Economic Progress, Empowerment and Social Inclusion

Rising gross national incomes are not enough. Empowerment of the poor (both poor people and poor nations) to enhance their participation in economic growth is an important consideration if greater equity is to be achieved.

by Darius Mans

Economic progress as measured by growth in per capita GDP and declines in the share of the population living below the poverty line remains an important benchmark for development. Virtually every nation, region, and international organization focuses on implementation of initiatives to achieve and sustain economic progress and prosperity, even as the global population increases, urbanization accelerates, and natural resource constraints become more evident. But there are new voices suggesting that rising gross national incomes are not enough. Empowerment of the poor (both poor people and poor nations) to enhance their participation in economic growth is an important consideration if greater equity is to be achieved.

With the global economic crisis fresh in peoples' minds, the first panel session on this theme will take a broad look from a macro perspective at what we have learned in pursuing development along diverse pathways. It will look at what we have learned, both good and bad, from cross-country experiences about growth, poverty reduction, and inclusion. The discussants will reflect on South Korea's four decades of equitable growth, the experience of shared growth in Mozambique since the end of the civil war in 1992, and Brazil's remarkable past decade of growth and poverty reduction. It also will feature the experience of countries that haven't fared nearly as well.

The panel will be chaired by Danny Liepziger, the former Vice Chair of the Growth Commission. The members will include former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Mozambique, Louisa Diogo, one of the chief architects of Mozambique's successful episode of growth with significant poverty reduction. Claudio Frischtak of the International Growth Center will reflect on the accomplishments of the Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Lula administrations as well as the challenges ahead for the new Dilma administration. Sarah Clift, the leader of the World Bank's new World Development Report on Conflict, Security and Development, will distill its lessons for countries mired in conflict and plagued by insecurity.

The second panel will look at micro development approaches that are needed to complement the macro approaches previously discussed. It will feature new approaches to empowering and including the poor in development. Both the theory and practice of improving access to finance for the poor and its impact will be discussed, a topic of some controversy of late. The panel will also look at how best to leverage the assets of the poor, including access to land and information. It will also include a conversation around the approaches of the Millennium Promise to help Africa break out of its poverty trap through bottom-up, grassroots holistic approaches to development.

It will be chaired by Sam Mwale, the Principal Administrative Secretary of the Cabinet of Kenya. Joining Sam will be Jolyne Sanjak, Managing Director for Technical Services at the Millennium Challenge Corporation and an expert on agriculture and property rights. Elizabeth Littlefield, the President and CEO of OPIC, will also join the panel, bringing her wealth of experience in financing small and medium enterprises, including from her work at the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor and elsewhere. The Chief Executive Officer of Equity Bank, James Mwangi, will contribute his insights from running one of the most dynamic and successful financial institutions that extends financial services to the low income segment and the un-banked population. Rounding out the panel will be John McArthur, the CEO of Millennium Promise, the leading international non-profit organization solely committed to supporting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Millennium Promise oversees the Millennium Villages project, which supports integrated social and business development services for more than 500,000 people in rural communities across 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The third and final session will look at the central role of the private sector in driving economic growth and in promoting inclusion. Audra Jones, the Americas Director of International Business Leaders Forum, will chair the panel which will include private sector representatives from a range of industries, all with deep personal experience in development. The panellists will be Mamadou Beye, Manager of International Government Relations at Chevron; Jeff Morgan, Director Global Programs at the MARS Corporation; and Nils Tcheyan, Director for Africa Energy Policy at GE.

This panel on economic progress, empowerment and social inclusion should facilitate a real dialogue among thinkers, practitioners, and funders around the world on the challenges and successes of achieving inclusive growth.

Read the follow up article by Benito de Miguel 'What is the debate missing from a Southern perspective'

Darius Mans (Dr) assumed the position of President of Africare in January, 2010 bringing with him over 30 years of development experience. Before joining Africare, Dr. Mans was the Acting Chief Executive Officer of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). Prior to this he held various positions at MCC and the World Bank. Earlier in his career, Dr. Mans was an economist with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. He also served as an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Maryland. Dr. Mans holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Bachelorís Degree in Economics and Mathematics from Wayne State University.


Photo: davco9200/flickr