The youth employment challenge is a stubborn reality in all regions and nearly every country. Over 35 per cent of the estimated 201 million unemployed people today are youth (between the ages of 15 and 24). Worldwide, the challenge is not only to create jobs but to ensure quality jobs for young people who are often underemployed, work in the informal economy, or engage in vulnerable employment. Today, two out of every five young people in the labor force are either working but poor or unemployed.
Private Sector Development
Shortly after the Soviet invasion in 1979, the World Bank suspended its operations in Afghanistan. Work resumed in May 2002 to help meet the immediate needs of the poorest people and assist the government in building strong and accountable institutions to deliver services to its citizens.
As we mark the reopening of the World Bank office in Kabul 15 years ago, here are 15 highlights of our engagement in the country:
- Sustainable Communities
- Urban Development
- Social Development
- Public Sector and Governance
- Private Sector Development
- Migration and Remittances
- Law and Regulation
- Labor and Social Protection
- Information and Communication Technologies
- Global Economy
- Financial Sector
- Climate Change
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- South Asia
Earlier this month, development banks from around the world took stock of where they stand and where they see their efforts having the greatest impact at a meeting organized by the World Bank and Brazil’s development bank, BNDES.
As the world struggles in narrowing that gap. They can help to crowd-in the private sector and anchor private-public sector partnerships, particularly for infrastructure financing.
However, misusing development banks can lead to fiscal risks and credit market distortions. To avoid these potential pitfalls, , operate without political influence, focus on addressing significant market failures, concentrate on areas where the private sector is not present, monitor and evaluate interventions and adjust as necessary to ensure impact, and, finally, be transparent and accountable.
Two themes characterized the discussion at the meeting: . To support Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) finance, development banks use partial credit guarantees while letting private lenders originate, fund, and collect on credit. In markets with limited competition, development banks support the creation of an ecosystem of specialized Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) lenders to which they provide a stable funding source.
Helen Mwangi and her solar-powered water pump in Kenya © infoDev/World Bank
Managers of initiatives that support innovative entrepreneurs have a choice to spread their resources (and luck) among many opportunities or focus them on the most promising few. In developing countries, public and donor programs can learn a lot from how private investors pick and back innovative ventures.
In the early days of infoDev’s Climate Technology Program, our thinking was very much about letting a hundred flowers bloom: supporting a large number of firms with the hope that a few would emerge as blockbusters. Firms were selected on the basis of objective metrics tied to the innovative nature of their ideas and their economic, social and climate-change impacts. For example, while infoDev’s partner the Kenya Climate Innovation Center has more than 130 companies in its portfolio, a $50 million venture-capital fund in California would have at most six. Inspired by private investors, we have since rethought our program objectives for these centers, as well as the way we select and support businesses. The Kenya center is going through a rationalization of the firms it supports.
Like many public programs, infoDev and its network of Climate Innovation Centers had good reasons to support large numbers of companies. The main reason is the need to spread the entrepreneurship risk through a diversified portfolio. A recent infoDev literature review found that up to a third of all new firms do not survive beyond two years, let alone grow. Out of those that survive, data from high-income countries suggest that fewer than 10 percent become high-growth firms. So casting a wide net increases the chances of hitting the jackpot. The opposite approach, picking winners, is seen as destined to fail and distort the market.
In a previous blog we related how South Asia as a whole had improved the performance of its container ports since 2000 but had still struggled to catch up with other developed and developing regions. But within that picture, some ports did better than others.
For example, Colombo in Sri Lanka, the fast-expanding Mundra and Jawaharlal Nehru Port in India and Port Qasim in Pakistan all improved the use of their facilities in the first decade of this century. India’s Mumbai and Tuticorin were among those that fell behind. Colombo also improved its operational performance by almost halving the share of idle time at berth, while Chittagong (Bangladesh) and Kolkata (India) had the longest vessel turnaround times in the region.
Knowing how specific ports perform and the characteristics of ports that perform well and those of ports that perform poorly helps policymakers design interventions to support underperforming ports.
In the report “Competitiveness of South Asia’s Container Ports” we identified three interrelated policies to improve the performance of the container ports, a key element in one of the world’s fast-growing regions: increasing private participation in ports, strengthening governance of port authorities and fostering competition between and within ports:
Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) require the coordination of an impressive number of stakeholders to mobilize the commercial financing needed to achieve sustainable, inclusive growth in challenging environments. A great deal of analysis, negotiation, and hard work goes into every project. And each one presents an opportunity to encourage investors to venture into countries and compete for projects they wouldn’t have considered before and, ultimately, to create new markets.
While the commercial and legal challenges involved in structuring PPPs are well known, the efforts that go into conducting rigorous technical due diligence are less well known. For example, projects that aim to provide utility scale solar PV on short order, like the World Bank Group’s Scaling Solar program, require a team of experienced engineers from IFC’s Energy and Water Advisory working hand in hand with our PPP transaction advisors, legal experts, and environmental and social specialists to make them a reality.
Sinah Legong and her team meet at Raeketsetsa, a program that encourages young women in South Africa to get involved in information and communications technologies. © Mutoni Karasanyi/World Bank
Olou Koucoi founded Focus Energy, a company that brings light, news and entertainment to people living off-grid in his country, Benin. Its spinoff program ElleAllume hopes to train more than 1,000 women to bring power to 100,000 Beninois homes this year. “At the end of the day, [inclusive hiring] is not a gender decision, it’s a business decision,” he says.
Over the past few months, I interviewed a number of incubator and accelerator programs to compile best practices for the World Bank Group’s Climate Technology Program. The research spanned 150 programs in 39 countries, ranging from relatively new to seasoned veterans of the clean tech incubation space. The consensus regarding gender diversity and inclusion was almost unanimous; all but one program echoed Koucoi’s sentiments – in principle.
In practice, however, encouraging more women into the clean energy sector and related programs has proved challenging. Below are some of the most popular explanations for the low levels of female representation:
“We can’t find them.”
Many clean energy incubation programs said they had difficulty recruiting due to a lack of women in the industry and strong women’s networks to tap into. While there is no shortage of women in clean energy (with industry-specific examples such as clean cookstoves serving as a good example) there are few women-led businesses. This lack of visible leadership translates into lower rates of participation.
“We would love to focus on bringing more women into the program, but we have limited resources.”
Incubation programs are often lean, with little time and few resources to expand on offerings and create targeted programs for women. Instead, to create quick wins and draw in additional funds, programs often take a “low-hanging fruit” approach, seeking out the most visible companies to recruit and invest in, which tend to have male co-founders.
“Does it really matter at the end of the day?”
Many programs are pro-gender-diversity in principle, but gender-agnostic in practice. This stems from a disconnect between the “gendered-lens” approach discussed when fundraising for incubation programs and the results frameworks which judge their success. Such factors as the number of companies exited are still weighed much more heavily than gender balance.
Below are some of the best ways I have found to create more gender-diverse and inclusive programs: