Once a concession agreement or any large-scale public procurement contract is signed, who can ensure that the terms are met? How to turn commitments into development on the ground? This is the puzzle that a mix of around 70 government, business and civil society leaders from West Africa began to solve this past week.
One hears less about the base of the pyramid these days. Instead, "inclusive" remains the clear buzzword of choice for now. The recent UN Millennium Development Goals Summit generated a side workshop on Inclusive Business organized by a roll call of organizations. Now IFC is hosting its own event on Inclusive Business Solutions around the IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings this week. The term is pervasive.
The current blizzard conditions in Washington D.C. are testing World Bank staff capabilities to work remotely. Advances in technology no longer mean we have to shut up shop completely - though some no doubt lament the loss of the care free snow day of the past.
The global economic crisis revealed large scale fraud in the financial sector (witness the Madoff scandal, among others). Unsurprisingly, it has prompted widespread decline in public trust in companies. The Financial Times / Harris Poll released last month suggests three-quarters of people in the US and Europe now have a worse opinion of business.
Participants from the length of the agribusiness value chain are gathered at the Bank this week for the World Bank Institute’s new Executive Program on Inclusive Agribusiness: Fighting Poverty, Hunger and Malnutrition. Chris Delgado and John Lamb from the Bank’s Agriculture and Rural Development team set the scene on Tuesday morning by laying out the scale and complexity of the challenge facing the food sector. It was not a pretty picture.
While the financial and economic crisis has prompted much soul searching on the appropriate government and business boundaries and the right balance of regulation, it will be interesting to see how this filters down to emerging markets such as India and China -even at the local level there are now efforts to legislate for corporate responsibility.
The debate on the fate of corporate responsibility initiatives in the economic slowdown is already underway in a range of general business and specialist publications. It is falling into predictable lines. Friedmanites brand CSR as a dangerous distraction and an unaffordable luxury in these parsimonious times. Advocates suggest that is was precisely a failure to meet core responsibilities that helped create the current crisis, and so rebuilding public trust through responsible approaches is all the more important.
It will be intriguing to see how the global economic crisis impacts firms operating at the base of the pyramid.
If you've got some free time this afternoon, I highly recommend checking out an event being put on by CGAP on Mobile Banking for Poor People: Pioneer Perspectives. The discussion will take place between 2pm-5pm eastern standard time and will feature a star-studded panel, including Nick Hughes of Vodaphone and Brian Richardson of Wizzit.