledge is power. And specifically, access to markets is improved by mobile phones, as is access to banking services, finance, investment opportunities, and education.

Successful ICT strategies usher in jobs, empowerment and economic growth.

Part of the #Youthbiz movement? Share your story!

Valerie Lorena's picture

Also available in: Français | العربية

A boat trip from Port Elizabeth to Kingstown, in the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, is a one-hour trip that locals take several times a day. It was during one of these journeys that the boat of Kamara Jerome, a young Vincentian fisherman, ran out of gas six miles from Bequia City in what is termed locally as the "Bequia Channel." While waiting for help with strong wind gusts and the sun on his head, the idea of developing a boat that would run with wind and solar energy was born. Soon after, the idea became a prototype; a boat using green technology was on the water making 20-year-old Jerome a winner of international innovation competitions and a role model to other Caribbean youth. 
In Mexico, young engineer Daniel Gomez runs a multimillion bio-diesel company originally conceived as a research project for his high school chemistry class. Gomez and his partners - Guillermo Colunga, Antonio Lopez, and Mauricio Pareja - founded SOLBEN (Solutions in bio-energy in Spanish) in their early twenties. 
Although Daniel and Kamara have different educational backgrounds, they do share one important skill, the ability to identify a problem, develop an innovative solution, and take it to the market. In other words, being an entrepreneur, an alternative to be economically active, that seems to work and not only for a few.

Bringing peace – and ending violence – for women and girls

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Sri Mulyani Indrawati talks with a patient’s grandmother at the HEAL Africa hospital. Cherry Stoltenberg/HEAL Africa

Deep inside the sprawling HEAL Africa Hospital complex in the Eastern Congolese city of Goma is a small ward where women recover from injuries they suffered during complicated births and violent sexual attacks. When I entered, I first saw Muwakeso, a fragile-looking elderly woman sitting on a chair next to a bed. It took me a moment to realize that she wasn’t the patient, but rather her 3-year-old granddaughter Sakina, who was curled up into a tiny mound under a hospital sheet on the bed.
Sakina was heavily sedated to numb the pain after the second of three major surgeries she underwent to reconstruct parts of her lower body following a horrific attack about a year ago. Muwakeso recalls five men in civilian clothes approaching her house and beating her. Before she lost consciousness she heard Sakina screaming. The young girl was raped, but Muwaseko doesn’t know by how many men, and Sakina is unable to say.

The impact of investment climate reform in Africa: How has 'Doing Business' reform promoted broader competitiveness?

Aref Adamali's picture

Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) impressive growth over the past decade or so has been matched by its equally impressive showing on the World Bank Group's "Doing Business" index. In 2012, one-third of the world’s top reformers on the index were from the continent, and every year its countries feature in the top 10 most active reformers. In 2014, five of the top 10 were from SSA.

Doing Business tracks progress in reforms that support a firm through its life-cycle, from start-up, through to raising capital, to potential closure. Through a mix of wide geographic coverage and rankings that generate a lot of public attention (not all of it wholly positive), the report has been a powerful motivator of investment climate reform, with the data serving as a useful means to measure progress made.
Doing Business as a start
While a large appeal of Doing Business as a measure of a country’s business environment is that it focuses on tangible business activities to which the private sector and policymakers can directly relate, its indicators are limited in scope. They are therefore intended to be used mainly as a litmus test of the state of a country’s investment climate. Therefore, while Doing Business's accessibility and global profile can be very useful in generating momentum for private sector reform, it ought to mainly serve as a starting point for a country to then engage in both broader reaching and deeper investment climate change. (This approach to the use of Doing Business has largely underpinned investment climate reform efforts in SSA by the Bank Group’s Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice.)  
So, if Doing Business is a starting point and is used as such, is there evidence to support the assumption that it triggers wider and deeper private sector reform? Or is movement on Doing Businesses a starting point and, unintentionally, an ending point too?
Linkages to wider competitiveness reform data
One of the most comprehensive measures of the state of different countries’ business environments is the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), a data set of over 110 variables that looks at the current state of, and tracks changes in, competitiveness across the world. The data set is structured under 12 pillars that cover measures from institutional development to technology and innovation.

