Need for Opportunity in Africa Highlighted at Capital Markets Program Lunch

The Capital Markets Program aims to provide finance professionals from developing nations with skills to advance their economies.

September 26, 2016

Mr. Mike Milken

Chairman of the Milken Institute Mike Milken participates in a discussion with Executive Director of the Center for Financial Markets Staci Warden and two Capital Markets Program fellows at a recent luncheon. (William Atkins/GW Today)

By Kristen Mitchell

Speaking at the George Washington University on Friday, Mike Milken said the key to raising up disadvantaged populations in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing regions is giving them hope that a better life and more opportunities are ahead.

“This is an exceedingly important point that we need to recognize where potentially 50 percent of all the children in the world are going to be living in sub-Saharan Africa,” he said. “Do they feel opportunity, is there hope for them? If we want a brighter future for our children, we must work to provide it for all children.”

Mr. Milken, International Finance Corporation (IFC) Vice President/Treasurer Jingdong Hua, George Washington President Steven Knapp and other leaders from academia and the financial and development industries gathered at the Milken Institute School of Public Health for a luncheon to celebrate the Capital Markets Program, a joint endeavor by the GW School of Business, the IFC and the Milken Institute.

The eight-month program aims to bridge the opportunity gap for mid-career professionals from financial and regulatory institutions across developing and emerging economies and to provide them with technical expertise as well as hands-on exposure in capital market development, an essential component to creating prosperous societies. There are 18 fellows in the 2016-17 cohort from 12 nations in Africa and Asia.

Mr. Milken, chairman of the Milken Institute, said individuals in sub-Saharan countries could lift up their economies through innovation and new ideas, but need capital to turn those ideas into action.

“We need to figure out how we are going to provide a capital mechanism for people with new ideas and abilities not just in the United States but around the world,” Mr. Milken said.

The 21st century is being defined by a worldwide competition for human capital, he said, which can be built through immigration, education and health. While the perception of Africa is all too frequently of a continent struggling with disease, political corruption and poverty, the reality includes far more positive indicators of social and economic dynamism. The continent’s real issue is a lack of human capital.

Mr. Hua spoke about the expertise that IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, has gained in its 60 years of investing in emerging markets across the globe. As the largest development finance institution focused on the private sector, IFC has leveraged $2.5 billion dollars received as paid-in capital from its shareholders in 1956 to invest $1,000,000,000,000 in private sector companies in the emerging markets.

"Every dollar of IFC investment crowds in about $20 of financing—for our own account and from others who invest with us,” Mr. Hua said.

He also spoke about the importance of deep, liquid and vibrant capital markets as a foundation for a thriving private sector that creates jobs and growth. IFC's experience—from issuing market-opening bonds in Armenia, India and Rwanda to helping private sector companies in Turkey and Zambia access local and international capital markets—forms the basis for the case studies and practical learning that complement the academic learning of the Capital Markets Program.

Dr. Knapp said the 2016-17 fellows are an impressive cohort who could make a difference in millions of lives around the world if the model can be proven successful.

“We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure they benefit from their experience here in this great capital city and at this university, which really focuses on the intersection of theory and practice,” he said.

The university is dedicated to making sure these fellows can take skills and experience they get at GW and during their spring-semester internships to their home countries, Dr. Knapp said.

The lunch also included two panel discussions with fellows who described the great value of their experiences in Washington, the high expectations from their families and governments and their personal visions for driving growth and employment once they have returned home.