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MS. KHOLOOD KHAIR: Hello, and a warm welcome to our audience here in Khartoum, Sudan, and to our viewers around the world. My name is Kholood Khair, and I am the Managing Partner of Inside Strategy Partners, a think tank here in Sudan and host of Spotlight 249 on Capital Radio, and I will be your host and moderator.
Before I introduce our speakers, a few words about the event. As we all know, there isn't a single country that has not been affected by COVID-19. The pandemic has turned our world upside down and enabled us to question many norms and assumptions. As big of a challenge as it has been, it has also provided us with important lessons and we have learned to adapt, fight, and survive. The pandemic has clearly shown us how interdependent we all are and that we are not immune to goings on the other side of world. While we have striven to become stronger and more resilient, we have also learned the importance of having a common goal and working in partnership to address the challenges we are faced with.
This is the focus of the World Bank Group's 2021 Annual Meetings, scheduled to take place the week of October 11th, and will convene global leaders from across government, business, and civil society, for this important conversation. To set the stage for this meeting, we will hear today from World Bank Group President David Malpass on how countries can work together and support each other to achieve sustainable economic growth, shared prosperity, and crisis preparedness.
Before hearing from David, we will hear from His Excellency, Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, Prime Minister of the Republic of Sudan. Your Excellency, the floor is yours.
PRIME MINISTER HAMDOK: Can you hear me? Good. [Unclear], Excellency, David Malpass, President of the World Bank Group, Regional Vice President of the World Bank, Regional Vice President of IFC, Ministers, leaders and representatives of academia, political parties, civil society, private sector and youth, heads and representatives of diplomatic missions, regional and international organizations, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honor for Sudan and Africa that you, Mr. President, is delivering your annual positioning speech here in Khartoum, within walking distance of the confluence of the Nile, which has seen the ebb and flow of history for millennia. It is, indeed, a historical moment, today remind us of the visit of President Robert McNamara who came nearly 50 years ago. He wanted to ensure that the 1972 Addis Ababa peace agreement, which ended one of Africa's longest civil wars, was anchored on prosperity, political stability, and economic development.
Again, your visit comes at another period and moment in Sudan history. The December revolution of 2018 was led by women and youth who demanded a decisive break from the past decades of conflict, isolation, authoritarianism, and corruption. Our collective ambition is to end internal conflict once and for all, to create justice and accountability and to emerge from transitional period as a full-fledged democracy and an anchor of stability in this Region.
We have no doubts that this transition can only succeed if it is anchored on economic prosperity for all the Sudanese, irrespective of gender, geography, race, religion, and income level. We know our economy requires deep, fundamental reforms to reform distortions, strengthen economic governance, establish stability, and unleash the private sector. I must say as a critical observer, Mr. President, of the World Bank over the years, I can say the Bank has evolved to the point of accepting and tolerating policy difference, national ownership and partnership, within the context of the global convergence of development thinking. And as we launch our homegrown economic reform in 2020, we appreciate the fact that the World Bank stepped forward to support us and encouraged others to do so. We are grateful to all countries that helped Sudan reach the HIPC decision point and Paris Club agreement, and we are fully cognizant of the active role of the World Bank for this to happen. So, thank you for that.
Moreover, the World Bank contributed over US$3 billion package for projects and programs to support agriculture, water, transport, electricity, health care, education, family support program, and many other priorities. IFC is also now engaged in identifying private engagements and investments. Our reforms have begun to bear fruits despite the challenges of COVID-19, floods, and influx of refugees from neighboring countries. Inflation declined in August by 35 percent. Our currency has stabilized. Our trade deficit declined to US$1.2 billion in the first half of 2021, compared to US$2.1 billion in the first half of 2020. Non-oil exports are higher. Remittances increased from 136 million, the first half of 2020, to US$717 million, the first half of this year. And bank deposits and finance are increasing.
Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, there is still steep paths to attain our goals. Many families lost their livelihoods. Millions of children lost a full year of schooling. And there is increasing pressure on already-weak service delivery mechanisms. To sustain the gains and address the challenges, we must progress in a number of important areas. We need to strengthen our economic governance, including assuring that non-security state enterprises are under the transparent governance of Ministry of Finance. We also need to rebuild an effective civil service based on merits and focus on results. We must develop our human capital and ensure every girl, boy, woman, and man in every part of the country has an opportunity to lead a life which is safe, healthy, and productive. To do so, we need to empower the youths today and future generations with appropriate education and skills, establish efficient social service delivery system, and create meaningful jobs. We want to leverage technology to leapfrog and rebuild our infrastructure and financial sector. And we want to develop the long-neglected marginalized part of Sudan. Our goal was to ensure that reforms lead to equitable and sustainable growth and prosperity.
Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, we have an opportunity to put Sudan back on a strong growth trajectory. Sudan is endowed with great natural and human resources. From the coastal stretch of the Red Sea in the east to the forest of gum Arabic in the west, Sudan is rich in fertile land, water, and minerals. Sudan has about 10 percent of the world's available arable land. It is third largest exporter of gold in Africa, and eighth in the world. Among the largest livestock resources in Africa. And 80 percent of its land can generate the highest level of solar and wind energy. But our greatest wealth lies in our human capital, a large, young population, whose brave and determined young women and men are working to build a Sudan that is diverse, democratic, just, and prosperous.
Transitional government is committed to laying a strong foundation for a bright future for all our citizens of this great country. This will require immense investments, financial and technical resources, the active engagement of the private sector, and the continuous support of the international partners. The Sudanese people have borne the very high cost of the reform, and we cannot take their patience for granted. We want to reach the point, and very soon, at which results will be felt by ordinary Sudanese. We want to build the necessary confidence for the private sector to invest and create jobs and prosperity.
To conclude, we have indeed inherited an extremely challenging situation of a country that has struggled with conflict for most of its 65 years of independence. The last 30 years were exceptionally challenging. Our journey has so many challenges and risks, but we are determined and committed to make a break with our past and work towards achieving lasting peace, sustainable development, and democracy that meets the hopes and aspirations of our people. I thank you for your kind attention. Thank you.
MS. KHAIR: Thank you very much, Your Excellency. It is more important now, more than ever, to build coalitions and global confidence in Sudan civilian-led transition.
I will now ask World Bank Group President David Malpass to make his pre-Annual Meetings speech. David, the floor is yours.
MR. MALPASS: Thank you. Thank you very much, Kholood. I want to give great thanks to Prime Minister Hamdok for the warm introduction. It's so nice to see you after two years. Our last meeting was in the U.S. and there's been so many developments in the world, and it is good to see you again.
Ladies and gentlemen, it's a great pleasure for me to be speaking today from Africa, particularly in these challenging times for the continent and for the world. It's even more special to be here in Sudan's Friendship Hall, at this historic time, near the confluence of the Nile River, as the Prime Minister said. Over the past few years, you have made a tremendous effort to put people on a forward path amid very adverse conditions.
Two years ago, Sudan's transitional government inherited a deeply damaged economy and society that had suffered decades of conflict and isolation. Even as the people resolved to break with the past, Sudan faced extraordinary headwinds from the COVID-19, from the locust plague, from unprecedented floods, and an inflow of refugees escaping conflict from across the border. Yet, the country pressed forward with bold reforms, reengaging with the international community, clearing World Bank arrears with the help of a U.S. bridge loan and, in June, reaching the decision point for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative, HIPC, as it is called.
I welcome Sudan's progress in macroeconomic stabilization, including arrears clearance, unification of its exchange rate, slowing the inflation rate--which I've discussed with the Finance Minister--fewer shortages and removal of fuel subsidies. I've had the great privilege to meet with several of the ministers even today, and that's been a great pleasure.
While there is much work ahead, I commend the Sudanese authorities, civil and military, for their efforts and achievements in working together toward a country that is unified, tolerant, and can deliver a better future for all its citizens. It's critical to avoid political slippages, because there is no development without peace and stability. I would also like to acknowledge the remarkable resilience of the Sudanese people. Your drive to build a better Sudan, despite the challenges, is truly inspiring.
