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April 20, 2017
Devex daily brief: An inside look at day 3 of the World Bank Spring Meetings
By Devex Editor
Good morning,

You're reading a special edition newsletter featuring on-the-ground reporting from the World Bank Spring Meetings. This week, we'll send you a daily email brief of the big stories we're following, what we're hearing from the experts and policy leaders at the conference and what it all means for global development. Whether you're here in person or reading from your office, we've wrapped up everything you need to know about this year's Spring Meetings.

The second day of the World Bank Spring Meetings showcased a world in flux. Multiple conversations grappled with forces that are fundamentally changing the playing field for development and humanitarian relief. Financial technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain stand to upend banking and financial inclusion, while protracted displacement from states engulfed in conflict has placed dramatic new demands on refugee-hosting countries such as Jordan and Lebanon. These meetings make clear that a multilateral and international system struggling to adapt to the new world doesn't really have a choice to do otherwise.

Here's a look at the highlights from Wednesday, as well as what's on for today — including our Facebook Live interview with co-founders Matt Damon and Gary White at 12:15 p.m. EST — and what we're watching out for during the rest of the conference.

African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina stressed the need for more capital sometime in the "near future" in order to make a dent in Africa's enormous demand for financing. AfDB, he said, is doing everything it can to find investment resources from limited capital reservoirs, but he noted that the AfDB will need more money if it’s going to stay responsive to its client countries' financing needs. Calling his institution "Africa's own bank," he said AfDB has made strides to operate more efficiently. He appealed to potential investors not to be deterred by what he described as unwarranted pessimism about the continent's economic prospects.

Global educators got a sneak preview of the 2018 World Development Report on Wednesday, which will focus on education for the first time in its history. The authors describe a "learning crisis," with persistent weaknesses going unnoticed or unacknowledged. The results are stark: as many as 80 percent second-grade students in countries such as Malawi and Zambia cannot read a single word. The report will argue for a greater emphasis on data, drawing on lessons from within and outside the school system to improve education outcomes. Everything from child health and nutrition to technical and political barriers can impact learning.

On the sidelines of a panel on the global refugee crisis, Jordan's planning minister, Imad Najib Fakhoury, told Devex he has been "pounding the international community" to assist his country's efforts to get Syrian refugees in jobs and schools. A refugee-employing plastics factory just sent its first shipment to European markets in Spain and Cyprus — a shipment that took eight months of policy wrangling to arrange, he said. Jordan has so far issued 48,500 work permits to Syrian refugees, Fakhoury told Devex. The World Bank has been among Jordan's supporters in this endeavor, with a concessional financing agreement that prioritizes refugee employment. Such compacts may be a way forward in protracted crises, a new report by the Center for Global Development and the International Rescue Committee argues.

World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva called hunger the "the world's most solvable problem." Yet today, 800 million people go hungry every year and 155 million children are stunted due to poor nutrition. Obesity is a growing problem in both rich and poor countries, while farming practices are depleting the environment. A session about how to jumpstart the agricultural revolution showcased alternative innovations: Indian farmers growing jackfruit for American consumers, solar-powered food carts serving hygienic food, a shared tractor service, and insect rearing for animal feed.


Thursday will kick off with World Bank President Jim Kim's opening press conference, where reporters (present company included) will have a chance to hear directly from Kim about where he wants to take the bank in his second term. Kim is facing an uphill battle to curry favor with the Trump administration and maintain support from the bank's largest shareholder, the United States.

The political challenges come as the World Bank launches a new strategy to position itself as a catalyst for private investment, rather than a traditional loan-making organization. The bank is targeting development goals such as job creation and infrastructure improvement, as well as projects that mitigate and stem climate change, improve the root causes of terrorism and migration, stabilize protracted refugee crises and prepare for global pandemics.

Some of the key questions we're following this week:
Will safeguards be diminished to entice private capital? Will the World Bank's new strategy require new types of staff and consultants? Will old business opportunities for implementers be lost and new ones created? How much private capital does the World Bank Group mobilize today, and how much could that increase, given the urgency of the issues it needs to tackle?

Some key panels we're attending on Thursday:
Press conference with World Bank President Jim Kim | Building resilience in the face of increasing threats | Increasing women's financial protection | Gender and macroeconomics: What's next? | Financing for learning: Making global education a reality | Resettlement and integration of internally displaced persons | Payouts for perils: Using insurance to radically improve emergency aid

Devex President and Editor-in-Chief Raj Kumar spoke with World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva about her vision for the institution's role in the world. "We may be structurally defined as private sector, agriculture, finance," she said. "Don't think of our structures. Think of the problems that need to be solved."

And her best advice, "Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself and others will believe in you, too."

Watch video

This week, we've teamed up with the World Bank for Mission: It's Possible, a Facebook Live series featuring global leaders and activists in international development.

Thursday, April 20 at 12:15 p.m.
Raj Kumar interviews Matt Damon and Gary White, Co-Founders,

Thursday, April 20 at 1:00 p.m.
Michael Igoe interviews Julia Gillard, Board Chair of the Global Partnership for Education and Former Prime Minister of Australia

Friday, April 21 at 11:00 a.m.
Sophie Edwards interviews Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Singer, Songwriter and Entrepreneur

Saturday, April 22 at 9:30 a.m.
Sophie Edwards interviews Philippe Le Houérou, CEO, IFC

P.S. Follow our Instagram for a behind-the-scenes look at who we're talking to and what we're hearing this week.
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