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Podcast May 26, 2022

Human Capital at the Crossroads: Reversing the Losses, Reclaiming our Future | The Development Podcast: Highlights from the 2022 WBG-IMF Spring Meetings

FEATURING: Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of United Republic of Tanzania; David R. Malpass, President, World Bank Group; Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General; Mari Pangestu, Managing Director, Development Policy and Partnerships, World Bank; Malala Yousafzai, Co-Founder of Malala Fund; Beatrice Mahuru, Founder & CEO, GLaD Ltd and B&WE Ltd.

We would love to hear from you! Tell us what you think of our podcast here >>>

Use the following clickable timestamps to listen to the podcast.

[00:00] Welcome and introduction of the topic

[02:38] Tanzania's education system

[05:13] Tanzania's investment in health

[08:28] Tanzania: Challenges in education and health

[13:35] Tackling learning poverty

[17:36] Special considerations from a gender and fragility context

[19:07] Impacts of the pandemic on young people

[23:50] The value of investing in people

[28:10] Equipping young people for the jobs of the future

[29:32] Closure and thanks for tuning!

Putting people first through investing in human capital – the knowledge, skills, and health that people need to achieve their potential – is critical for sustainable, inclusive growth and poverty reduction. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic threaten to leave generations behind and exacerbate inequalities. Health impacts, setbacks to nutrition, the early years and learning, job losses and expanding gender gaps must be addressed with urgency. Countries have stepped up in innovative ways to put people first through building, protecting, and utilizing human capital – with support from the World Bank and partners. However – ambition, innovation, and sustained support are needed to recover human capital losses and strengthen recovery. Investing in people consistently and providing opportunities for all to achieve their potential can yield economic dividends – and help bring greater stability in a challenging global context.

During the 2022 World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings, leaders, innovators and change-makers shared how investments in human capital can not only change lives for individuals, but also create more inclusive and equitable societies. Listen to the Spring Meetings highlights in a special series of The Development Podcast

Tell us what you think of our podcast here >>>. We would love to hear from you!


Featured Voices

  • Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of United Republic of Tanzania 
  • David R. Malpass, President, World Bank Group 
  • Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General 
  • Mari Pangestu, Managing Director, Development Policy and Partnerships, World Bank 
  • Malala Yousafzai, Co-Founder of Malala Fund 
  • Beatrice Mahuru, Founder & CEO, GLaD Ltd and B&WE Ltd 

Human Capital at the Crossroads | The Development Podcast: Highlights from the Spring Meetings



[00:00] Ntombie Siwale: Welcome to a special edition of the Development Podcast from the World Bank Group. I'm Ntombie Siwale. This is the final episode recapping the World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings. This year's discussions took place as the world tackled overlapping crisis and conflicts, but in today's show, we'll look to the future and hear from leaders, innovators, and change makers who are taking action to put people at the heart of recovery. How the COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges for education.

Amina Mohammed: Even if you had connectivity, teachers were not prepared to teach and learners were not prepared to learn, even though we thought we had them connected.

Mari Pangestu: Remote learning is available, but if you don't have connectivity, you will not be able to reach any type of remote learning.

Ntombie Siwale: Tanzania's plan for health education and skills.

Samia Suluhu Hassan: The challenge is, we have done very well on infrastructure, but now to improve the quality of the services, which are given to the people.

Ntombie Siwale: And how to build a better, more resilient future.

Amina Mohammed: So what are we going to do differently? And I think that this is the question now for us to rethink education and to have a rebirth of the way the future, the next generation are going to have education.

Ntombie Siwale: All that, and more in this edition of the Development Podcast.

