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Nigeria to Boost Support for Keeping Adolescent Girls in School

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The World Bank Board of Directors approved today a $500 million credit from the International Development Association (IDA)* for the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE), whose goal is to improve secondary education opportunities among girls in targeted areas.  

Adolescent girls face many constraints in accessing and completing secondary education. In northern Nigeria, the lack of secondary schools is significantly greater with up to ten primary schools for every secondary school. Poor condition of infrastructure and a lack of water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities makes it difficult for girls to stay in school. In addition, close to 80 percent of poor households are in the north, which makes it very challenging for them to cover the direct and indirect costs of schooling. All these factors have contributed towards limiting the number of girls that have access to secondary school. If nothing is done, 1.3 million girls out of the 1.85 million who began primary school in 2017/2018 in the northern states will drop out before reaching the last year of junior secondary school.   

The AGILE project will use secondary school as a platform to empower girls through education, life skills, health education (e.g. nutrition, reproductive health) GBV awareness and prevention, negotiations skills, self-agency and digital literacy skills. A minimum of 6 million girls and boys are expected to benefit from the project and many more cohorts of students will continue benefiting after the project ends.  

“There is no better investment to accelerate Nigeria’s human capital development than to significantly boost  girls’ education,” says Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria “The AGILE project will enable Nigeria to make progress in improving access and quality of education for girls, especially in northern Nigeria. Addressing the key structural impediments in a comprehensive way will create the enabling environment to help Nigeria ensure better outcomes for girls, which will translate into their ability to contribute to productivity and better economic outcomes for themselves and the country”   

The ambitious project will support access to secondary education and empowerment for adolescent girls in 7 states: Kano, Kebbi, Kaduna, Katsina, Borno, Plateau and Ekiti. Specifically, the project will benefit about 6.7 million adolescents and 15.5 million direct project beneficiaries will include families and communities in participating states. The project has also been adapted to respond to COVID-19 and will support a blended learning approach using technology and media (TV and radio) to implement remote and distance learning programs.  

The AGILE project will expand existing primary and Junior Secondary Schools (JSS) to include both JSSs and Senior Secondary Schools to make schools functional, safe, and inclusive to teaching and learning. This entails building more than 5,500 JSSs and 3,300 classrooms for SSSs, as well as improving 2,786 Junior Secondary and 1,914 Senior Secondary schools with safe, accessible, and inclusive infrastructure. About 340,000 girls will receive life skills training in safe spaces, which will help them navigate challenges in life. This will incorporate health information and key information on climate change, safety and gender-based violence awareness. To help girls thrive in the digital economy, 300,000 girls will receive digital literacy trainings.  Additionally, the project will offer half a million girls from the poorest households with financial incentives in the form of scholarships to further support their retention and completion of secondary school. It will also support raising awareness to address social norms and promote positive behaviors for a supportive and enabling environment for girls’ education using communication and high-level advocacy.   

* The World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), established in 1960, helps the world’s poorest countries by providing grants and low to zero-interest loans for projects and programs that boost economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve poor people’s lives. IDA is one of the largest sources of assistance for the world’s 76 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa. Resources from IDA bring positive change to the 1.6 billion people who live in IDA countries. Since 1960, IDA has supported development work in 113 countries. Annual commitments have averaged about $21 billion over the last three years, with about 61 percent going to Africa.  

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Solutions to accelerate renewables integration and power system resilience

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Singapore and the International Energy Agency today co-hosted the second Global Ministerial Conference on System Integration of Renewables (SIR). The Conference was held as part of the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) 2020.

This is the first SIR Ministerial Conference to be held in Asia. Under the theme “Investment, Integration, and Resilience: A Secure, Clean Energy Future,” the SIR Ministerial Conference brought together close to 30 Energy Ministers, global CEOs and thought leaders to discuss emerging issues in the acceleration of renewables integration and power system resilience with a strong focus on Asia and Southeast Asia. The IEA also launched its new report on electricity security, Power Systems in Transition, at the Conference. The report provides important recommendations on modernising power grids for greater reliability and flexibility.

Singapore’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Trade & Industry, and Manpower and co-Chair of the SIR Ministerial Dr Tan See Leng said: “International cooperation and public-private partnerships remain vital as we navigate towards a more sustainable energy future. As we address the urgent need to future-proof our systems to create more resilience and flexibility, we must also increase the share of, and enhance the integration of renewable energy in our energy systems. We look forward to working with the IEA to advance global energy transitions.”

“The IEA is pleased to partner with Singapore for the 2nd Ministerial Conference on System Integration of Renewables as the country sits at the heart of Asia, a region that will be critical in shaping the future of global energy markets,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “Today, we shared important lessons from across Asia and beyond on how best to integrate growing shares of wind and solar into power systems while maintaining security of supply. This will be crucial if renewables are to become the fundamental cornerstone of global clean energy transitions.”