These are extraordinarily difficult times for Sudan, for Africa, and for billions of people around the world. Reversals in development threaten people's lives, jobs, livelihoods, and sustenance. In many places around the world, poverty is rising, living standards and literacy rates are falling, and past gains on gender equality, nutrition, and health care are sliding backwards. For some countries, the debt burden was unsustainable before the crisis and is getting worse. Rather than gaining ground, the poor are being left behind in a global tragedy of inequality. This drastic narrowing of economic and social progress is creating a time of upheaval in economics, politics, and geopolitical relationships. While some advanced economies are providing trillions of dollars in spending programs and central bank asset purchases, low-income countries are facing high inflation, too few jobs, a shortage of vaccines and food, and the high cost of adapting to climate challenges that they did not create. In this troubling time of upheaval, the challenge for people, and for the development community, is to shorten the crisis, resume development, and lay a strong foundation for a future that is more prosperous and better prepared for disasters like COVID-19.
To combat the reversals in development, we will need strong, new approaches suited for these very challenging times. We need to focus our efforts more to set clear priorities by measuring what works and what doesn't, and to rapidly scale up successes. The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in increased poverty rates, again, after decades of steady decline. It's pushed nearly 100 million people into extreme poverty with several hundred million more becoming poor, many of them in middle-income countries. Human capital accumulation has stalled, with most schools closing for months, even for years, and some have still not reopened. The crisis also imposed a heavy toll on firms and governments. Business closures skyrocketed, and many firms that remained active are now over-indebted or in arrears. Governments have large fiscal deficits, often pushing public debt to dangerously high levels that require especially careful investment decisions by both the public and private sectors.
And yet, the crisis has also brought unprecedented transformation. We see a surge in the number of newly established firms. Venture capital has exploded and innovative outfits are proliferating. We see that sectors such as information technology, logistics, and finance all with heavy digital components, are surging in both advanced economies and developing countries. This digital revolution not only means faster growth in the IT-based sectors, it offers the chance to transform other sectors, such as education, health, and even agriculture. I've had the great pleasure to meet with both the Telecomm Minister, the Ag Minister, the Foreign Affairs Minister just today. Along the way, it will reduce the control of the vested interests that thwart competition. The COVID crisis may have jumpstarted the creative destruction that is the engine of economic growth.
The Spanish Flu of 1918 to 1920 brought havoc and death comparable to the COVID-19 crisis; yet, it was not followed by a lost decade, but rather by the roaring 1920s. That was a time of extremely rapid economic growth, but also a time when social inequality widened and dangerous financial vulnerabilities built up, culminating in the prolonged Great Depression.
The question for the international community is, what should we do to boost growth that is inclusive, broad-based, and sustainable, and to avoid a lost decade for development? It will be tempting to say, let's stay the course and redouble our pre-crisis approach. Given the challenges of demographics, climate, disease, and debt, this clearly won't be enough. And on the positive side, given the advances in technology, communications, innovation, and cooperation, it doesn't have to be enough. We aren't limited to pre-crisis approaches.
We can and must aspire to do more in two ways. First, we need a stronger focus on the clear priorities, with clarity on how we approach and measure them. For example, one global priority is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which requires prioritizing the major emitters, and measuring the reductions in a clear and transparent way.
And second, we need much bigger scale to achieve impact. We need education, nutrition, and vaccination programs that reach hundreds of millions of children. We need digital cash transfer programs that can provide necessary resources to billions of people in the next crisis.
In response to climate change, we need thousands of large public-private projects that combine the world's resources from governments, MDBs, foundations, private investors, and the buyers of carbon credits in order to reduce carbon emissions and increase electricity access. And we need thousands more projects that help people adapt to climate change in ways that will save lives. This scale has to be included in our development priorities. The World Bank Group remains committed to alleviating poverty and boosting shared prosperity in our client countries from people in the poorest countries to those in middle-income countries who are being left behind. This involves creating chances for everyone to benefit from the digital revolution, and it requires empowering women and protecting girls to offset deeply rooted sources of disadvantage.
Major policy reforms may be difficult, with economies barely emerging from the crisis and many citizens completely left out of the recovery. To resume progress on development, a high, immediate priority is to secure access to vaccines and accelerate their deployment. In addition, there are four key focus areas where determined actions should make a difference.
First, achieving economic stability. Many developing countries have made extraordinary efforts to support their people and keep economic activity going during the pandemic. Many have gone beyond what they could afford, especially as debt in developing economies was at record highs when the pandemic hit. As of mid-2021, over half of IDA countries, the world's poorest countries are in external debt distress, or at risk of it. This situation could worsen if commodity prices are volatile, interest rates increase, or if investors lose confidence in emerging markets.
