Ghana, represented by the Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, chaired the World Bank Development Committee meetings in Washington DC, where implicit concerns over employment amid unprecedented demographics, and several crucial developmental issues, were discussed.
Mr Ofori-Atta assumed his role as Chairman of the World Bank’s Development Committee at this year’s International Monetary Fund/World Bank Spring Meetings. This is a first for Ghana.
“This is perhaps the highest moment in Ghana’s financial institutional history. Not only has Ghana’s Minister for Finance received Africa’s Best Finance Minister Award, he has also been nominated to chair the Bretton Woods’ Development Committee”, said Falila Gbadamassi, a French-Beninese journalist at France Télévisions.
A Gloomy Outlook
Since Friday April 13, Ken Ofori-Atta has been at the helm of discussions between the 25-member Development Committee who are usually Ministers for Finance or Development representing the full membership of the World Bank Group, with the aim to unpack some of the critical developmental issues affecting the global economy.
At this year’s IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings, the Development Committee discussed current economic context — focusing on long-term growth challenges in emerging markets and developing economies, and their implications for achieving the twin goals of eradicating poverty and ensuring shared prosperity. The Development Committee has been focussing on development issues in the Global South since its inception in 1974.
A global outlook that forecasts a moderate slowdown in economic activity with lingering downside risks informed this year’s Development Committee meeting.
“Global trade growth has weakened, investment prospects have softened, debt vulnerabilities persist, and policy uncertainty weighs on confidence” Ken Ofori-Atta reiterated the concerns of the 25-member Committee, following their two-day deliberations.
While these concerns are likely to direct the World Bank and IMF’s focus for the year, circumventing their negative impact would require a focus on the “important role of international trade and investment as engines of growth, productivity, innovation, job creation and sustainable development,” Ofori-Atta said.
Clearly, the areas highlighted by the Development Committee Chairman express salient developmental issues in Africa. With the youngest population in the world, attending to Africa’s massive youth population is a matter of urgency.
This urgency is perhaps best expressed in a Brookings Institute report in September 2018, which showed that people aged between 0-24 in Africa numbered up to 628 million in 2017 with an expected 51 percent rise in the youth population by 2050. As at 2018, about 60 per cent of the continent’s estimated population of 1.25 billion was under the age of 25. The median age stood at 20 years.
Population growth across Africa has led to development analysts warning of a dire need to address issues concerning the social and economic inclusion of young people, with many calling for the strengthening of Africa’s labour market. In 2015, only 3.1 million jobs were created across the continent for about 12 million new entrants into the African labour force.
Expressing a tacit understanding that labour and human capital go hand in glove, the Development Committee has reinforced the understanding that “investments in human capital produce better learning and health outcomes that are critical to productivity and economic well-being.”
This is buttressed by the World Bank’s shareholder’s endorsement of a Capital Package for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) during the 2018 Spring Meetings. The package is to finance the implementation of the Bank’s Forward Look, which is the overarching roadmap for how the World Bank Group can best support its member countries to advance economic transformation and contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
But perhaps Mr Ofori-Atta’s reminder of the necessity to mainstream disruptive and transformative technologies and make them affordable and accessible for developing countries speaks to the urgency to “create opportunities for the poor” and the youth.
Bringing to the fore the Development Committee’s views about financial technology (Fintech) during the two-day deliberations, Ghana’s Minister for Finance reiterated the Development Committee’s “support of innovation and consumer protection through agile regulations as crucial.”
Analysts expect the Bretton Woods institutions to increasingly focus on technology in 2019 in a bid to tackle job creation and sustainable development, as expressed by the Chair of the Development Committee.