Ntombie Siwale: Education, health, social protection, jobs, and gender equality. These are critically important areas for investment that enable people to reach their full potential. Building this human capital is vital for sustaining economic growth, creating more equitable societies and preventing the next generation from falling into poverty. But with devastating blows, such as conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, these pillars of human capital have been challenged in unprecedented ways, losses to learning over the past two years, plus impediments to healthcare and to gender equality could have a long term impact on prosperity in many parts of the world. So how are leaders responding to these issues and building back resilience for human capital? David Malpass, president of the World Bank Group spoke to the president of the United Republic of Tanzania, her excellency, Samia Suluhu Hassan. President Samia is the first female president of her country and is a powerful agent and voice for change. She is a champion for gender equality and economic empowerment for women and girls. In addition, she has reset Tanzania's response to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including access to effective COVID-19 vaccines. She outlined her vision for Tanzania's education system.

[02:38] Samia Suluhu Hassan: First of all, we are offering free education for all, at least from pre-primary to primary and secondary education. And we have made a stride in 2015, we went 80%, and we are almost at 95.5%. So we are going to 100% enrollment, and it's free for all boys and girls. And then talking of secondary schools, we are continuing with the free education and most of our kids go to secondary school, but then we have created a fund whereby when they go to universities, they have to borrow money from that fund, go for their education, and then they're paying back when they get employed. Yeah. Whether self-employment or they get employed somewhere, that's when they are paying back. And we have done so knowing that if we left the burden of educating those kids in universities, the parents couldn't do that.

Samia Suluhu Hassan: So we have created a fund, but then in the same way in education, you remember we had a ban of adolescent mothers to go back to school. And now we have lifted that ban. Now the adolescent mothers, if they drop out, whether boys or girls, adolescent mothers, or not, they're free to go back to school, to complete the education, at least at the primary level. But some of them, they're doing good. We have a very good example in Zanzibar, where this ban was lifted long ago, and most of the adolescent mothers went back to school and now they're completing their university education. So we thought we should give that privilege to the adolescent mothers and the dropouts.

[05:13] Samia Suluhu Hassan: But then on health, we have done well, still we are having challenges, but our policy is health for all. And we have tried hard. We have different segments of health service. We have the village level, then ward level, district level, regional level, then national referral level. So we have done well from the district/regional referral. We have tried, but then we are now concentrating on the village level because we learned it from COVID, we need to have the first-aid fast treatment down to the village. So now we are concentrating on the village level of where we have done about... Tanzania is having about 12,300 villages. And before my time we have built around 5,000 to 6,000 centers, health centers at the village level. The challenge is we have done very well on infrastructure, but now to improve the quality of the services, which are given to the people.

David Malpass: Who provides the healthcare at that village level?

Samia Suluhu Hassan: The government, of course, yeah. The government.

David Malpass: Do doctors travel through, how does it break down?

Samia Suluhu Hassan: They call them the Assistant Medical Officers. Yeah. They're doing the services down to the village. And of course, every dispenser is having two nurses plus a medical doctor, assistant medical doctor.

David Malpass: Do they look at nutrition? Will they identify children that are, that are either undernourished or have the incorrect vitamins and so on?

Samia Suluhu Hassan: Yes. Yeah, because we are starting giving service to the mothers when they're pregnant, make sure they all have folic acids, avoid pneumonia, anemia, and so that they can give birth to healthy babies. When the babies are born, we take all the necessary measures, vaccination, checking whether they're disabled or not.

David Malpass: And that used to be a big problem in Tanzania, the childbirth complications.

Samia Suluhu Hassan: Yes.

David Malpass: Can that improve the situation rapidly because we're talking about a nine month period, or a one year period before birth. How is that going?

Samia Suluhu Hassan: We have improved. We have improved because five years back, we were talking of, let's say 120 deaths per 100,000 for babies, zero to one year. And now we are talking of about 27. Only 27.

David Malpass: 80% improvement or cut in the... Which is huge.

Samia Suluhu Hassan: And this is because we are taking care of the pregnant mother. And then we are giving necessary services when the child is being born. Yeah. We are still struggling with maternal mortality. We have reduced that a great deal, but the numbers are still not acceptable.

[08:28] David Malpass: What do you find are the challenges, both in education and in health? Is it fiscal? Is it the amount of money, or is it to train the personnel, or is it imports that are... What are the biggest challenges?

