With chronic instability, war, continued climate disasters and a fledgling pandemic recovery, the World Bank Group committed at the 2023 Annual Meetings in Marrakech, Morocco to evolve and rise to the challenges with a new mission: eradicate poverty on a livable planet.
During his plenary speech before World Bank governors the president outlined the new mission including a central emphasis on women, youth and jobs. He described plans for the institution to increase its financial capacity and refocus on confronting challenges “not just as a funding mechanism but as a knowledge mechanism.”
“We are becoming faster and more efficient; we have new ways to respond to crises, we are focusing our knowledge bank on scale, and driving thought leadership,” Banga said while describing his vision of bringing knowledge to the forefront of the institution’s country-driven model.
The heightened focus on jobs, women and youth was amplified by World Bank Group governors in the Annual Meetings Development Committee paper, and carried through several high-profile events at Annual Meetings, showcasing the depth and breadth of the Bank’s knowledge and thought leadership in human development.
“Members recognized the transformative impact of the empowerment of women and girls, agreeing that the next phase of Evolution place a greater emphasis on the Bank’s role in driving progress on gender equality and human development,” governors said in the paper.
More Jobs through Investing in Human Capital
More Jobs through Investing in Human Capital
During the Human Capital Ministerial Conclave at the Meetings, ministers of finance from the World Bank’s 91-country Human Capital Network explored how countries connect people to good jobs and how to empower entrepreneurs to innovate and fuel job growth. The network celebrated its 5th anniversary as the premier global forum and knowledge exchange for advancing human capital. A public event following the conclave focused on the same themes.
Panelist at the “More Jobs through Investing in Human Capital” event and co-chair of the Human Capital Network, World Bank Vice President for Human Development, Mamta Murthi, summarized the “active and lively” discussion of the ministers in the closed-door session.
Murthi said ministers agreed on investing in people for more job creation, but recognized the huge challenge for developing countries to create 1 billion more jobs by 2050. There are no easy answers, Murthi said, but skilling people and removing barriers for women and young people are critical. Governments should prioritize investments in people that provide the highest returns and facilitate international labor mobility, while the private sector can help by engaging in more skills partnerships.
Amal Hassan, Founder and CEO, Outsource Global of Nigeria, spoke of her company’s dedication to intentionally upskilling employees for success. Fellow entrepreneur and job creator Basima Abdulrahman, Founder & CEO of KESK, Iraq a solar energy company, agreed on the importance of skilling and emphasized employee empowerment. She shared how it was on-the-job experience which allowed her to thrive despite the negative bias she experienced as a woman leader in a high-tech field.
“We need to believe in people and particularly we need to believe in women,” said panelist Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Senior Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships. He stressed how investments across the lifecycle, especially education, but also access to credit, digitalization and reliable infrastructure are critical to solving the jobs challenge. Countries, he emphasized, should give entrepreneurs—women and youth especially—the conditions to succeed.
“We are foregoing economic welfare because so many women are denied opportunities,” van Trotsenburg said.
A discussion between Anna Bjerde, Managing Director for Operations, World Bank, Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt and Amina Mohamed Deputy Secretary General of the UN kicked off the event. They focused on the commitment and action of international and national actors to pave a path toward equality, despite the scale of the challenge.
Bjerde called gender equality a moral, social, and economic issue. The Bank is using evidence, she said, to close gender gaps and will continue focusing on operationally relevant research, policy reform and dialogue to advance change.
Two women entrepreneurs, supported by the Women Entrepreneurs Finance “We-Fi” Initiative, shared their stories, offering proof of what can be accomplished. Hanan Shahin, CEO of Bloom Cart, a try-before-you-buy clothing business operating in the Middle East, called on policymakers to advance equality and help change norms so women don’t have to choose between a building a business and raising a family.
“It takes a village,” Shahin said, “so don’t leave it all to women.”
“Stop seeing inspiring women in financial terms only. Assess the whole person, their dreams, their hopes, and their commitment to their ventures,” said Valeria Diaz Romero, Co-Founder and CEO of Munay in Bolivia. “Imagine the untapped the prosperity that awaits us if we unite in reshaping our world.”
The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Code (the WE Finance Code)—a commitment by financial service providers, regulators, development banks, and other financial ecosystem players to work together to increase funding provided to women-led enterprises—was launched the following day. A Joint Statement of Support was signed by the presidents of six multilateral development banks – We-Fi’s Implementing Partners, who will pilot the WE Finance Code in 24 countries across the developing world.
During a second panel at the same event, participants concentrated on the transformative potential of financial empowerment. Ruth Zaipuna, CEO of NMB Bank of Tanzania, emphasized the importance of access to finance, while Visa’s Andrew Torre called on companies to have institutional women’s empowerment strategies. Women need to be listened to, supported, and empowered financially, said Morocco’s National President of the Association des Femmes Cheffes d’Entreprises Leila Doukali. Faith Lumonya of Afrika Akina Mama wa Afrika, a pan-African feminist leadership development organization, stressed the essential role for public finance in reaching women and girls with social services, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.
Investing in people through education was the topic of a separate closed-door session of finance ministers together with the Bank’s Axel van Trotsenburg and Mamta Murthi. During the “Financing Education in Times of Polycrisis” session participants shared country experiences and challenges in managing the level and efficiency of education investments under strained public finances, while facing the urgent need to recover and accelerate learning.
Another closed-door session explored “Migration as a Pathway to Prosperity” and featured several finance ministers along with Mamta Murthi and Iffath Sharif, the Bank’s Global Director for Social Protection and Jobs. Participants discussed the challenges of migration but, more importantly, how to maximize the benefits of migration for all people in society.
During the meetings several World Bank global directors in human development also led informal “Knowledge Cafe” sessions featuring highlights of the best of this year’s World Bank knowledge and expertise. Human development related sessions took place on “The Promise and Peril of Online Gig Work” (Global Director for Social Protection and Jobs Iffath Sharif); “Skills and Workforce Development for the Green and Digital Transformation” (Global Director for Education Luis Benveniste); and “Digital-in-Health” (Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population, Juan Pablo Uribe). In addition, several sessions during the Civil Society Policy Forum focused on human capital, pandemic preparedness, gender equity, health, education, social protection and youth.
Reflecting on the Annual Meetings, Murthi said, “We must press forward the urgency of investing in people, especially in these times of crisis. We call on partners to help us deliver on our renewed mission, building the foundations for economic growth, inclusion, resilience and equality for all.”