These were some of the main themes of the second day of the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Marrakech

Digitalisation, job creation and improved access to finance, new weapons in the fight against poverty

AFP/FADEL SENNA - La oficial de prensa del FMI, Randa Elnagar, directora del Departamento de Mercados Monetarios y de Capitales del FMI, Tobias Adrian, director adjunto del Departamento de Mercados Monetarios y de Capitales del FMI, Fabio Natalucci, y subdirector del Departamento de Mercados Monetarios y de Capitales del FMI, Jason Wu, participan en una conferencia de prensa el segundo día de las Reuniones Anuales del Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI) y el Grupo del Banco Mundial (GBM), en Marrakech el 10 de octubre de 2023
AFP/FADEL SENNA - IMF Press Officer Randa Elnagar, IMF Monetary and Capital Markets Department Director Tobias Adrian, IMF Monetary and Capital Markets Department Deputy Director Fabio Natalucci, and Deputy Director of the IMF's Monetary and Capital Markets Department, Jason Wu, participate in a press conference on the second day of the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG) in Marrakech on October 10, 2023

"Applying the World Bank's new handbook to bridge the digital, financing and job creation gaps between countries around the world and end poverty is based on digital foundations, updating the borrowing process and the private sector as a decisive factor in the equation", these are some of the key points of the second day of the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Annual Meetings, organised in Marrakech. 

In the first panel on the new handbook for difficult times, Anna Bjerde, director of operations at the World Bank, highlighted how the world is changing due to the frequency and intensity of crises and shocks, generating human impact through their damages that worsen the situation of some countries with limited resources. In addition to these crises, vulnerabilities such as the problem of food security, climate change and the increase in conflicts in the world have prompted the World Bank to create a new manual for difficult times by designing new features on debt repayments. She reported that "by 2030, a large part of the population will be living in fragile countries". 

In her speech, the Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, Leila Benali, mentioned two crises from which the world is suffering: the crisis of fear, which prevents agile action, and the crisis of dignity. 

The Moroccan minister pointed out that "one of the most important projects that Morocco started in the 1990s brought the country's electrification rate from 18% to over 99.9% and underlined "how the Kingdom has realised that in order to have 100% accessibility to new forms of energy, it must adopt a new manual to replicate solar energy projects". 

REUTERS/SUSANA VERA - La directora gerente del Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI), Kristalina Georgieva, habla en el segundo día de la reunión anual del FMI y el Banco Mundial, tras el mortífero terremoto del mes pasado, en Marrakech, Marruecos, el 10 de octubre
REUTERS/SUSANA VERA - International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva speaks on the second day of the annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank, following last month's deadly earthquake, in Marrakech, Morocco, Oct. 10

The latest earthquake in Al-Haouz has been, according to Ben Ali, an occasion to think about new housing and construction that respects traditions and the environment and that this population has access to other forms of low-cost energy.  

Benali stressed that "as long as we do not address the issue of how to overcome this traditional financing of debt versus equity and bonds versus capital, we will not move forward", praising the elaboration of the new handbook and stressing that dignity and humanity must be included in all its strategies, as traditional tools no longer work and crises must be turned into opportunities, she said. 

Southern countries cannot default on their debt, but they have defaulted on the future of their country's children, infrastructure, energy and digitalisation, which Morocco has avoided by ensuring human capital. 

The private sector is a key sector in the equation and we must ensure that this relationship is more fluid; taking the example of Morocco, where the aim is to move from one third private and two thirds public to one third public and two thirds private, not because states do not have the money to fund infrastructure, but because the private sector has a key role to play, the minister concluded.  

Malawi's Minister of Industry, Sostén Gwengwe, spoke of the climate crisis that is causing cyclone after cyclone in Malawi, noting that "the problem of their economy lies in not having mechanisms that can absorb these shocks. Just as ending poverty is a growing challenge despite the inclusive management that has been undertaken to come up with immediate responses and be resilient for the country's recovery and reconstruction plan. However, there is always the obstacle of delays in funding and transfer of funds that add to the cost due to the complicated processes, Gwengwe said. 

Catherine Russell, executive director of ONCEF, reported that "there are more children at risk today than ever before and millions more living in conflict zones. Also, more than half of the world's children live in regions suffering from the impacts of climate change in countries experiencing multiple crises at the same time in addition to debt, making it difficult for them to respond". 

REUTERS/SUSANA VERA - El presidente del Banco Mundial, Ajay Banga, habla el segundo día de la reunión anual del Fondo Monetario Internacional y el Banco Mundial, tras el mortal terremoto del mes pasado, en Marrakech, Marruecos, el 10 de octubre de 2023
REUTERS/SUSANA VERA - World Bank President Ajay Banga speaks on the second day of the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, following last month's deadly earthquake, in Marrakech, Morocco October 10, 2023

In our humanitarian responses we always think about sustainability and that the country can deal with these crises on its own, but helping to build this capacity is a huge challenge, Russel said. 

Gwen Hines, chief executive at Save the Children UK, urged treating shocks as a surprise that we all have to get used to. Children from poor families are the ones who need the education and who stand to benefit most from being a project of the international children's rights organisation. 