Samia Suluhu Hassan: I think it's a mixture. In education, the challenge was the acceptance of parents who send their kids to school.

David Malpass: Ah.

Samia Suluhu Hassan: Yeah. Because...

David Malpass: Especially girls?

Samia Suluhu Hassan: Yes. Especially girls, and in some societies, the herd keepers, the livestock keepers, they prefer their kids to go for herding rather than going to school. So we had to educate the parents to accept sending their kids to school. But number two challenge was infrastructure, the lack of classrooms. But now we are done with that. We are still having shortages, but not as much as it was before. The third challenge is the number of teachers. Be able to employ teachers, which would be enough for every school in the whole country. That is our challenge.

David Malpass: Is there a qualifications standard, or is that important, the quality of the teacher? How do you think about that?

Samia Suluhu Hassan: The quality of the teachers, yes, but we are tackling the quality of the teachers in science subjects. That's where we are struggling. The art subjects, we are having enough, the challenge with the art subject is the capacity of the government to employ more teachers. But for the science subjects, yes, we are still struggling training more science subject teachers. Yeah. We are working on that.

David Malpass: And do you find, is there a difference between women teachers and men teachers as far as effectiveness?

Samia Suluhu Hassan: Yeah.

David Malpass: Which way?

Samia Suluhu Hassan: Fortunately, fortunately, the health and education sector employs more women than men. So we are having more female teachers than male in numbers. Also in the health sector, we are having more female nurses than men. But when you go up to the doctors, we're having more male doctors than female doctors.

David Malpass: Well, someday, maybe those can balance.

Samia Suluhu Hassan: And this is because when we were moving to our former stream of education, girls kept on dropping. Yeah. Kept on dropping. They were not much on science subjects than men.

David Malpass: Yeah.

Samia Suluhu Hassan: But nowadays that gap has been reduced.

David Malpass: And we find if girls are given the chance, they do very well in math and science.

Samia Suluhu Hassan: Oh, yes.

David Malpass: I know you've been a big promoter of girls' education.

Samia Suluhu Hassan: Yes.

David Malpass: And also countering gender-based violence. How is that going? And what are the obstacles to that? Is it educating the society not to allow it or what's most effective?

Samia Suluhu Hassan: Yeah. You know, before the gender-based education, we had both, we had the legal frameworks, and then we had education. But then with the legal frameworks, most of those who were victims of gender-based violence, wouldn't like to go for legal frameworks and would like them to fix things at home. So we go for education. And education, I think we started wrongly by educating women only, but now we have realized that both have to be educated, men and women, the gender-based violence is neither good for men, nor for women. So we are conducting, the civil society organizations, are conducting training for all of them.

David Malpass: That's an important insight.

Samia Suluhu Hassan: Yes.

David Malpass: It's obvious when you say it, that men are part of the problem and have to be educated and brought forward along. You're doing a remarkable job and we're looking for ways to expand our program, and I'm particularly happy to hear about the progress in education in health and gender-based violence. These are all key to the future of Tanzania.

Samia Suluhu Hassan: Yes.

David Malpass: Thank you very much.

Ntombie Siwale: David Malpass, World Bank Group President, in conversation with Tanzania's president, Samia Suluhu Hassan. You're listening to the Development Podcast with me, Ntombie Siwale, exploring human capital at the crossroads.

Multiple speakers: Namaste. I'm Shilpa in New Delhi. / I'm Muslim Siti Muhammad in Yemen. / Hello, everyone. I am LeSunday in Port Villa, Vanuatu. / Hello. I'm Pironkoff in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. / I am Mpumza in Uganda. World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings. / World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings. / World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings. / World Bank Group-IMF Spring Meetings.