Singapore’s cooperation with the IEA has deepened significantly since it became an Association country of the IEA in 2016. Singapore and the IEA have co-hosted many innovative initiatives and programmes to advance the global energy agenda. These include the training programmes under the Singapore-Regional Training Hub, the Singapore-IEA Forum and the Capacity Building Roadmap on Energy Investment and Financing for ASEAN.

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Post-Pandemic Growth Needs New Skills for New Jobs that Are Open to All

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The World Economic Forum’s first Jobs Reset Summit convened more than 1,000 leaders from government, business and civil society to shape a new agenda for growth, jobs, skills and equity.

It follows the Forum’s January 2020 launch of the Reskilling Revolution online platform to create better jobs, skills and education for 1 billion people by 2030. The platform hosts global, national and industry coalitions.

The Forum’s Closing the Skills Gap Accelerators are a global network of national efforts to improve skills, redeploy upskilled workers and promote inclusion. At last week’s summit, three new countries – Georgia, Greece and Turkey – joined Bahrain, Brazil, India, Oman, Pakistan, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates to close skills and employment gaps in their countries.

“Closing the skills and employment gap has never been so urgent and vital to our economy and society as we recover from the pandemic. The Accelerator in Greece will work with major private-sector companies and Regeneration as the local coordinator to build partnerships that would mobilize investment for job creation and reskill our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Adonis Georgiadis, Minister for Development and Investment, Greece.

Georgia has set up a new platform, Skills Georgia, under the Accelerator, a public-private agency run as a non-profit organization that will “give the opportunity for the new generation to become more innovative; more start-up, tech and innovation-oriented with their entrepreneurial thinking,” said Tamar Kitiashvili, Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport, Georgia.

Turkey is launching the Closing the Skills Gap Accelerator championed by three ministers – Industry and Technology; Education; and Family, Labour and Social Services – showcasing the cross-governmental collaboration required for rapid action on skills.

Leading policy-makers from Bahrain, Brazil and Pakistan provided updates on the efforts in their respective Accelerators to adapt to the pandemic and deliver skills to workers and out-of-work individuals. Brazil’s Deputy Minister of the Economy revealed that under Brazil’s Accelerator more than 8 million people will be trained to increase their future employability in the next two years. In Pakistan, the Minister for Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resources highlighted a standardization and accreditation system in more than 10,000 training centres across Pakistan, created in close partnership with the private sector. Bahrain’s Minister of Youth showcased the efforts focused on young graduates to equip them with the skills of tomorrow.

The Reskilling Revolution platform also hosts the Skills Consortium of top online education and training providers. These companies and organizations, including Coursera, Udacity and EdX, shared their support of workers in the current context and the opportunities for further delivering on the promise of online learning and training through better accreditation and recognition by employers.

Business-led and intra-industry collaborations were also announced at the summit to create solutions for workers who can be rapidly upskilled and redeployed to a different role within their sector, leveraging both online and in-person training. For example, Crescent Petroleum shared its partnership with Edraak to provide online learning for youth in the Middle East and North Africa region, with over 240,000 people already registered.

A New Agenda for Economic Growth, Revival and Transformation

A community of leading chief economists from the public and private sectors supported the development of the Forum’s Dashboard for the New Economy. The proposed set of macroeconomic targets aims to steer the COVID-19 recovery beyond GDP growth alone and give governments the impetus to put the focus on people, planet, prosperity and institutions.

The Forum also launched a priority list of 20 of the most promising Markets of Tomorrow that are poised to generate sustainable and inclusive job creation and growth beyond today’s economic models. A network of Closing the Innovation Gap Accelerators will be taking forward investments in these new markets and innovation ecosystems.

A New Agenda for Work, Wages and Job Creation

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report, released during the summit, highlighted the “double disruption” faced by workers in the face of the pandemic recession coupled with accelerated automation.

A coalition of more than 60 chief human resources officers partnered with the World Economic Forum and Mercer to create a new set of principles for the future of work through the Resetting the Future of Work Agenda.

As part of a network of Preparing for the Future of Work Accelerators across nine industries, the Consumer Industry Acceleratorannounced an initiative to create “reskilling and redeployment pathways” for thousands of employees. Leena Nair, Chief Human Resources Officer, Unilever, announced the collaboration with Walmart, Accenture and Skyhive. “It’s the first of its kind, non-competitive, collaborative partnership,” said Nair. The coalition is inviting companies from across industries to join the response to deal with the scale of the reskilling challenge.

A New Agenda for Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice

In addition, Jordan joined 10 other economies, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Peru, Dominican Republic, Egypt and France, deploying the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators to enhance opportunities for women in the workforce.

“The government of Jordan is committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment as an effective tool to combat poverty, hunger and diseases. Today’s launch of the Jordan Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator will help us incorporate gender as a cross-cutting theme in our economic recovery plans. It is also in line with our longstanding public-private collaboration efforts to create more equitable growth,” said Nasser Shraideh, Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation.

