The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a $191 million credit to Bangladesh and a $18 million grant to Afghanistan to help the countries strengthen the higher education sector and respond better to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Higher Education Acceleration Transformation Project—the first World Bank-supported regional education project in South Asia—will support regional collaboration in the higher education sector, including student mobility through equivalence programs, credit transfer schemes, and university twinning arrangements within the region. It will also help more women access quality higher education, which will result in increased female labor force participation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit hard the higher education sector in South Asia, causing more dropouts and fewer enrolments. Female students are likely to be disproportionately impacted, further exacerbating the existing gender gap in higher education. The project will support pandemic and emergency response and build systemic resilience in the higher education sector with a specific focus on digitization.
“For our collective future, higher education is a necessity, not a choice. As Bangladesh aspires to achieve an upper middle-income status, the country needs to invest in its youth to create a skilled and globally competitive workforce,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan. “This financing will help Bangladesh strengthen quality and relevance of tertiary education as well as ensure business continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It will establish a South Asian Higher Education Portal, hosted in Bangladesh, to facilitate the ‘virtual mobility’ of students, by allowing students from the registered universities to take courses for credit outside their home country. In addition to Bangladesh and Afghanistan, students from other South Asian countries will be able to access the portal. It will also strengthen regional cooperation among the National Research and Education networks (NRENs) and provide expanded access and connectivity for students. The project will upgrade the Bangladesh Research and Education Network (BdREN) and will offer a subsidized connectivity package to students and the participating universities in BdREN.
South Asia region has the second-lowest female labor force participation rate globally. To enable more women to access quality higher education, get better jobs, and become leaders, the project will build a network of women’s universities and institutions, which will be initially anchored on the Asian University of Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh.
In Afghanistan, the higher education sector is growing rapidly. However, only 30 percent of the students at the tertiary level are women. “The regional project will prepare the students, particularly the female students for working in leadership and decision-making positions,” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan.
“The project will help meet the increasing demand for quality higher education in South Asia. Further, it will also help South Asian countries benefit from regional cooperation in higher education and strengthen research and innovations capacities in the universities,” said Mokhlesur Rahman, World Bank Task Team Leader of the project.
The credit is from the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), and has a 30-year term, including a five-year grace period. Bangladesh currently has the largest ongoing IDA program totaling over $14 billion.
Vaccination, Jobs, and Social Assistance are All Key to Reducing Poverty in Central Asia
As the pace of economic recovery picks up, countries in Central Asia have an opportunity to return to pre-pandemic levels of poverty reduction – if they put in place the right policies. This was the overall message shared by World Bank economists today at a regional online event “Overcoming the Pandemic and Ending Poverty in Central Asia”.
In the early 2000s, Central Asian countries were among the world’s best performers in poverty reduction. Starting in 2009, however, the pace of progress began to slow and even stagnated in some of the countries. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted a region already struggling to generate inclusive growth and end extreme poverty. Now in the second year of the pandemic, poverty rates in Central Asia are falling again, but with high inflation and low vaccination rates, the poor and the most vulnerable continue to suffer from food insecurity, uncertainty, and limited employment opportunities, especially for women.
“Central Asia is recovering from the first shocks of the pandemic, albeit in uneven ways,” said Will Seitz, World Bank Senior Economist in Central Asia. “Migration and remittances, key drivers of poverty reduction in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, are quickly returning to 2019 levels. Labor markets are also recovering, and work disruptions are much less common. However, the region is yet to get on a stable poverty reduction path.”
Among policy priorities to reduce poverty, the World Bank is focused on three key areas: widespread vaccination, increasing employment and wages, and strengthening social assistance programs to support the most vulnerable. To support labor market recovery, the World Bank economists outlined short-term and medium-term measures, including the need to invest in green jobs and encouraging the creation and growth of firms.
It was also stressed that employment alone will not address all drivers of poverty, and strong safety nets are essential to protect the most vulnerable. Compared with other middle-income countries, Central Asian governments typically provide smaller shares of their populations with social assistance.
“Along with ensuring fair, broad access to effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines, Central Asian countries need to urgently address vaccination hesitancy, as it threatens to slow down the recovery,” said Tatiana Proskuryakova, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia. “For every million people vaccinated, global GDP recovers on average nearly $8 billion. We are expecting advanced economies with relatively high vaccination rates to demonstrate much better growth rates than developing economies with low vaccination rates.”
Among the main reasons behind vaccine hesitancy in Central Asian countries are worries about vaccine contraindication and safety. While people with pre-existing health conditions in other countries are usually prioritized for vaccination, in the Central Asia region they are more likely to be hesitant to get vaccinated. Providing the public with accurate information on the safety of vaccines and encouraging people with pre-existing health conditions to be vaccinated may help address hesitancy issues.
Vietnam’s Development Agenda Receives Additional Boost
Vietnam’s push to enhance competitiveness, reduce its carbon footprint, and improve lives and livelihoods has been given a boost with the approval of an AUD 5 million grant by the Australian Government.
