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Competitive advantage in the knowledge economy

Iftikhar Mostafa's picture

 Chhor Sokunthea / World Bank“Knowledge economy” is a term popularized by Peter Drucker in his book The Age of Discontinuity. Over the past decade, knowledge-based policies, projects and programs have increasingly become drivers of the knowledge economy. Intra and inter-institutional collaboration for sharing knowledge and experience are essential for tapping into the enormous powerhouse of indigenous, national, regional and global knowledge. The timely application of such shared knowledge can help in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

At the beginning of this summer, 60 task team leaders and investment officers from the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, regional development banks – African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Inter-American Development Bank – and Rome-based UN Agencies – Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund For Agricultural Development (IFAD) and World Food Program (WFP)– participated in a 3-day Knowledge Forum organized by the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP). The Forum was hosted by the FAO at its Headquarters in Rome. This was the third Knowledge Forum organized by GAFSP, a video was developed on the GAFSP 2017 Knowledge Forum.

The 2017 Knowledge Forum, one of GAFSP’s flagship events, brought together strategic and operational insights drawn from the Program’s Public and Private Sector Window projects. The Forum provided a robust and interactive platform to share tacit knowledge and experiences, including ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness of project delivery and increase impact on rural poor; to implement GAFSP’s new Monitoring and Evaluation Plan including Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES); and to implement the newly-designed GAFSP’s Operations Portal. The importance and benefits of partnering with civil society organizations like ActionAid, ROPPA (Réseau des Organisations Paysannes et de Producteurs de l"Afrique de l'Ouest) in Africa, and AFA (Asian Farmers Association) in Asia, in the design and implementation of GAFSP-supported projects were highlighted in the Forum.

Task team leaders from the Public Sector Window and investment officers from the Private Sector Window delivered engaging and inspiring “Pecha Kucha” style talks to share project outcomes and lessons learnt, which included:

  • Caribbean Food Security Project in Nicaragua: Augusto Garcia, World Bank task team leader, discussed key features of the project, which includes link between agriculture and nutrition in indigenous, Afro-Nicaraguan and Mestizo communities of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. Based on one and a half year of project implementation, some of the key lessons shared are: mainstreaming nutrition-sensitive agriculture within the agriculture sector is a challenge that requires ‘out of box’ thinking; bringing together different institutional partners to act cross-sectorally requires strong leadership and convincement about the double win of focused agriculture-nutrition innovations; and investment in proper monitoring and impact evaluation is a must for demonstrating impact.  
  • Africa Improved Foods Limited (AIFL) company in Rwanda: Emi Kitasako, Kenya-based IFC investment officer, discussed the public-private partnership, which provides nutritional products to mothers and children. The project aims to source maize and soya locally thereby connecting farmers to markets and increasing their income. GAFSP’s participation reduced risk and ‘guaranteed loss exposure’ for IFC. Some of the lessons shared are: difficulty in determining how to fit all the different pieces in a partnership; hence, clarity in defining the role of each partner beforehand is very important; strategic direction and timing are critical with large number of partners as in the case of the AIFL; use of simple legal structure in such partnerships is helpful; and incentives, although important, need to be simple. 
  • Emergency Food Assistance - Additional Financing Project in Cambodia: Piseth Long, the Asian Development Bank team leader, highlighted lessons from this recently completed GAFSP-funded project. Some of the lessons are: access to quality input and extension services is critical to increase agricultural productivity; a combination of short-term, medium-term and long-term measures is important to address food insecurity; effective coordination among relevant government ministries is a critical driver of project success; and utilization of existing implementation structure helps to improve synergy and maximize development impact. 
 Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Participants of 2017 GAFSP Knowledge Forum
An innovative Market Place was organized at the Forum that brought together existing and potential technical partners like the World Bank’s Development Impact Evaluation team (DIME), one of the CGIAR Centers - International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), France-based CIRAD, The Netherlands-based SCOPE Insight, European Space Agency (ESA), 10-year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns (10YFP), and the Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR). Forum participants interacted with technical partners to gain knowledge about their respective specialization and capacities.

Ultimately, competitive advantage in the knowledge economy lies in the generation, diffusion, and appropriate application of knowledge. The GAFSP 2017 Knowledge Forum leveraged learning and experience both from the public and the private sectors across countries, regions and continents. The Forum showed how to innovate in the context of climate change and fragility, supporting public private partnership, food systems and youth employment in different countries. Such cross-institutional knowledge and experience sharing is enriching and provides a multitude of perspectives for solving developmental challenges.

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