The World Bank recently published its 2023 Year in Review, which presents a stark reality of our global challenges, including growing inequality, economic slowdowns, and setbacks in women’s economic rights. As we grapple with these issues in the aftermath of the pandemic, it’s vital that we — as global citizens and people working in the impact space — confront these challenges head-on. Understanding the gravity of the situation empowers us to establish priorities, allocate resources, and continually strive to promote human flourishing. Despite the disheartening news, the report serves as a call for collective action, urging us to rise above adversity and reshape our world for the better.
Here are five key takeaways from the report:
- Inequality Challenges: The year 2023 was characterized by inequality, with multiple threats — including climate change, fragility, conflict and violence, and food insecurity — hindering global economic recovery. The impact is most severe on the world’s poorest countries, exacerbating existing challenges and limiting resources for recovery.
- Debt Crisis: Developing countries, particularly the poorest, face a growing debt crisis. The Bank’s International Debt Report indicates a record $443.5 billion spent on external debt servicing in 2022, dramatically increasing the risk of debt crises. These costs also divert resources from critical needs, including education, healthcare, and the environment.
- Global Economic Slowdown: The Global Economic Prospects report reveals a sharp global growth slowdown in 2023 due to inflation, increased interest rates, reduced investment, and geopolitical disruptions. Developing economies are particularly affected, with the first four years of the 2020s among the weakest in 30 years.
- Climate Change Impact: The devastating impacts of climate change are expected to increase water shortages, reduce crop yields, and drive many millions to migrate by 2050. The report emphasizes the need for decisive actions, including increased climate financing, to address climate-related issues and build a livable planet.
- Women’s Economic Rights Decline: The Women, Business and the Law report highlights the persistence of gender inequality, with 2.4 billion women lacking the same economic rights as men. The global pace of reforms toward equal rights for women has fallen to a 20-year low, hindering women’s economic growth and empowerment.
Amidst the bleak statistics and daunting trends outlined in the report, social entrepreneurship offers a beacon of hope. Every day in my work, I’m fortunate to work with committed entrepreneurs fighting to make a difference and provide opportunities for people living in poverty. And Miller Center is honored to be part of their journeys in creating sustainable impact. Here are just a few inspiring examples.
Social enterprise GajiGesa focuses on providing financial wellness for the working poor in Indonesia. The company’s flexible salary platform allows employees to access their earned wages whenever they need them, reducing much of the financial stress that comes from a mismatch between expenses and paydays. The platform also provides financial education, investment opportunities, and multiple health products — all from a mobile device. Trusted by over 300 companies, GagiGesa serves hundreds of thousands of employees, helping them build financial resiliency and escape cycles of debt. As a finalist of the Women’s World Banking 2023 Fintech Innovation Challenge, GajiGesa co-founder Martyna Malinowska was fast-tracked for our accelerator and then qualified for our 2023 In-Residence.
SEQUENCE is a beautiful, handcrafted fashion accessories brand that is committed to disrupting the cycle of violence for at-risk youth in El Salvador. When founder Ariela Suster attended our In-Residence last year, she shared harrowing stories of growing up during the Salvadoran Civil War and the kidnapping of her brother. Determined to change the sequence of events that have led to violence and destruction in her country, she created SEQUENCE to provide employment opportunities and personal and professional development for young men and women who are vulnerable to gang recruitment. SEQUENCE artisans talk about the love and dedication that goes into their work, and, on average, grow their income by 2.5 times.
MoringaConnect is another stellar example. Moringa, a fast-growing super-crop known as “the miracle tree,” had been spread throughout rural farming communities in Ghana by aid organizations for its nutritious value. But without market access, the trees became a nuisance. Kwami Williams and Emily Cunningham co-founded MoringaConnect to provide a supply chain that connects moringa farmers in Ghana to conscious consumers worldwide. Today, MoringaConnect works with over 5,000 small farming families — providing fair prices, increasing farmers’ incomes by 10x, and helping to break the cycle of poverty for rural families. The company also processes moringa leaves and seeds in-country, adding value and creating jobs locally in order to supply bulk moringa products and bring their True Moringa wellness brand to retailers such as Whole Foods. What’s more, MoringaConnect has planted 3 million moringa trees, one for each customer, to combat deforestation and malnutrition in Ghana. Kwami first attended a Miller Center accelerator in 2017 and recently joined our Social Enterprise Advisory Council.
These examples demonstrate the potential of social entrepreneurship to address and alleviate pressing global issues. In a world grappling with adversity, these innovative ventures serve as beacons of change, proving the transformative power of business for good. The commitment of these entrepreneurs exemplifies the resilience and determination needed to build a better world. As we navigate the challenges highlighted in the World Bank’s report, let’s draw inspiration from these stories and work collectively towards a more equitable, sustainable, and hopeful future for all.
1. The GajiGesa team
2. Ariela Suster showcasing Sequence accessories at a holiday pop-up for Bank of America and Seneca Women at Bryant Park Winter Village in New York
3. Kwami Williams helping farmers harvest moringa for MoringaConnect