[13:35] Ntombie Siwale: The pandemic paused the education of tens of millions globally. Learning to get back on track and accelerate progress is therefore a global priority. Tackling learning poverty is a crucial component to building a country's human capital and to give children the best start in life. So how to build all this in an increasingly fragile world and how to tackle the problems raised by the pandemic to create a better framework for the future. Rachelle Akuffo, Yahoo Finance anchor and moderator, put all this to a distinguished panel. Malala Yousafzai is co-founder of the Malala Fund, the youngest ever Nobel Laureate, and a tireless advocate for all girls' right to education. Amina Muhammad, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations. Mari Pangestu is the Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships at the World Bank.

Mari Pangestu: You know, we've never had such a situation in the world where you had long global lockdown of schools. The average is 286 days that schools were closed down. And in some regions like South Asia, it's very high. It's like 480 days, so that's a year, to almost two years, of kids not being in school. So the learning losses are something that will be the big challenge, and the impact of not going to school and loss of learning is also unequal in its impact, affecting young children the most, as well as those in poorer households. And those who are not connected to the extent that remote learning is available. But if you don't have connectivity, you will not be able to reach any type of remote learning. UNICEF estimates that 31% of school children could not access any kind of remote learning.

Mari Pangestu: So these are the challenges and it translates into a lost decade of development. And you can actually put a number to it, which is $17 trillion worth of lost earnings. And that's 14% of the world GDP. How can we address this? We need swift and urgent action. First of all, get kids back to school because we also know there have also been high dropout rates, kids not coming back to school, even as schools opening up, especially girls. And this happened with the Ebola crisis where less girls came back to school. So we've got to create the incentives for kids to come back to school and stay in school, especially girls. Incentives, combine it with school meals, making sure, like in Brazil, we are working with the Brazilian government to sort of have a check system, a survey system, to understand when kids are not coming back to school, and finding how to get them back to school and creating safe schools for girls is very important.

Mari Pangestu: Second, how do you regain the learning losses? And it's not just the one, or one and a half years of not going to school that's lost. They've also forgotten what they learned. So this accelerated learning recovery really needs a focus, in terms of the programs that we need to design, the teachers that we need to train, to be able to have the tools and resources to address this. And then third, as we are addressing the learning recovery, we should also be addressing what we need to change for the more medium-term education issues, the core skills, how do we get teachers to be trained? And we are also looking at what we call "School Beyond Walls," the important role of parents, and communities as well, in the learning and the whole digital divide, we need to address how the remote learning and using digital and connectivity is very important.

[17:36] Rachelle Akuffo: And as you mentioned, this really is a holistic approach that needs to be taken. A real wake up call, obviously with COVID, building on what was already happening in the education system. Malala, I want to bring you in here, because in some regions and context, very few students are able to read. How do we address this and what special considerations are needed from a gender and fragility context?

Malala Yousafzai: In this time, education advocates need to take the issue of the quality of education more seriously. We know that when children enroll into schools, there's also the issue of what they learn in their classrooms. So it's the access to education, but also the quality of education that are important. We know that there is also the element of gender in it. Girls do outperform boys in arts and they're also catching up on maths, as well. But if we look at the averages, averages only tell us half the story. We need to dig deeper into this and look at how girls from marginalized, from low income communities are more impacted. They're less likely to excel in these academic subjects. And there's also the issue of crisis. When external crisis hits an economy, girls are usually the first ones to drop out and the last ones to return to their classrooms. This pandemic has taught us that we need to consider education beyond just a classroom and think about how we can use digital platforms as tools for education. This is an urgent issue. This is a crisis that needs to be addressed sooner.

[19:07] Rachelle Akuffo: And as you mentioned there, in terms of COVID-19, Amina, I want to bring you in here because we know that COVID-19 has been the biggest setback to human capital in living memory. What are the unique impacts on young people, and what are the key priorities to get back on track?

