You need to be outrageously aspirational when you take on a growth pole


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Growth poles can help create jobs for Africa's one billion citizens (Credit: World Bank)

We were asked the other day by our senior management to be outrageously aspirational when we engage with growth poles.  I have been reflecting on what this means for our work on this topic in Africa, especially in light of the findings of the Africa Competitiveness Report.  I think we need to be aspirational in three broad directions: (i) developing the capacity to get things done in Africa, (ii) ensuring all stakeholders benefit from growth, and (iii) mobilizing as much capital as we can, whether it be private, philanthropic or public.

So how do we get things done and develop functioning, job-creating growth poles?  I think this is the biggest challenge.  Developing a growth pole requires a complex mix of multi-disciplinary skills, the ability to encourage and sometimes coerce not necessarily willing public sector actors, the ability to engage in a credible sometimes entrepreneurial way with the private sector and to constantly think outside the box.  Is this the Africa we know?  It’s certainly the Africa the continent aspires to be.  

In terms of getting things done innovative delivery systems are key – these could be public private partnerships, collaborations with NGO’s, autonomous development agencies or interesting combinations of national and regional public sector actors. 

There is also a need to involve and include all stakeholders particularly those local communities that may feel like their land is grabbed, or they are missing out on the wealth that obviously surrounds them.  They often don’t see any meaningful change in their lives from economic initiatives, and this is something that needs to change.  Building on our delivery platforms, the solution will involve a strong interactive public private dialogue.

Resources are required to make things happen, and for this we should be willing to draw on private, philantrophic and public sources.  In our work in Sierra Leone we see interest from philanthropic organizations to engage in the growth pole on strengthening cocoa value chains.  We see private sector actors wanting to make investments in their own right and to work with the Government in public private partnerships to build critical infrastructure.  We see the local private sector and small farmers wanting to work with large foreign investors and we see donors and the Government keen to support delivery systems, catalyze action and build key pieces of public infrastructure.
So is this different, is this outrageous?  In a way it is pushing us away from just thinking about investments per se to a holistic, dynamic approach.  It is an approach that resonates with our partners in the African countries because it is transaction oriented whether it is public sector investment or a private sector deal.  It is also a fast real time engagement where it’s not about the paper work but getting results.   On a personal note, it’s fun and different and takes me back to my private sector roots.



John Speakman

Adviser, Trade and Competitiveness

Stan Chiezey
May 10, 2013

Brilliant idea, this growth poles approach. It is about time that development in Africa and other developmentally challenged nations of the world is approached from a new angle.
However, as you pursue the development of infrastructure for this laudable approach to development, you need to also consider the basic and most important infrastructure of all; The Socio-cultural Infrastructure! The African people and nations need to embrace development from a personal development point of view with key aspirations centered on creating a better world and making positive impact on the community and environment as against development for mere individual emancipation and survival.

May 11, 2013

I outrageously approve this message! ;-)

May 15, 2013

Yes, wonderful appraoch and if the bank wants to continue to be relevant in addressing the demand from governments , we need to become much more cross sectoral and better understand the triggers to private sector investments.

Joel Patenaude
June 18, 2013

It was a nice surprise to see the photo of Peter Tamakloe of Ghana's Ceramica Tamakloe, Peter is a rare example: a bootstrapped manufacturer who continues to produce market-demanded goods and to provide jobs in a difficult environment. The herculean effort to import and reassemble that tile machinery in the background of the photo was, to borrow your phrase, outrageously aspirational.