When the debt service suspension, or DSSI initiative, expires at the end of this year, low-income countries that resume debt service payments will see their fiscal space shrink. This limits their ability to purchase vaccines and to then finance other priority expenditures. It is time to purse a gradual and people-oriented fiscal consolidation and to restructure unsustainable debt. Enhanced and accelerated implementation of the G-20's Common Framework will be critical on this front. We need global cooperation, including from the private sector, to provide debt relief to the world's poorest countries and fund growth-enhancing investments.
In Sudan, for example, global cooperation that included the United States, France, and the United Kingdom helped the country clear its arrears with the World Bank, IMF, and other international financial institutions, making possible more than US$50 billion in debt relief, in what will be the largest HIPC initiative ever. It's critical that countries eliminate wasteful public expenditures, make service delivery more efficient, and reallocate public resources to their most productive uses. This is also a time for proactive debt management to reprofile payments while international interest rates remain low.
There need to be concrete steps to improve transparency of debt contracts to increase accountability and to ensure decisions draw on comprehensive information. Lower-income countries need to prioritize concessional financing and avoid the high interest rate financing that has become increasingly problematic. Focusing this agenda for each country and measuring the progress will be critical.
A second priority, leveraging the digital revolution. The faster adoption of digital solutions can radically expand access to finance and create new economic opportunities. It can increase competition in product markets and enable people to sell services online, connecting them to national and global markets. Supporting this transformation requires many actions at scale: investing in digital infrastructure, eliminating monopolies in the telecom sector, providing national IDs, and creating an enabling regulatory environment.
The potential is clear throughout the developing world, including Africa. In Sudan, for instance, 8 out of 10 citizens own mobile phones, and a similar proportion has a national ID. The digital revolution can also transform the public sector. For example, it allows a radical rethinking of safety nets. Across the world, we are seeing programs move from in-kind and cash delivery to digital delivery, direct to people's bank accounts or visible on their cell phones. Similarly, in both the formal and informal sectors, new payment systems enable daily purchases through phones using QR codes and other technologies. Kenya, and many other African countries, have extensive experience in this.
In many middle-income countries, shifting to e-government, electronic government services, can facilitate access to public services for households and firms. Electronic procurement systems can reduce opportunities for corruption, while enhancing the government's transparency and efficiency.
The third topic I want to raise is making development greener and sustainable. The international community is strongly committed to slowing the increase in atmospheric carbon and to reducing climate impacts on the most vulnerable. A key step is to stop the creation of new coal-fired electricity plants, decommission existing ones, and substitute for them with cleaner sources of electricity. We should support countries in a just transition, which includes taking care of the workers that are affected by the transition. The transition is increasingly feasible as technological innovations bring down the cost of clean energy. Recognizing the massive expense of this undertaking, efforts need to focus on the most impactful transitions. This is also the time to reinvigorate often stalled power sector reforms. Energy subsidies are expensive and distortive, while removing them needs to be done in ways that solve underlying inefficiencies and provide increased access. Aiming for clean, affordable energy requires competition in electricity generation and distribution, as well as a truly independent regulator. Sudan's commitment to electricity sector reform is important in all these respects.
Transportation is another major source of greenhouse gas emissions. With more urbanization expected in developing countries, infrastructure and the design of cities can make an enormous difference. Instead of sprawling metropolitan cities where commuters spend hours on the road, governments can aim for more compact cities, with efficient and clean public transportation systems. In the climate change efforts, both mitigation and adaptation, and the development effort more broadly, we need to prioritize and focus efforts for the largest impact per dollar spent, and look for solutions that are rapidly scalable.
And the fourth area I wanted to mention is investing in people. The Prime Minister mentioned and emphasized the importance of this. The crisis shows that strong, effective health systems need to be at the forefront of preparing countries for future shocks. COVID-19 vaccine access and deployment are acute priorities now, while other vaccinations are also critical to keep other deadly illnesses in check, such as malaria. Strengthening education and health systems takes more than just providing budgetary resources in efficient and prioritized ways. For example, aligning incentives for teachers and health care providers, public or private, with the needs of the people they serve is important; it is vital. And finding scalable solutions to enhance health care and to improve the quality of education, including through distance learning, is also critical.