The executive vice-president of the Inter-American Development Bank, Jordan Schwartz, indicated that "now we always have a crisis and that it is not something exceptional, multilaterals in general depend on our presence on the ground and much more committed in the long term to be able to respond to social tensions such as the case of the migratory flows from Venezuela to Colombia". 

In the second panel on the digital foundation, Axel Van Trostsenburg, Managing Director of the World Bank, stated in his intervention that "in advanced and industrialised countries 9 out of 10 people have access to digital services while in low-income countries it is one out of four. This means that 35% of the world's population does not have such access. To bridge this digital divide, foundations have been set up to facilitate connectivity quickly and cheaply by creating a public digital infrastructure in both cities and rural areas, without losing sight of the importance of education and training to bridge the digital divide, he said.

Ghita Mezzour, Minister of Digital Transition and Administration Reform, stressed that "in Morocco, digital is a leverage for economic and social development that aims to serve society".  The country enjoys 90% connectivity so that 9 out of 10 Moroccans have access to the internet, and in addition to having the best telecommunications infrastructure in Africa, a special fund has been created to connect very sparsely populated areas with highly populated areas; thanks to which 96% of them have 4G and reliable internet access, according to Mezzour. 

Another digital achievement Morocco has made dates back to the pandemic when it created a system for people to have vaccination appointments digitally, and all Moroccans were able to have their appointments, including the elderly. Proximity centres have also been created, thanks to which thousands of schools have access to multimedia platforms, tablets for online tools, and students now have access to digital training platforms. The challenge for the Ministry of Digital Transition is how to train professionals who can produce and innovate, as what is required today is digital literacy.   

Ghana's Minister of Communications and Digitisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, explained how Ghana has made a specific effort to include women in the digitalisation sector through programmes from primary school to the workplace, training 5,000 each year in remote areas of the country and encouraging young people in these regions to explore digital technology. There they have a mentoring programme for women and girls to become computer engineers. Similarly, there are programmes for farmers and small entrepreneurs. 

In the third panel on "Growth to create jobs as a response to poverty", Axel Van Trostsenburg, managing director of the World Bank, pointed out that "by the end of next year 30% of developing economies will still be poorer than before the pandemic".  

According to the head of the World Bank, "the way out of poverty is to create more and better jobs and this is a global challenge and an important element in the new World Bank handbook; knowing that 205 million people are unemployed and many are young and 25% of the world's population is underemployed with low wages and limited opportunities for growth". 

REUTERS/SUSANA VERA - Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, director y consejero económico del Departamento de Investigación del FMI
REUTERS/SUSANA VERA - Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, Director and Economic Counsellor in the IMF's Research Department

Given that high exit and operating costs impede the turnover, growth and income of SMEs that account for two-thirds of all formal jobs in developing countries and 80% of low-income countries and that small businesses generate the majority of new jobs; the solution is access to education, skills for jobs and the workforce and ensuring access to finance for businesses; which is crucial in increasing productivity and the adoption of new technology, Trostsenburg explained. 

Younes Sekkouri, Minister of Inclusive Economy, Small Business, Employment and Skills, said that "creating jobs is at the heart of the Moroccan government's action to provide jobs for thousands of Moroccans who have lost their jobs during the pandemic". A programme launched in 2022 has succeeded in employing 104,000 people at a minimum wage with a social security guarantee. Of the 100,000 people who have entered the workforce this year, 70% are uneducated and in rural areas.  

Sekouri stressed that "jobs come with investment, which is why the new investment charter has been launched, starting with large companies and then moving on to SMEs". 

Mario Augusto Caetano João, Angola's Minister of Economy and Planning, noted that "his country has had a centrally planned economy for years, so jobs were created by the government and state institutions. Although it is considered a major oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, the sector does not bring in many jobs (20,000 in total); and companies in Angola suffer from difficult access to finance, which impedes their expansion and reduces job creation figures". 

Yetunde Adeyemi, founding director of Active Foods, said that in Nigeria, one of the main obstacles to starting a business is the country's reality in terms of financing for women trying to start a business. 

For his part, Larbi Alaoui Belghiti, founder CEO Yola Fresh Morocco, said "it is impossible today to manage the thousands of orders of a company without making use of new technologies that allow companies to scale up and grow"; stressing that new jobs arise from new technologies such as digital commerce. 

In Morocco, the sector that is growing and generating more than 12,000 jobs is Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Belghiti concluded.  

John W.H. Denton, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce, analysed from a macroeconomic perspective when work, highlighting the relevance of studying the number of people who are working, those who want to work and those who have work. Thus, one in five in low-income countries cannot get a job, even if they would like to work, because of the challenges of indebtedness in these economies. For this reason, more effort needs to be made to restructure debt, as most of it is based on outdated regulations and could be updated with the concept of creditor preference, he said in his speech.  

Denton stated that "in the debt crisis, no company can have a higher credit rating than the country it is in; this must be changed in 2023 as it hinders access to trade finance because it is too expensive".