Last week Washington hosted nearly 50 African heads of state at the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Countless meetings and conversations that took place not just among government officials but businesses, international organizations, and non-profits (including CIPE and Freedom House) brought Africa into the spotlight. Yet the most important aspect of the Summit is still ahead: what did we learn and how can this knowledge guide the way forward?
One of the most informative outcomes of the Summit to me was the launch of a report Africa and the United States: A defining relationship of the 21st century at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Presidential Plenary. The report was jointly produces by the U.S. Chamber and Investec Asset Management (IAM), a global investment management firm founded in 1991 in South Africa. Hendrik du Toit, Investec’s CEO, unveiled the report and discussed its findings with a panel of corporate leaders.
On April 7, 2012, entrepreneur and longtime women’s right activist Joyce Banda became Malawi’s first female president – and only second on the African continent – after the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika propelled her from the vice presidency to the country’s highest office. In 2014, she placed 40th on the Forbes list of 100 Women Who Lead the World.
What path led her to that meteoric rise and how did she manage to capitalize on her strengths as a woman leader to both overcome personal challenges and face the challenges in front of her country? Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Banda for a candid interview where she talked about her story and its lessons for aspiring women leaders in Africa and around the world.
Before entering politics in 1999 to run for Parliament, Banda started a number of successful businesses and in 1990 founded the National Association of Business Women (NABW). With CIPE support, the organization grew to more than 15,000 members and made an important difference in the lives of women entrepreneurs in Malawi.
What inspired her to become active in business and then in politics? “In 1981, I walked out on an abusive marriage and looking back it became very clear to me that what had gone wrong is that I hadn’t been economically empowered. So I decided to set myself on a path that would ensure that abuse doesn’t happen again,” she said.
Every day on the news we hear about challenges that countries face, ranging from domestic crises to natural disasters. At the same time, we learn about opportunities for advancement created by new technologies and global markets. How ready are countries to absorb negative shocks and capitalize on positive changes? This is the question that KPMG, in cooperation with Oxford Economics, seeks to address through the 2013 Change Readiness Index (CRI).
The index, this year in its second and expanded edition, assesses the ability of 90 countries around the world – from Australia to Afghanistan – to manage change and cultivate opportunity. Based on the analysis of secondary data and primary surveys of over 500 country experts, the index looks at three key elements: enterprise capability, government capability, and people & civil society capability. This data is also accompanied by several case studies that put CRI to the test, looking for instance at the varied capacity of countries to respond to major earthquakes (Haiti, Chile, and Japan).
Participants at the Frankfurt workshop.
Effective legal and regulatory reforms are key to improving governance and creating an entrepreneurship ecosystem conducive to economic growth and shared prosperity. Yet in many countries passing and implementing new laws and regulations remains a top-down process that receives little input from stakeholders who are directly affected.
All too often such reforms, even if they appear promising, remain on paper only since they lack broader ownership and support. In order to make the reform process more transparent, accountable, and fruitful, governments need to involve various segments of the society in the reform process. That involvement is particularly crucial when it comes to private sector organizations given that they represent the broader business community – the backbone of economic growth.
This crucial multi-stakeholder engagement process of public-private dialogue (PPD) was the topic of the recent 7th PPD Global Workshop in Frankfurt, Germany, co-organized by the World Bank Institute (WBI), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).
The workshop gathered 145 participants from 41 countries, including the donor community, government representatives, and the private sector. It focused on key issues in designing, conducting, and evaluating PPDs, with experiences and approaches on what works shared among the participants. CIPE and several of its current and past partner organizations from Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Senegal took part in this exciting event.
Corruption is one of the biggest challenges facing the developing world: it has a corrosive effect on democratic governance, undermines public trust, and wastes scarce resources. Crucially, corruption also represents a destructive tax on the private sector that hampers economic growth and development prospects.
A new paper by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ (CSIS) Project on Prosperity and Development, The Costs of Corruption: Strategies for Ending a Tax on Private-sector Growth, estimates that narrowly-defined private sector corruption in 105 developing countries amounts to over $500 billion, 3.7 times the amount of official development assistance in 2011. While businesses are often blamed for corruption, and in particular bribery, the paper recognizes that corruption has both supply and demand sides, and that while businesses may contribute to corruption, they are also victims of it. As such, business must be a part of successful solutions to the corruption problem.
This is the point that CIPE constantly emphasizes – and applies – in its work around the world. In fact, the report cites numerous examples of CIPE’s successful anti-corruption programs, including collective action among leading companies in Thailand, legal reforms to guarantee disclosure of procurement contracts in Egypt, work on corporate governance and SME policy advocacy in Russia, improving public procurement transparency and governance in Kosovo, streamlining Armenia’s tax code, and strengthening property rights and supporting legal institutions in Kenya.
Women are essential to peaceful, democratic development of their societies. As the UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka noted in a recent speech on the role of Syrian women in the peace process, “By including the perspectives of half the population, the path is paved for a society built on the principles of inclusion and justice.” In recent years, that fact has become more widely recognized, with many new local and international institutions and initiatives aimed at helping women achieve their full potential and participate on equal footing in the political, economic, and civic lives of their countries.
I was happy to see that Georgetown University, my alma mater, took active leadership in elevating the discussion and research on the importance of women for a more stable, peaceful and just world through the creation of the Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS). The establishment of the Institute was announced by Georgetown’s President John J. DeGioia and then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Georgetown on December 19, 2011 when the Secretary unveiled the United States’ National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.