This grant represents additional funding to the ongoing Australia – Bank Partnership in Vietnam (ABP), which focuses on a wide range of policy areas designed to support the country’s development agenda.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on Vietnam’s reform agenda and exacerbate inequalities, which are more pronounced and harder to close for ethnic minorities, for women and for other marginalized groups. Responding to this, Australia’s extended collaboration with the World Bank will continue to support Vietnam’s quick economic recovery and help achieve its development goals,” said Australia’s Ambassador to Vietnam HE Robyn Mudie.
The ABP will continue its work on gender equality and the sustainable development of the Mekong Delta. In addition, it will also help address new priorities set out in the country’s recently adopted Socio-Economic Development Strategy and Socio-Economic Development Plan, including the transition to a low carbon economy, social equity and inclusion, and innovation-driven growth.
“The ABP will continue providing high-quality advisory work, enabling Vietnamese policymakers to pursue substantive reforms,” said Carolyn Turk, World Bank Country Director for Vietnam. “These reforms are needed both for recovery from the economic costs of COVID, but also to set a solid basis for the pathway to higher income status.”
The ABP was established in 2017 with an initial funding amount of AUD 25 million. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ABP responded quickly and provided an additional AUD 5 million to support Vietnam to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic. The program leverages expertise from Australia and the World Bank Group to support the Government of Vietnam in strengthening its development policies and programs.
Cotton sustains more than 100 million families worldwide
A single metric tonne of cotton provides jobs for five people on average, often in some of the world’s most impoverished regions; that adds up around 100 million families across the globe.
To recognize these and other contributions, the United Nations is marking World Cotton Day, this Thursday.
Cotton is an important means of livelihood for millions of smallholders and attracts export revenues to some of the poorest countries. This makes the sector a key contributor to reaching the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
For the UN, this natural fabric “represents so much more than just a commodity”, it is “a life-changing product.”
Cotton is a major source of income for many rural laborers, including women. With this World Day, the UN wants to raise awareness of the critical role that cotton plays in economic development, international trade and poverty alleviation.
The initiative also wants to highlight the importance of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.
Resilient and multipurpose
As a crop resistant to climatic changes, cotton can be planted in dry and arid zones. It occupies just 2.1 per cent of the world’s arable land, but it meets 27 per cent of the world’s textile needs.
Around 80 per cent of cotton is used in the clothing industry, 15 per cent in home furnishings and the remaining 5 per cent mostly accounts for non-woven applications, such as filters and padding.
Almost nothing from cotton is wasted. In addition to textiles and apparel, food products can be derived from it, such as edible oil and animal feed from the seed.
Other uses have been developed recently, like using cotton-based filaments in 3D printers, because they conduct heat well, become stronger when wet, and are more scalable than materials like wood.
The ‘Cotton Four’
The idea for the World Day was born in 2019, when four cotton producers in sub-Saharan Africa – Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali, known as the Cotton Four -proposed a celebration on October 7, to the World Trade Organization.
With the UN officially recognizing the date, it became an opportunity to create awareness of the need of market access from least developed countries, to foster sustainable trade policies and to enable developing countries to benefit more from every step of the value chain.
For years, UN agencies have worked towards this goal.
For instance, since 2003, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the World Trade Organization have helped the Cotton Four to improve production local processing capacity, as well as to discuss the trade reforms needed to address high trade barriers.
Another UN agency, FAO, has long offered developing countries technical and policy support. One example is the +Cotton project, a cooperation initiative with Brazil that helps Latin American producers with innovative farming methods.
Reducing industrial pollution in the Niger River Basin
The Niger River is the third-longest river in Africa, running for 4,180 km (2,600 miles) from its source in south-eastern...
Standards & Digital Transformation – Good Governance in a Digital Age
In celebration of World Standards Day 2021, celebrated on 14 October every year, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)...
Accelerating COVID-19 Vaccine Uptake to Boost Malawi’s Economic Recovery
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries including Malawi have struggled to mitigate its impact amid limited fiscal...
UN: Paraguay violated indigenous rights
Paraguay’s failure to prevent the toxic contamination of indigenous people’s traditional lands by commercial farming violates their rights and their sense of “home”, the UN Human Rights...
An Airplane Dilemma: Convenience Versus Environment
Mr. President: There are many consequences of COVID-19 that have changed the existing landscape due to the cumulative effects of...
Vaccination, Jobs, and Social Assistance are All Key to Reducing Poverty in Central Asia
As the pace of economic recovery picks up, countries in Central Asia have an opportunity to return to pre-pandemic levels...
Wagner: Putin’s secret weapon on the way to Mali?
France is outraged at the prospect of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group arriving in Mali. However, Paris is seeking...
Defense3 days ago
The U.S. may not involve military confrontation in the South China Sea
Europe4 days ago
Is Kosovo Threatened by the European Far-Right? A Commentary on Forza Nuova and its Balkan Connections
Economy4 days ago
The Philippines’ Circular Future
Arts & Culture2 days ago
Squid Game, Style influence and Sustainable consumption
Europe4 days ago
Revisiting the Birthplace of Non-Aligned Movement
Green Planet3 days ago
It’s not fair to single out the five countries in the Greta Thunberg UN children-climate case
Terrorism4 days ago
Trends of Online Radicalization in Bangladesh: Security Implications
Americas3 days ago
The international disorder after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the causes of the Taliban victory