World Bank President to tour Africa

Robet Zoellick

World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick on Tuesday starts an eight-day, three-nation Africa visit to help focus the attention of African governments, development partners and private investors on seizing the opportunity for renewed momentum in economic growth and overcoming poverty. Although hit by the global food, fuel and financial crises, African governments have persisted in strengthening their economic policies as they pursue development, or rebuild after conflict.

Zoellick will head first to Sierra Leone before travelling to Cote d’Ivoire and then Ethiopia for the African Union (AU) summit. Ahead of the trip, Zoellick noted that many sub-Saharan African countries had enjoyed a decade or more of solid growth before the crisis and it was important to preserve and expand on these gains by drawing investment to high growth areas.

“I am visiting Africa to learn about how its people have coped with the global economic crisis and to see how the World Bank Group can work with them to improve prospects for economic growth and expanded opportunity. Much of Africa has a solid record of economic growth, including in some of Africa’s fragile states, and it has the potential to be another pole of growth for the world economy,” Zoellick said.

Zoellick said that a combination of policy and institutional reforms and external resources are urgently needed to help build capacity, generate economic opportunities in fragile states, and lay the foundation for stability and overcoming poverty.  He also called for policies and investments that would expand Africa’s share of global and intra-African trade by fostering regional integration and building crucial infrastructure in energy, transport and irrigation needed to promote agriculture, manufacturing and industrialization on the continent and for helping countries adapt to climate change.

At a working breakfast forum on the sidelines of the AU summit, which Zoellick is hosting jointly with African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka, several African leaders will discuss the transformative impact that information and communications technologies (ICTs) can have on the continent.

“The skeptics wondered whether Africa was ready for a revolution in telecommunications. But African entrepreneurs, with the help of supportive government policies, changed the facts on the ground,” said Zoellick.

Acknowledging that private sector participation will continue to be key to take Africa to the next level of high-speed connectivity and to create jobs, the forum is expected to urge African leaders to further lift barriers to private sector investment in the sector.  It is also expected to encourage African leaders and the private sector to take advantage of ICTs to advance agriculture, education and health sectors, and to similarly realize the considerable promise of other sectors.

During his trip, Zoellick will visit energy, agriculture and fishery projects that have benefited from World Bank support. He will hold working sessions with representatives of other donor agencies; discuss ways of boosting World Bank support to governmental and civil society organizations promoting peace, transparency, accountability, and good governance.

In fiscal 2009, the World Bank Group, which supports Africa mainly through the International Development Association (IDA) and International Finance Corporation (IFC), committed a record $58.8 billion worldwide in loans, grants, equity investments, and guarantees, a 54 percent increase over 2008. IDA, which provides grants and low-interest loans to the world’s 79 poorest countries, half of which are in Africa, committed $7.8 billion to sub-Saharan African countries, a 36 percent increase over the year before. The Bank’s private sector arm, IFC, which provides investments and advisory services to build the private sector in developing countries, has seen its commitments in Africa grow from $445 million in 2005 to $1.82 billion in 2009.

Source: The World Bank

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