Ahmad Sarmast may owe his life to a fumble with his cellphone. He bent down in his seat to pick up his mobile just as a suicide bomber detonated his charge behind him at a music and theatre performance at the Institut Français d’Afghanistan in Kabul.
The founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music survived the December blast that killed one and injured more than 10. Dr. Sarmast suffered perforated ear drums and shrapnel in the back of his head. But the experience has not deterred him from his ambition of reviving and rebuilding Afghan musical traditions through establishing and leading the country's first dedicated music school.
“Music represents the right to self-expression of all the Afghan people,” he told me during a tour of the modest building in a suburb of Kabul where ANIM is housed.
The institute’s young musicians, many of them former street vendors or orphans, have toured the world to showcase Afghan music and present a more positive face of the war-torn country. An ensemble played at the World Bank in 2013 and went on to perform amid great acclaim at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall in New York.
If you thought Indian women would shy away from working in that traditionally male preserve - the formidable public transport system - think again. Young women in Chandigarh are daring to turn stereotypes on their head by signing up in large numbers to work as bus conductors! And that too on regular public buses, not just on female-only ‘ladies specials’.
Roughly 27 million young people leave their country of birth to find employment abroad. Does this trend suggest that migration may be a solution to the worrying situation whereby 60% of young people in developing regions that are either unemployed, not studying, or engaged in irregular employment?
Half the world’s energy subsidies are in the Middle East and North Africa Region. These subsidies have been criticized on grounds that they crowd out public spending on valuable items such as health, education and capital investment. Egypt for instance spends seven times more on fuel subsidies than on health. Furthermore, the allocation of these subsidies is heavily skewed towards the rich, who consume more fuel and energy than the poor. In Yemen, the portion of fuel subsidies going to the richest quintile was 40 percent; the comparable figure in Jordan was 45 percent and in Egypt, 60 percent.
The unit that monitors the productivity of Tunisian public institutions and enterprises recently published an aggregate report on the performance of public institutions and enterprises from 2010 to 2012. It is worth paying attention to because the report is both the first of its kind since 2007, and the first to be published on the website of Tunisia’s Prime Minister.
I met Gilford Jirigani at a workshop in Port Moresby a few months ago. What struck me about him was his natural confidence and poise as he captured the audience’s attention - including mine-as he told us how one project changed his life. He went from being an unemployed kid, down and out and unclear about his life in the city, to eventually becoming one of the pioneers of a youth program aimed at increasing the employability of unemployed youth in Port Moresby in 2012.
Through targeted programs and internships, the World Bank benefits from investing in the talent of young African professionals, and has much to gain by investing in more. Below is a list of career opportunities available for young Africans who are interested in working at the World Bank. The jobs are stationed both at the headquarters in Washington, DC and the Africa country offices. All of these opportunities are paid and require fluency in English. However, fluency in at least one other Bank language (French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Portuguese, or Chinese) is an advantage. As a young African, I encourage any fellow African youth to consider these opportunities and pass them along to interested peers.
In Libya right now, one out of every two people is 24 years old or younger (52 percent).
One out of every two fighters was previously unemployed or a student (52 percent).
Why does this matter?
Since my last trip to Tripoli in April, the unfolding conflict has brought these numbers to life. At the time, opportunities were emerging, which I’ll return to in a bit. The current conflict notwithstanding, it was clear at the time that Libya has immense potential due to its natural resources and unique geography.
Is bigger always better? Economists have long debated what size firms are more likely to drive business expansion and job creation. In industrial countries like the United States, small (young) firms contribute up to two-thirds of all net job creation and account for a predominant share of innovation. (Source: McKinsey, Restarting the US small-business growth engine, November 2012). In developing countries, evidence from Ethiopia, Ghana and Madagascar shows that the vast majority of small operators remain small, and so are unlikely to create many decent jobs over time [Source: World Bank, Youth Employment, 2014]. By contrast, ‘big’ enterprises are seen as the best providers of employment opportunities and new technologies.
The difference in role and performance of small firms in developing and industrial countries reflects to a large extent their owners’ characteristics. In the US, small firm owners are generally more educated and wealthier than the average worker, while the opposite is true in most developing countries. This point was emphasized by E. Duflo and A. Banerjee in their famous book ‘Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty’ (Penguin, 2011). Most business owners in developing countries are considered to be ‘reluctant’ entrepreneurs; essentially unskilled workers that are pushed into entrepreneurship for lack of other feasible options for employment.
This is also very much a reality in Tanzania where small business owners have few skills and limited financial and physical assets. Of the three million non-farm businesses operating in the country, almost 90% of business owners are confined in self-employment. Only 3% of business owners possess post-secondary level education. As a result, their businesses are generally small, informal, unspecialized, young and unproductive. They also tend to be extremely fragile with high exit rates, and operate sporadically during the year. Put simply, most small businesses are not well equipped to expand and become competitive.
The Roma Inclusion Mobile Innovation Lab (RIMIL) pilot initiative launched by the World Bank aims to create a forum to build capacity to improve integration of marginalized Roma in Eastern Europe through better access to productive employment. Roberta Gatti, Regional Roma Coordinator in the Europe and Central Asia region, reports from Madrid on the initiative.