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World Bank Sets Priorities

October 12, 2007


I found it very interesting that Robert B. Zoellick, president of the World Bank, has targeted for that organization the same regions and situations that Enterra Solutions® has targeted for its Development-in-a-Box™ approach [“World Bank chief states new priorities,” by Steve Hirsch, Washington Times, 11 October 2007]. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to compare my small company or the impact it can have with the World Bank. I’m simply pointing out that the international community has started to recognize that it can do the most good, help the most people, by targeting regions that are not yet connected to the rest of the globalized world.

“World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick … said the bank should focus increased attention on African and Arab countries, war-torn nations and climate change as it works toward making globalization ‘inclusive and sustainable.’ The steps were among several Mr. Zoellick outlined in a speech to the National Press Club to mark his first 100 days as head of the institution.”

I have noted before that for the Development-in-a-Box approach to have the greatest chance of making a significant and positive impact certain pre-conditions should exist. The World Bank is foremost among the institutions helping to establish those pre-conditions.

“Mr. Zoellick said the bank must focus on overcoming poverty and encouraging growth in the world’s poorest countries, especially those in Africa. While 17 African countries had average growth of 5.5 percent from 1995 to 2005, they want help to build energy and other types of infrastructure to achieve higher growth and help develop local financial markets, he said. African leaders see potential to expand agriculture through productivity improvements, Mr. Zoellick said. To this end, he called for a ’21st Century Green Revolution,’ spurred by more investment in technological research, land management and rural credit, and said more countries must open their markets to farm exports. Mr. Zoellick said other African countries have achieved higher growth rates because of oil resources and said key development needs for them include encouraging good governance and anti-corruption policies.”

Next week I’ll write a little more about the “Green Revolution” and some of the problems it is facing in Africa. One of the positive things that is happening in that area is that people are beginning to realize that a more holistic approach to development must be undertaken. You can’t simply provide seeds to farmers and expect them to make a go of it. As Zoellick noted, success in one area is generally dependent on success in other areas as well. Crops must be grown, harvested, transported, marketed, and then the whole process must begin again. That means that each area must be addressed simultaneously and the proper connections between them made. With so much attention currently focused on the Middle East, Zoellick insisted that the World Bank must help improve the situation throughout the region.

“Advancing development in the Arab world is an important goal, Mr. Zoellick said. He cited progress in the region, including regulatory reform in Egypt and elimination of bureaucracy in Saudi Arabia, but said the World Bank can help by improving the environment for business in the region and perhaps finance development projects or provide other assistance. ‘Without broad-based growth, these countries will struggle with social tensions and a large number of young people who cannot find jobs,’ he said.”

Of course hearing him talk about “improving the environment for business” is music to my ears. That is principal focus of Development-in-a-Box to help emerging nations jump start their economies by creating jobs and improving the business environment. In describing Development-in-a-Box, Tom Barnett and I have often referred to it as the ultimate “push package” for post-conflict, post-disaster, and post-failed state situations. Those, too, are situations at which the World Bank is looking.

“Mr. Zoellick also highlighted the need to address the problems of countries emerging from war or struggling to avoid political collapse. ‘Frankly, our understanding of how to deal with these devastating cases is modest at best,’ he said. The bank also must re-examine how it works with middle-income countries, where important social services and infrastructure are insufficiently funded and environmental problems continue, he said. Other steps he called for include a greater World Bank role in regional and global issues such as climate change, AIDS, malaria and linking aid and trade. On climate change, Mr. Zoellick said he hopes this year to outline ways the World Bank can help integrate the needs of development and the environment. ‘We need to focus particularly on the interests of developing countries, so that we can meet the challenge of climate change without slowing the growth that will help overcome poverty,’ he said.”

The Development-in-a-Box approach argues that by using best practices and internationally-accepted standards emerging market countries can gain much needed trust for their products and processes at the same time addressing environmental challenges associated with development. It is encouraging for me to see the international community coming together in such a way that communities of practice can be established to address the critical problems outlined by Mr. Zoellick. There will undoubtedly be false starts and much yet to learn; but I think the learning curve will be steep. The bigger question is whether leaders of those countries desperately needing help can put aside petty greed and ambition to work with the broader international community.

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