Nowhere is human capital accumulation more important than in conflict-affected countries, where a majority of poor people live today. Assisting refugees and host communities is a key priority. Security is essential, but soldiers can't win the battle of development. Change is more likely to come from small victories won across millions of households over time. For example, it is at the family and community level that we build the acceptance for women to work outside the home and for all children to be educated and for the contribution of girls to be recognized. Indeed, educating girls involves more than providing them with skills. It means fostering self-sufficiency and encouraging their aspirations.
This is in everyone's interest. Closing gender gaps offers massive economic returns for developing countries, including for the most fragile and conflict-affected. None of this will be easy, but the World Bank Group is uniquely endowed and positioned to support countries with the four priorities I've outlined: through finance and know-how for governments while mobilizing the private sector.
We have unmatched experience working with countries using technical experts across all the key sectors. Most of our staff comes from developing countries, often bringing experience from innovations in development that they helped carry out in their home countries and Regions. I am particularly grateful to the World Bank staff that are here today that worked on Sudan. Our staff are increasingly decentralized in country offices around the world. We have also scaled up our footprint in fragile and conflict-affected countries. Over the last four years, we, the World Bank, nearly doubled our footprint in FCV countries, reaching over 1,200 staff at present in fragile, conflict, and violent countries.
We are proud of our response to COVID-19, and we thank shareholders for their support. From April 2020 through June 2021, we committed more than $157 billion, the largest crisis response in our history. We have helped countries tackle the health emergency and provided financing for COVID-19 vaccines in 62 countries. We are pleased to partner with COVAX, with AVAT, the African Union, and UNICEF on our shared priority to help countries purchase and deploy vaccines. Our support for the poorest countries is at an all-time high, including grants and highly concessional loans to countries eligible to borrow from IDA. While helping countries address the pandemic crisis, we are also working to facilitate development that is green, resilient, and inclusive.
Looking ahead, much more needs to be done to secure a sustained recovery and a better development path for all. The need for COVID-19 vaccines remains massive, and we have financing readily available to keep supporting countries. Low- and middle-income countries face many concurrent challenges. Some are dealing with fragility, as we see in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, and all need to deliver services effectively, finance resilient infrastructure, embrace digital opportunities, and respond to climate change.
With the replenishment of IDA later this year, African heads of state have called for donors to be ambitious in supporting IDA's critical mission for the poorest countries. The other parts of the World Bank, IBRD, IFC, and MIGA, will also continue to find ways to increase their financing and mobilize more resources, including from the private sector. This unprecedented crisis has set in motion a time of upheaval. The many choices in coming years will determine whether developing countries suffer a lost decade or can usher in rapid growth and economic transformation.
I have outlined huge endeavors: bringing economic stability and growth, leveraging the digital revolution, taking strong climate change action, and investing in people. To succeed requires the active participation of the public and private sectors across countries, civil societies and foundations--indeed, the whole international community working together. These efforts require leaders to be ambitious for the prosperity of people, and they require focus and scale throughout our development work.
As I speak to people here in Sudan and see the faces of young people in this hall, I feel optimistic that we will help countries avoid a lost decade. As you walk your journey toward peace, prosperity, and national unity, the World Bank Group, along with the rest of the international community are walking alongside you. By working together, we will build a better development path. The history of Sudan is yours to chart.
Thank you all very much.
MS. KHAIR: Thank you, David. I will invite you to join us on the stage, please, David, where we will be invited by our panelists: Amal Elfatih, who is a public health expert; Yousif Yahya, who is the founder and managing director of Savannah Innovation Labs; and Jawhratelkmal Kanu, who is the founder--an economist and is the founder of the Sudanese Women's Economists Association. Thank you very much for joining me. Welcome to you all. I am going to ask you all the same question--can you all hear me? I am going to ask you all the same question, and I'm going to give you about three minutes to respond.
MS. KHAIR: President Malpass has touched upon critical issues of concern to us here in Sudan. From your perspectives, and given your areas of expertise, what are the areas of intervention that you think will translate to the biggest benefit for the people of Sudan? In other words, what are the kinds of transformation that are needed? Jawhra Kanu, let's start with you.
