WASHINGTON, June 28, 2013—The World Bank Africa Region on June 24th hosted a special lecture and seminar to mark the career of Stanley Please, a leading World Bank economist who contributed significantly to the evolution of economic policy reforms in Africa.
In his early years in the Bank, Please played a key role in improving the policy focus of economic research and when he moved to operations in the East Africa Region, he was a leader in underlining the role improved economic policies needed to play in Africa. Friends, family, and admirers all joined together to honor Stanley Please, a World Bank legend.
Panelists included: K Y Amoako, President of the African Center for Economic Transformation; Makhtar Diop, World Bank Africa Region Vice President; Martin Wolf, the Chief Economics Commentator of the Financial Times; Jim “Tanzania” Adams; Jean-Louis Sarbib, and many others who worked at one time with Stanley Please or were influenced by his innovative thinking about the continent.
They came to discuss economic reforms in Africa and remember a giant figure in the Bank, whom Martin Wolf described in his opening remarks as “a realistic idealist, without ego, committed, decent and kind. He was a wonderful boss, a devoted servant of the World Bank over twenty years and an enthusiastic policymaker.”
Makhtar Diop opened the seminar with a tribute to the Bank’s change makers of the 70s and 80s. Speaking on the theme The Evolution of Economic Policy Reforms in Africa, Diop evoked the memory and the work of Please, whose devotion to Africa continues to inspire the adaptation of the Bank to current realities across the continent.
“Let me preface this seminar with some remarks about what we policy players in Africa in the past missed to get right in support of economic reforms, and how the lessons leant from our mistakes now guide our approach and steps towards poverty reduction, shared growth and prosperity across the continent,” Diop said.
“We must admit that we leant the hard way over our policy mistakes in Africa in the 70s and 80s,” he added. “This was a period of over-optimism and simplification of complex assumptions in anticipation of macroeconomic results that we did not see through.”
Diop said, “We overlooked the social dimensions of structural adjustment, substituted state monopoly with private sector monopoly of trade, underestimated the role of political economy, demonstrated a simplified view of the role of the state, and were not quite as sensitive to policies on resource distribution as we should have been. Today we are correcting all these in the way we do business. The ways we now do our Country Policy and Institutional Assessments, for example, much more reflect our sensitivity to the issues we glided over in the past”.
A former Bank economist who now heads the African Center for Economic Transformation, K.Y. Amoako then gave a keynote speech that focused on the five challenges which, according to him, the continent currently faces. The five, he explained, are: (i) a lack of economic diversification and an over-reliance on one-commodity economies; (ii) rising inequality, with a rich few getting richer as a majority sink into poverty; (iii) rapid urbanization; (iv) rising unemployment, notably among youth and women; and (v) climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Amoako’s speech was then the focus of a panel discussion with the Honorable, Amina Salum Ali, the Permanent Representative of the Africa Union to the United States; Kwesi Botchwey, the Executive Chair of the Africa Policy Ownership Initiative, Bob Liebenthal, an Economic Development Consultant; and Martin Wolf, Chief Economics Commentator at the Financial Times.
The seminar was named after former Bank staff, the late Stanley Please, in recognition of his enthusiasm, economic rigor, strong commitment to development, devotion to and interest in Africa.