Amina Mohammed: Okay, thank you very much. And it's great to be with Malala and with Mari on a subject that is so important in us taking advantage of the recovery. And it is about the socioeconomic recovery from COVID, and now we have another exacerbating crisis with the war in Ukraine. I think Mari has spoken to, really the facts and figures for the learning losses. And I think that's something that we really need to think about is that they were there before COVID. We were having children dropping out, we were having many who couldn't read or write. I mean, we have had this situation for decades, so what are we going to do differently? And I think that this is the question now for us to rethink education and to have a rebirth of the way the future, the next generation are going to have education.

Amina Mohammed: The learning losses showed us that even if you had connectivity, teachers were not prepared to teach and learners were not prepared to learn, even though we thought we had them connected. And I think that those lessons are important that we invest in the capacities for knowledge and for learning to happen, and for the right skillsets for that individual to contribute, A. To themselves, but B. To the community and the society at large. Many of the learning losses were compounded by many issues, not just not having access to education. But remember we did the school feeding around the world to make sure that at least that one square meal happened and we got better nutrition. We lost that, not just in the global south, but even in the global north. But we also, I think learned very quickly the importance of the curriculum itself.

Amina Mohammed: And I think that when we are thinking forward and rebirthing education, that we will need to give a lot more thought to what is education for, and we cannot have this cookie cutter, where in every country, we aspire to one norm, which may not work for us. My greatest concern for what has happened during this time with young people and really listening to them, when I visited Costa Rica, a girls' school there, and just listened to the young girls, was in fact, the mental health dimension to this. The head is on the body. And we often talk about the health of the body, but we don't talk about the health of the head. And we are one. And as they came out of this, the anxiety that they had, the depression that set in, the lack of human interaction that was missing from the new classroom.

Amina Mohammed: And in fact, with the crises, that not being able to deal with a, "What happens next, what is my future about, how am I going to connect with it? Can I catch up, will I be left behind?" And I think that these in crisis situations, in normal situations are all going to come in the aftermath as we try to get back on track. And so for us at the United Nations, working with partners in the country level, the transforming education conversation has to happen at the local level. And we should take this as an advantage in trying to build back better. So when we speak to the investments that are needed in trying to achieve the 2030 agenda and the SDGs, we've got to do it differently and perhaps make good on all the promises that we've had for young people, for communities, for countries, that education truly is the foundation, truly is the cornerstone.

Amina Mohammed: There is a silver lining there, but it's about being very clear on the steps and acknowledging COVID just opened up, and made more urgent for us to get a response and to get in it with a sense of urgency. Education can't wait. It really can't. And girls are at the forefront of losing that, so that's half your population. We cannot be without half our population. This doesn't work. Maybe finally, I would say we have spoken about not leaving anyone behind. I'm really, really concerned about the number of boys and young men we're leaving behind. In the end, women and girls have to live in a society with boys and men, and this needs to be a place where the next generation does this together. So while we catch up with the girls, I still want us to remember that there are many boys that are falling out and that's not good for girls, or men and women as we go forth.

[23:50] Rachelle Akuffo: And we do have just a few minutes left, Amina, I do want to get your take here, UNICEF-UNESCO, and the World Bank releasing a report on learning loss that you described as an urgent wake-up call, what message do you want to share with Ministers of Education or Finance about investments in education?

Amina Mohammed: I think the first thing to do is to remind everyone that education is a human right. It's fundamental. And every government, head of state and government, after security is education. Education cannot be a trade-off. It is fundamental to everything. And I think that if we can have education ministers seeing education as an investment in the human being, the person, the citizen, the society, then we have a mindset change. Here again, I would say the Ministers of Education have to stop sitting and talking in a silo. Education matters to everything, just as we say women's rights do, so that they see the value of it. And that when you're around a cabinet table, which I have been, that you're not just talking about the education agenda as though it is not a part of every other agenda. So both the Finance Minister and Ministers of Education will have to have that conversation and bring it to the center of economic growth so that you understand that GDP, the quality of which cannot be without education.