MS. KANU: Thank you, Kholood. Is it on? Okay. Thank you, Kholood, for the question. And of course, I cannot speak for all the people of Sudan, and you have only given me three minutes, but I can speak from my economics background. And on this special occasion, I would like to highlight a few things.
The first thing being the economic advancement that has been taking place in Sudan over the past two years. We've been witnessing some progress in the macroeconomic indicators that we've sensed in our daily lives. However, we all realize that there is a lot that needs to be done. And today, I would like to highlight three priorities, from my perspective.
The first thing being distribution, or redistribution, of the benefits--or the economic benefits of the rifts [phonetic] that are being created across the country, and in the capital, especially. You know, Kholood, my grandmother--my grandmother from my father's side--she was a farmer, and she used to farm sesame ground nuts in our small farm in the village. But my grandmother, who directly contributed to the exports of Sudan, who directly contributed to improving the economy of Sudan, never had electricity in her village. She never had roads connecting her to the nearest big town. And even when she got sick with malaria and died, she never had access to hospitalization. And it's not just my grandmother; it's a lot of people across Sudan. It's millions of people, millions of farmers, millions of men and women. That's why I think redistribution is important, and I think it's important for the people of Sudan, who are contributing to its economy, to feel that whatever that they're contributing is returning back in terms of services, and so on. It also helps people have more incentive to contribute to our taxation system, seeing the benefits or the outcomes of what they've been paying.
The other point that I'd like to highlight is the issue of citizen engagement. As I said, we've been going through lots of economic reforms, but to what extent are the people of Sudan aware of these reforms? To what extent are the people able to judge and just say their opinion about what's been happening, either in Khartoum or different levels of governance. It's important for the people to know because, at the end of the day, these decisions, even they're being taken at the capital, here, they're touching their daily lives. Hence, at the end of the day, they're the people that are mostly affected. It's not enough to use television, radio, and social media to share information about what's been happening in a country where less than 60 percent has access to power and electricity and so on. We need to be creative in the ways that we use to reach the people in the different areas. The second point is citizen engagement, as I mentioned.
Last one is youth unemployment. So, as young people, you always hear that, okay, go into new fields. Try entrepreneurship. Have your own business or go to production, produce more--go back to agriculture and so on. And these two things, sometimes it's a bit challenging because for my peers, they have to make the decision or weigh the options between acquiring more skills or making a living. And sometimes, it's a difficult decision to make because you wouldn't have enough resources to pursue courses, pursue trainings, or you know, use that time to make a living of your daily life, and so on. And our education system isn't equipped, yet, to foster this kind of innovative or entrepreneurship kind of careers.
And from the other side, when it comes to agriculture, again, we often hear the notion that, why don't you start your own farm? Why don't you go back to farming and so on, and it is the 21st century. I can't go back to farming with the same tools that my grandmother was using. We need to have more innovative infrastructure. And we are in a connected world now where we see that in the developed world people are using, like, different machinery, different technologies, and so on in farming and agriculture and so on, and I think we feel that we need to have similar infrastructure for us to go and be able to delve into that field, as well.
Overall, the last points that I would like to highlight, that it's not just the state's job; it's not just the citizens' job; it's rather a collective action that we can all work together in order to advance this country further. Thank you.
MS. KHAIR: Thank you so much, Jawhra.
MS. KHAIR: Yousif, same question to you: What areas do you think are the priorities?
MS. KHAIR: Perhaps we can move over to Amal, just while we're sorting out your sound, Yousif. Amal, from a human capital perspective, what do you think are the priorities, both now and going forward?
MS. ELFATIH: Well, thank you, Kholood. It's a very exciting and historical time for us in the health sector in Sudan. Historical because the health sector was the first sector to ever reengage with the World Bank after 30 years of isolation. And for that, we are very much thankful to the technical teams and the World Bank for their great support, and also exciting, because it really comes with new doors to new, wide-open horizons. And seeing such partnerships grow to the best of our people and for their best interest.
The Sudanese revolution was a unique revolution; it was carried on the shoulders of its youth, young ladies, young men racing to freedom, racing to a better future. That only necessitates that our public sector lives up to their aspirations. This cannot happen without investing in youth, invigorating the public sector, and making sure that we are attracting the young people to be the new face of our public sector.