The Future of Jobs Report highlighted how the impact of technology and the COVID recession on jobs has been worse for women, youth and lower-income workers. The newly launched Resetting the Future of Work Agenda highlights the win-win of diversity, equity and inclusion in this context, while the recent Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 4.0 Toolkithelps companies deploy the latest HR technologies to support this.

The Valuable 500 – committed to transforming disability inclusion through business leadership and opportunity, launched at the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2019 – announced an additional 100 members since January 2020. With 334 organizations worldwide, combined revenues of over $4.5 trillion and an employee base of 11.9 million, The Valuable 500, in partnership with the Forum, launched its Transformation Leadership Programme to build capability at leadership and C-suite level.

Notable Quotes from Leaders throughout the Summit

Environmental and social pressures have exposed the fault lines in the structure of global capitalism. Ray Dalio, Founder, Co-Chairman and Co-Chief Investment Officer of Bridgewater Associates, said: “Capitalism by its nature tends to create greater wealth gaps. There needs to be a coordinated effort to restructure how the machine works.”

Unilever’s Chief Executive Officer Alan Jope referred to COVID-19 causing a jobs crisis but urged action on two further crises, climate change and the nature of capitalism itself, “We must change the measures of success,” he said, moving beyond the preoccupation with measuring only GDP and profit as yardsticks for the recovery.

“We have a tech-savvy younger generation, and the challenge now is how do we equip them more”, said Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation of Egypt, and a Co-Chair of the Closing the Gender Gap Accelerator in Egypt.

Jonas Prising, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ManpowerGroup, described a two-speed recovery from COVID-19. “Businesses that are able to adapt are recovering quicker than those that cannot. The same is true for the labour market. People with the right skills will come back faster.”

For Angel Gurría, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “Coordination is missing in action,” he said. Yet, the only way to deal with issues of international trade, migration, climate change, employment and economic recovery from COVID-19 – even the search for a vaccine – is through multilateral cooperation.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and others called for the creation of a Global Social Protection Fund for those hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis. “About half of the world’s people have no social protection or any sense of security,” said Sharan Burrow, General-Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

Geraldine Matchett, Co-Chief Executive Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Royal DSM highlighted how technology can help to enable fairer access to jobs and that “the COVID crisis has shown us that it’s very possible to change the definition and format of work.” Royal DSM is a founding partner of the Forum’s Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work framework.

Additionally, the OECD and the Education Commission announced at the summit new studies that promote new metrics for soft skills and a new common agenda for education.

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Going Digital is Necessary for Small Businesses to Survive

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APEC member economies must work together to promote and encourage the transition of the region’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to the emerging digital economy, urged Malaysia’s Minister of Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives, Dato Sri Dr. Haji Wan Junaidi Bin Tuanku Jaafar.

“Going digital is not an option, it has to be done. It is a necessity to survive,” he said in his opening remarks of the APEC 26th Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting held virtually on Friday.

APEC ministers in charge of small and medium enterprise policy exchanged views to address the severe economic impact of the pandemic to MSMEs and detailed steps to build more resilient, inclusive and sustainable environment for the sector.

MSMEs play a significant role in the region’s economic growth, contributing around 40 to 60 percent to the growth domestic products of most APEC economies. As a response to the pandemic, APEC members have been providing support measures for the sector ranging from tax reliefs, wage subsidies, interest rates reduction, soft loans and refinancing, so that business owners and managers can sustain their operations and continue to contribute to the global economy.

“In the new normal, businesses must pivot their strategies and business models to adapt to the digital economy and incorporate innovation and technology in order to remain resilient,” he added. “Besides all the fiscal stimulus, it is equally imperative to support MSMEs to go digital while helping them to adjust and overcome the challenges.”

He cautioned members of the multi-faceted challenges and concerns of going digital, including data privacy, cybersecurity, digital fraud and the digital divide. He highlighted the importance of strengthening cooperation and collaboration within APEC member economies “during and beyond this pandemic.”

APEC has been consistent in acknowledging the significant contribution MSMEs give to the region’s economy and employment. In her remarks at the meeting, Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat, highlighted that policy work undertaken by other APEC groups can contribute to helping MSMEs in the region.

“Support for MSMEs in APEC is cross-cutting and requires close partnership within our fora and the private sector,” she said. “We need to advance progress in structural reforms, trade facilitation and digital initiatives such as the single window implementation to make it easier, faster and cheaper to do business in the region and to ensure seamless flow of good and services within economies and across the borders.”

During the meeting, ministers endorsed a joint statement focusing on member economies’ commitment to support MSMEs in restarting and reviving their businesses through digitalization, innovation and technology.

Ministers also endorsed a new five-year vision to reinforce business ethics and integrity in health-related sectors called Vision 2025 launched earlier this month at the 2020 APEC Business Ethics for SMEs Virtual Forum under the world’s largest ethics pacts to strengthen ethical business practices in the medical device and biopharmaceutical sectors.

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