Using GCI as a good measure of competitiveness, and interpreting changes in it as a reflection of a country’s effectiveness in engaging in wider competitiveness reform, we can look at the relationship between GCI and Doing Business and, significantly, the extent of movement on the two indices.
A high-level review of the relationship between changes in GCI and Doing Business for different regions between 2007 and 2013 shows SSA to have performed comparatively well on both indices, performing similarly to countries of Eastern and Central Europe and surpassing the world average.[1] However, looking beyond averages to GCI’s specific pillars, SSA’s performance has been variable, advancing as a region in some areas more than others. Figure 1, below, shows GCI pillars where SSA has improved the most and the least, highlighting the top and bottom three.

Figure 1: Variations within competitiveness
(SSA score on GCI, total and select pillars)  

Of particular interest is Pillar 6, Goods Market Efficiency, because many of the areas that this pillar tracks are also areas where the Bank Group has focused its investment climate reform interventions, from business entry and competition, to taxes, trade and investment. (Two of the 16 indicators in this pillar actually comprise Doing Business data – the number of procedures and days required to start a business.)
Pillar 6 is one of the top three GCI pillars that have the greatest upward pull on SSA’s overall performance on GCI, countering the areas where SSA has slipped in its scores.

Burundi reinforces conservation for resilience amid political tensions

Paola Agostini's picture
Photo by IRRI via Creative CommonsFor those keeping abreast of Burundi’s state of affairs, it could be easy to forget that the country is much more inviting than what we have seen lately in the media. Despite the ongoing crisis, Burundians have kept an uphill battle to reinforce the conservation and management of the nation’s forest areas

Future Development Forecasts 2015

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Despite their mixed record last year, Future Development's bloggers once again offer their predictions for 2015.  Eight themes emerge.
1. Global growth and trade. The US economy will strengthen far above predictions. Together with lower oil prices and a better business climate in emerging markets, this will create substantial positive spill-overs, including to the smaller export-oriented Asian economies, boosting the growth of their manufactured exports well above recent trends. The US will look to open new free trade agreements in Asia—India may try to join—and seek opportunities to do the same in Africa. Meanwhile, Germany will face increasing resistance to the free-trade agreement with America (TTIP), just as Angela Merkel celebrates her 10th year in office.

With a Visit to West Africa, Renewed Commitment to Women Traders

Cecile Fruman's picture

Also available in: FrançaisEspañol

 World Bank Group.I recently returned from a trip to West Africa during which I crossed the Benin-Nigeria border by car at the Seme border post. While waiting for our passports to go through lengthy controls and stamping, I observed the intense activity of the numerous cars, motorbikes and pedestrians passing through.

Sure enough, most of the women were on foot, and they were the ones who were submitted to the most intense scrutiny. While the men on motorbikes were able to ram their way through by refusing to slow down, the women all had to go through a narrow passage where they were subject to questioning and document requirements. It was quite apparent that women were being asked for bribes that men were able to waive by driving right though! I had been reading about how women are subject to more intense harassment at border crossings – this experience brought this to life very vividly.

It made me thankful for all the work we at the World Bank Group are doing to help women traders on the African continent.

#TakeOn Violence Against Women, Take a Walk in Their Shoes

Caren Grown's picture
Your name is Sarah. You live in New York, or perhaps Nairobi, where you divide your time between caring for your young family and building a small business. Your life is more comfortable than your mother’s, and your children’s prospects are brighter than you might have hoped. Until your husband’s simmering resentment of your growing business turns violent, and he beats you badly.

If You’re Watching the World Cup, You Don’t Want to Miss This

Michelle Pabalan's picture
Team Burundi, Great Lakes Peace Cup
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does.”
- Nelson Mandela

Even though I didn’t grow up watching football, admittedly I’ve developed an interest in the sport during this month-long emotional World Cup soap opera. And like me, millions of people will be glued to their television sets for this Sunday’s finals match between Argentina and Germany. 
Above and beyond the superstars, the fans and controversies, I learned more about how this beautiful game is used to build communities, overcome social and cultural divides and advance peace. It seems sports have a way of changing the lives of people around the world - but what does this exactly look like?

Between 1960 and 2012, the world average fertility rate halved to 2.5 births per woman

Emi Suzuki's picture

There were more than 7 billion people on earth in 2013. While this is the highest number ever, the population growth rate has been steadily declining, in part due to declining fertility rates.  Tomorrow, Friday, July 11, is World Population Day, and in this spirit, I'd like to talk about a key component of population growth: fertility rates.

Figure 1


Figure 2