My own experience in creating and developing young talent acquisition program for the restructured global health directorate in the Federal Ministry of Health tells me that it is very much doable and it is very much successful. It was an endeavor that was successful in attracting young talent of 90 percent females, and they are now the heart and soul of this directorate. This is much doable and it is a scalable model, if it's further verified and studied.
The inequitable distribution of services across Sudan is a historical issue. It is a very standing, old issue. And if COVID taught us one thing, it's that, in order to adapt you will have to be resilient and accepting of new ideas. My own experience in leading the digitalization project from the health sector in Sudan tells me that now, more than ever, we are more accepting to be virtually treated than we used to be back in 2016. Doesn't have to be sophisticated, doesn't have to be high-tech; it could be our everyday regular bandwidth extended to the extremities to help our people in the extremities of this country. And in such challenged context, in a competing priorities--in a very strained economy, to address inequalities and decentralization, I do believe that digitalization is the answer to all of our problems.
And COVID-19 was quite a thing. It was a very eye-opening experience for all of us. And it only redefined resilience to read as cooperation and solidarity. For a public sector that is walking out of 30 years of destruction, it only means that we need to really reinvigorate our public sector, and that only means that we'll have to strike a balance between having to address our urgent needs, but also strategically creating public sector that is fit for purpose and that is strategically geared toward our ten priorities of this transitional government. This needs and necessitates new mindsets, and it necessitates a fresh soul. And this could only translate into broadening the base of our partners, and not only engaging new ones, but the meaningful engagement of the private sector with the public sector, of course, as well as our civil society organizations. Thank you, Kholood, for the opportunity, and I'm really grateful to be here.
MS. KHAIR: Thank you very much, Amal.
MS. KHAIR: I think we can now turn back to Yousif, give you the opportunity to...
MR. YAHYA: Okay, perfect. Is it better now? Yeah, thank you so much. Yeah, I mean, I'll start and reflect on the first part that everybody spoke about, right? Through my work at Savannah, I've come to work with a lot of bright Sudanese, both entrepreneurs and creators and just looking at that ecosystem, you come to find that that ecosystem is as diverse as Sudan is, right? So, when we speak about youth engagement, I think future change makers in Sudan should have a seat at the table to cocreate the policies that are currently happening, right, not just consulting the youth while trying to implement programs, but including them in the implementation process of these programs. Because if we're setting policies that are going to take Sudan into the future, and they're supposed to serve this community, this community has to be actively involved in creating that.
I mean, the Sudanese youth have partook in a lot of pan-African initiatives that have set forth the startup policy in Rwanda, the startup policy in Nigeria. And just recently in Nigeria, one of the communities that we are a part of has ushered two unicorn company startups, right, in the digital payment sector. And these are billion-dollar startups. And that's not because they found aid from international organization or funding and subsidization from the government. But no, they found a truly supportive ecosystem from the government, right? They found a truly supportive ecosystem from the private sector, and this is what I'm here to call upon from the policymakers and the private sector in Sudan.
Additionally, the fourth industrial revolution is here. People are speaking about autonomous cars; people are speaking about autonomous agriculture, and all of these things. The educational system in Sudan right now does not encourage any of that stuff. We can't eradicate the educational system that we have, but we can actually inject things that are going to help and support these things. Digitalization does not mean to kind of lay people off or anything along these lines, right? People are adaptable. Just like you mentioned, Mr. President, eight of ten Sudanese people have mobile phones, right? So, how can we tap into that opportunity in order for us to ensure that we're keeping up with the world?
Sudan, right now, is a net data consumer in the sense that we're not contributing to the applications that are being posted online and stuff like that. So, when Mark Zuckerberg comes out and speaks about the metaverse and AR and virtual reality, we need to ensure that, in 30 years, we kind of helped cocreate what's currently happening, right, so we are not left back again in history, just like happened--what happened in the past 30 years. And last but not least, I think it's very important to instill the ethics of collaboration and cooperation between Sudanese youth and Sudanese across all lines, right? Because if we are going to need to do this, we need to kind of do this together. In order for us to reach a common vision of what we envision Sudan is, and for Sudan to rightly take its place, not only in the continent, but also in the world. As we see it, anywhere else in the world, the machine has already been shaped. So, Sudanese diaspora play a role in whatever countries that are in--the thing in Sudan is that machine is yet to be created, right? It's an empty canvas. It's an empty, beautiful canvas that we have all the tools and all the support, with everybody in this room, in order for us to draw and build the Sudan that we actually envision. Thank you so much.
