Nine lessons from LEG 2020: Economic Diversification of Gabon

Guest blog by Milaine Rossanaly

This is a blog series written by the alumni of the Leading Economic Growth Executive Education Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. 65 Participants successfully completed this 10-week online course in May 2021. These are their learning journey stories.

This course has benefited me tremendously. My background is in business administration so I intuitively understood concepts of growth, productivity, inclusion, binding constraints and others, but this course allowed me to understand them much better. I have a long list of take-aways from this course that I will apply in the future, but perhaps a few highlights are the following:

  1. It is critical to thoroughly diagnose the problem, identify true binding constraints (and not constraints in general) through a systematic analysis and determine entry points. I really like the use of a fishbone diagram to display these causes in a ‘deconstruction’ of the problem.
  2. I enjoyed learning about “high bandwidth organizations”, particularly the case of Costa Rica.
  3. I learnt about the action-learning oriented iterative approach to pursuing a growth strategy, particularly the example of Sri Lanka, which allows an incremental step-by-step approach aiming to invest in building blocks to build legitimacy and political buy-in as we move forward, while drawing lessons at every stage and showing results.
  4. I understood new concepts like latent practices, positive deviance, gap analysis, complex vs complicated problems and the Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA)
  5. I learnt so much from the Korea and Singapore success stories, about the importance and role of leadership and multi-agent leadership structures.
  6. The role of technology in development and the role of knowhow as the slowest form of technology to transfer between individuals, firms, and societies as the limiting factor on economic growth.
  7. I learnt new sources of data such as the wonderful Atlas of economic indicators.
  8. I learnt new ways to measure success in growth strategies, the importance of inclusion+growth indicators in the post-Covid ear that focus on reorganizing the economy to promote productive relationships, good jobs and more.
  9. A few quotes that I particularly liked: “Society knows more, not because individuals know more, but because individuals know different”, “Copying best practice helps you play, but it does not help you compete. Creating gives you the competitive edge.”

I better understood my growth challenge throughout the course of 10 weeks. I deconstructed the problem piece by piece, looked for alternative solutions, identified new actors and agents to involve in the solution, found new data to support the challenge and measure what success would look like and think about an inclusive growth strategy in the post-covid era that focuses on the development of the local economy and strengthening of business services to create employment and generate positive spillovers for the population. 

My economic growth challenge was centered on economic diversification in Gabon during this course, but I was recently informed of an upcoming lateral move on July 1 when I will start working on Ethiopia. I will revisit this course and the materials to analyze the growth story of Ethiopia to prepare for my transition. I am really looking forward to it. Thank you.

The course was excellent, professors were incredible, the material was great and very helpful. I wish it was longer!

To learn more about Leading Economic Growth (LEG) watch the faculty video, and visit the course website. This blog was originally published by the Building State Capability program. Visit their blog for more learning journey stories.