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The State of the Africa Region: Leveraging Innovation to Transform Agriculture and Energy

  • This year’s State of the Africa Region  (SOR) was a standing-room only, lively and spirited event with a predominantly female panel representing the public sector, private sector, the youth and academia.  Youth voices had a prominent place in this forum, with the young panelists calling for collaborative efforts in creating ecosystems that allow innovation and research to drive growth.  

    This most-attended SOR ever attracted over 560 participants and was, for the first time, broadcast on live television through the CNBC Africa channel, reaching most of Africa’s major capitals. The focus this time was on leveraging disruptive technologies and innovations in the agriculture and energy sectors to cultivate human development and spur economic growth. 

    Africa posted a 2.6% growth in 2017, up from 1.5% in 2016. Economic research predicts a 3.1% growth in 2018 and 3.6% in both 2019 and 2020.  Along with those milestones highlighted in the most recent Africa’s Pulse, panelists agreed that sustainable growth will only be achieved through collaborative efforts from all stakeholders. This includes favorable environments created by policy makers, and continued innovation in technologies that support growth.    

    Panelists shared the impact of the success of digital technology, and re-emphasized the need for more access to financing to support it.  They also discussed the importance of scalable ecosystems to support collaboration between innovators, the private sector, policy makers and the stakeholders. These ecosystems, they said, are sure to be the bedrock of larger regional markets which are critical to sustained growth. Also important is data, which, the panel said is often overlooked, yet remains a critical element at all levels of the ecosystem, from the consumer to the distributor.

Financing the Future of Food: Maximizing Finance for Development in Agricultural Value Chains

  • The second day of the World Bank Group/IMF Spring Meetings drew a capacity crowd to the atrium for the panel discussion, “Financing the Future of Food: Maximizing Finance for Development in Agricultural Value Chains.” Panelists from the private, MDB, and nonprofit sectors addressed the challenges smallholder farmers face and discussed ways in which governments and businesses can mobilize private sector solutions to deliver value to farmers, strengthen economies, and make progress on sustainable goals. 

    Moderated by international broadcaster Zeinab Badawi, the event amassed an attentive crowd and generated meaningful online discussions with viewers from Ghana, Nigeria, and Zambia amongst others. Speakers touched on increasing competitiveness, expanding access to affordable financing and mechanization, and the role of technology in agribusiness.  

    Panelists included: Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Côte d’Ivoire, Mamadou Sangafowa-Coulibaly, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Dr. Agnes Kalibata, General Director of ECOM AgroIndustrial Mexico, Jorge Esteve Recolons, Chief Strategy & External Affairs Officer of AB InBev, David Kamenetzky, and Vice President of Economics and Private Sector Development at IFC, Hans Peter Lankes.

    Access to affordable financing became a central theme throughout the discussion. Dr. Kalibata remarked that smallholder farmers need access to mechanization and modern equipment for better productivity and output, and that companies like those represented in the room have the technology and expertise farmers need. This became one example of how the MFD approach can connect farmers with the private sector to increase production output and ensure shared prosperity. 

Market Forces at Work: Institutional Investors and a Sustainable World

  • “ODA is a drop in a bucket of the investments needed for the developing countries. We must to find win-win solutions to attract private sector flows.” 

    With that opening, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim set the stage for a high-powered panel discussion on opportunities and challenges for unlocking private capital flows for development. The panel also included Argentina’s minister of finance, Luis Caputo; Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild, founder and CEO of the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism; Brune Poirson, Secretary of State attached to the Minister of State, Minister of Ecological and Inclusive Transition, France; Hiro Mizuno, Executive Managing Director and CIO of Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund; and UBS chairman Axel Weber. The panel was moderated by Stephanie Flanders, Bloomberg News Senior Executive Editor for Economics. 
    During the heated debate, panelists agreed on the need to transform capital markets—but differed on how to achieve this. Should the market reward companies that make a positive impact? How do investors assess impact without common standards across asset classes? What are efficient ways to channel investment to sectors that need long-term capital, such as infrastructure? Despite diverging views on these issues, there was consensus on the role of the World Bank Group in helping to define and set standards, de-risking investment opportunities, and convening market participants for conversations towards solutions. 

    This discussion will directly feed into the preparation of the upcoming G20 Investors Forum in Argentina.