MS. KHAIR: Thank you, Yousif. I'm afraid we're almost out of time for the livestreaming, but before we go, I'd like to invite David to share with us his closing thoughts. You've heard from our panel, but what this--the issues that you had raised could mean for Sudan. What would you like this audience to take away? What's one thing from this conversation.
MR. MALPASS: I was listening with great interest. And so, one takeaway or one observation I have is Sudan is going through a process to create a nation, and it will be one of the world's biggest nations. And that means people will find their path and they will work together to find a peaceful outcome. And everything that you were describing is part of that path. I was thinking about how do people…
MS. KHAIR: Not to interrupt you, David, but please pick up the hand mic. It might be easier for everyone to hear you.
MR. MALPASS: How do people around Sudan know that the reforms are underway? One part of that is the economic reform. So, there are fewer shortages, fewer queues for bread or for fuel, and that's known to everyone. And it may be that everyone can see the support of the international community as there are challenges. That should be notable, that Sudan is coming out of the isolation and is seeing how much the World Bank wants you to succeed, and the whole world wants Sudan to succeed in this effort. And I was thinking about the businesses that you all described, how important it is that the youth be involved and that new business techniques be allowed to come in, including in agriculture, as Sudan transforms the sector, uses more equipment, more productivity, more diversity of the export markets or the internal markets. All of that is within reach of Sudan as it goes through this process. So, those were and how the young people, working together and working within a system that they can change and create. That's going to be the important path. And I just reaffirm, World Bank wants to help where we can. We have people eager to help. But the course itself comes from Sudan, as we've heard today.
MS. KHAIR: Thank you very much, David.
MR. MALPASS: Yeah.
MS. KHAIR: I think for me a key takeaway is that for Sudan, you know, both COVID-19 and the civilian-led transition, in very different ways, offer a once-in-a-generation chance to build back, but also to build forward, better.
The country is experiencing multiple transitions. Sudan can therefore seize this window of opportunity to open up and to build robust governance mechanisms and whole-scale citizen engagement as our panel has said, to combat economic inequality, the impact of climate change, which we feel every year, increase opportunities nationwide, and set a new course to foster a country that works for all, as you mentioned earlier, David. And I'm confident that we can advance this agenda together.
You can continue to follow the conversations during the World Bank Group's Annual Meetings. Please check live.worldbank.org for further information on the events, which will commence from October the 11th. We have just more time, I think. Amal, I wanted to help you expand on one particular aspect that you spoke of, human capital, before we sign off, because I think your experience in the public sector really adds to the private sector aspect that we had. If you can just give us a 10-second input on that, please.
MS. ELFATIH: That'll be hard in 10 seconds, but what I'm trying to say is, I mean, the public sector, as we say--as we see today, there are a lot of hopes that we, as youth, have for the public sector. And I can only see the future of public sector in collaboration and trying to invigorate that with the injection of new blood. Those are the young talents. And my own experience for the previous one year, again, only tells me that we can really build on the passion of our youth. We can really build on their interest to serve for the better of this country. And they are willing and they are passionate and they are really, really talented, if they are really catered for in our public systems.
Again, we don't have that luxury. We are meant to be in a context, in a situation, where we are only left to fix as we go down that journey. That makes this really hard for all of us here in that room today. And to strike that balance is going to be very difficult and it doesn't come easy unless we are in collaboration, in cooperation with our young talents and the new generation and the new perspective, and they are the future of a public sector for the upcoming 30 years, and not the previous 30 ones, but also with the openness that we are seeing with our international community, with the World Bank in hand, and also with our private sector walking us down that road.
MS. KHAIR: Thank you very much. That was longer than 10 seconds, but I will give you--because it was a very important contribution.
Please join me in thanking David Malpass and our panel, Jawhra Kanu, Yousif Yahya, and Amal Elfatih for their contributions.
MS. KHAIR: And to our viewers online, thank you very much for watching and goodbye.