YPP APPLICATION ESSAY BY WOFAI IBIANG
If sustainable impact must be achieved in reducing poverty to 3% in 2030, the youths should be targeted for empowerment by adopting capacity building and effective human capital development reforms. This will foster employability and wealth creation especially in extreme poor countries; anchoring on The World Bank’s main priorities and financial inclusion strategies. The World bank being an innovating and impactful institution, is a conducive environment where my passion for team work and willingness to participatorily learn, harnessed with my skills as a social researcher, project ; programme manager, will offer a positive contribution towards the Bank delivering on its vision 2030 poverty reduction drive.
Being a part of a Development Consulting team in Nigeria afforded me the opportunity to make an impact through planning and organizing youth development strategy summits. Notable among them, is the Ford Foundation sponsored youth development retreat to map out strategies. This resulted in the development of a framework for designing sustainable youth focused programmes to facilitate economic growth amongst the 10 million+ youths of Lagos State Nigeria. Applying my interpersonal skills, I engaged top heads of government, public sector, and selected private sector organizations before the retreat; to get insights into challenges they encountered in achieving the objectives of youth development programmes. The main objective was to gauge their understanding of the core goal of ‘youth empowerment’ creating an enabling environment for youths to realize their full potentials. As Nobel Prize Laureate Amartya Sen puts it, “poverty is not just a lack of money, it is not having the capability to realize one’s full potential as a human being”. As facilitator of the summit, I got the exposure as to the constraints and dynamics involved in creating sustainable programmes geared towards eradicating poverty and increasing youths’ standard of living.
In the same vein, giving funds and grants to support Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) isn’t uncommon in Nigeria. A Lagos State government ministry responsible for wealth creation however, reported that most beneficiary MSMEs become obsolete in less than a year as a result of lack of business management acumen. I had the opportunity as part of my portfolio, to manage the implementation of a nationwide Business Management and financial literacy training programme for youths, which was launched to address the problem of failing businesses. As part of the implementation strategy, the International Labor Organization’s Start and Improve Your Business (ILO-SIYB) curriculum was adapted to empower graduates with interests in entrepreneurship with prerequisite skills for successfully operating businesses; with the main focus of starting and improving businesses as a strategy for creating more and better employment for women and men in the country. ILO-SIYB curriculum has been deployed in over 100 countries and has created over 9 million jobs across the world.
The pilot phase which was funded by General Electric (GE) started in April 2018 and has so far trained 600 graduates of higher institution. It is projected that equip 20,000 Nigerian graduates will be equiped with entrepreneurial skills by 2019. The programme received high accolades from the sponsors as a result of a seamless implementation strategy I adopted and the teamwork culture I brought on-board as the Project Manager. The hands-on experience gave me the opportunity to understand the challenges associated with conducting research, collecting reliable data and designing sustainable impactful solutions in a developing country such as Nigeria. I also got an in-depth understanding and insight into government operations and how they interact with private sector.My education at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (JHU-SAIS), Washington D.C has significantly prepared me as a valued asset for the World Bank. The Practical Research Methods course was a platform on which I developed research strategies and plans for clients in International Development, including a client from Inter-American Development Bank. My presentation to the client was focused on adopting qualitative research methods which complimented an already conducted impact evaluation study for the discussed project. The feedback received from Professor Raul Roman of JHU-SAIS was “Your rigor, resourcefulness and plan towards credibility and transparency in your evaluation design is highly commendable”. Introduction to Economic Development at SAIS-JHU has equipped me with in-depth knowledge, with a great focus on understanding poverty, measuring poverty and how issues such as policies, human capital development, institutions reforms, migration and trade impact poverty reduction globally.
Furthermore, my Masters degree in Supply Chain Management, gives me the capacity to understand integrating global value chains benefits into development strategies to create potentials for generating more jobs globally in the pursuit of the world bank vision 2030.
Conducting research in developing countries where there are unreliable sample frames or data can prove really difficult; but the goal is of utmost importance in the battle to reduce the population of extreme poor. In their books, Economists Abhijat Bernerjee & Esther Duflo and Sendhil Mullainathan & Eldar Shafir, respectively make a case for the importance of understanding poverty through the lens of the poor to promote sustainable poverty reduction. For this, research skills which I have acquired such as applying multi-method approach and appropriate methods of triangulation are invaluable in collecting reliable and credible data for international development.
In summary, coming from a country with high earning power disparity, that shared prosperity is a mirage, human capital development reforms is a crucial tool for empowering the young and poor by creating opportunities for them to earn through meaningful work. However, effective opportunities remain a challenge in Nigeria and many other low-income countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. My experience contributing to policy making and leading teams in implementation of youth-focused economic development programmes, volunteering to fight drug abuse in youths and skills & knowledge from my educational experience have increased my confidence that I am a valuable asset ready to make an impact in the global arena of poverty reduction and improved living. I am excited at the prospect of being part of the World Bank Young Professional Programme (YPP) 2019 team.