Amina Mohammed: You know, it's taken decades for us to do this. What is stopping us? We cannot possibly think that we're going to grow any nation, any people without the very basics. So we have an opportunity now, every domestic budget has to put aside resources for basic services and rights. That is education, that is health, that is water and sanitation. So here, I would say to our colleagues in the finance community, that we've got to think about how we leverage the growth of economies, where the returns actually pay for the education, for health, and are not seen as something we have to go borrow for. And until we get that, we are not going to be talking about "all people," "leaving no one behind." We will only be talking about the elite and certain sections of society. So I think this conversation of transformation of education has to begin with policy makers and they have to be measured against whether they have an educated population or not, and that the education fits the person and fits the society, and therefore that nation can join the Committee of Nations as an equal partner.

Rachelle Akuffo: And Mari, we have about a minute left, but I want to get your take on how you see investing in people, catalyzing a greener, more resilient, inclusive development, and how perhaps digital technologies and youth aspirations factor into this?

Mari Pangestu: So I think investing in human capital is key for development and also for inclusiveness. So whether it's making sure girls can get to school, making sure that no one is left behind, and a holistic approach on human capital. It's education, it's health, it's food and nutrition. It's the ability to be connected in a digital way. So it has to be a holistic approach, and it has to be the priority for the country, because it is about longer term development, including green, resilient and inclusive development.

Mari Pangestu: I think we are in a situation where we had a lot of adolescents, boys and girls, dropping out of school in a slow growth environment. So the issue of being able to employ youth, I think, is going to be a very big global problem. So how do we design skills upgrading to be able to have these youth be able to either find jobs or to become entrepreneurs? And I think digital connectivity is one of the key issues, but the fact is we have a digital divide, still. 2.9 billion people are still not connected and it's much higher in Africa. So it's about the connectivity. And once you're connected, digital literacy, what do you do to get value added from it? And then to also really make them inclusive as part of the education and the job opportunities and the entrepreneur. So it has to be combined with also the ability to access markets, access finance, and so on.

[28:10] Ntombie Siwale: Rachelle Akuffo, speaking to Mari Pangestu, Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships, World Bank. Malala Yousafzai, co-founder of the Malala Fund and to Amina Mohammed, U.N. Deputy Secretary General. So how can young people best equip themselves for the jobs of the future? Rachelle Akuffo asked Beatrice Mahuru, the founder and CEO of Glad and B&WE in Papua New Guinea, where she feels the skills gap needs to be addressed. Beatrice is a business leader and passionate advocate for women and girls in the workforce.

Rachelle Akuffo: Beatrice, you support young people as they develop the technical and soft skills necessary to realize their potential. What would you say are the most in demand or in need soft skills?

Beatrice Mahuru: You know, amazingly in Papua New Guinea, with over 1000 different languages and 800 different cultures, communications is a core soft skill that's required to get them through their day-to-day lives. Living in a world where technology is fast paced, but they come from communities where time stands still. So communications is an in-need skill. I think adaptability, therefore is also critical for them in moving ahead. Conflict resolution is definitely one of those soft skills that's required, both to manage workplace conversations, as well as their communities back at home. And I feel very strongly, therefore, critical thinking is another soft skill that's necessary for youth of today, particularly here in Papua New Guinea.

[29:32] Ntombie Siwale: Well, we hope that provides food for thought and a dose of inspiration. That's it for the special collection of the Development Podcast, giving you a taster of the IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings, 2022. Would love to hear your thoughts on these programs or on any of our other podcasts. Send us an email with your comments, questions, and ideas. That address is We'll be back with more stories, data and analysis from the World Bank Group and its staff around the globe. Make sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to us wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for joining us. I'm Ntombie Siwale, and the producer is Sarah Treanor.




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Preparing for future crises and strengthening international cooperation are essential to deliver a resilient recovery and a better future for those most in need. At these Spring Meetings, the World Bank Group convened leaders, experts and activists to discuss the impact of these global shocks on the most vulnerable communities.


The World Bank Group is one of the world’s largest sources of funding and knowledge for low-income countries. Its five institutions share a commitment to reducing poverty, increasing shared prosperity, and promoting sustainable development.

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