Twenty-one government Ministers with human development responsibilities, like health, education, agriculture, youth, and gender gathered at Harvard for the 20th Harvard Ministerial Forum in mid-September. Mostly from Africa, but also including Caribbean and Southeast Asian countries, this most recent cohort joins the 281 Ministers who have been part of the Ministerial Program since its launch in 2012.

In keynote remarks to the Forum, Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Chair of AGRA, and Chair of Hailemariam & Roman Foundation H.E. Hailemariam Dessalegn mapped what he considers mega trends shaping human development in Africa including population growth, rapid urbanization, accelerated adoption of technology, and climate change. He noted these megatrends have both positive and negative implications. Although these macro-developments are beyond the control of individual political leaders, governments can organize to benefit by enabling the entrepreneurial spirit of a mostly youthful population, accelerating integration of tech innovation across government, as well as service sectors like health and education, and tapping the enormous agricultural potential of the continent by promoting climate resilient approaches to crop production.

The former Prime Minister added that returns on investment in human development depend on the imagination that goes into the initiative as much as the available money. He urged Ministers to be innovative with the resources they had and not dwell on what they could do if there was a larger budget. True leadership in government, he said, is in seizing the moment and getting things done.