WASHINGTON, August 30, 2012 – World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim will visit Africa in his first official visit outside the U.S. since taking up his new position in July 2012. He will visit Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa September 4-6 to meet with national leaders, government ministers, women leaders and young people, along with business representatives, to discuss how the World Bank Group can better support African countries achieve higher economic growth, significantly reduce poverty, and create more jobs and opportunity for the people of the continent.
“Reducing poverty and creating opportunity for people to succeed are vital to the World Bank Group’s mission and I plan to continue to strengthen our work towards these goals. For this reason I chose Africa for my first official visit as World Bank Group President, recognizing the priority given by the continent’s governments to faster growth and less poverty. In the past, Africa was often defined by its problems, but today, whether it’s empowering women or creating job opportunities for young people or spurring new businesses, Africa is increasingly home to some of the best development ideas and solutions,” said Dr. Kim. “Africa is truly taking off and I look forward to hearing directly from governments and people on the continent on how the Bank can help drive more inclusive development throughout Africa.”
Dr. Kim will also discuss with leaders in both countries the importance of stepped-up regional integration for Africa’s future. The continent loses billions of dollars in potential trade earnings every year because of high trade barriers with neighboring countries, making it is easier for Africa to trade with the rest of the world than with itself.
Joining President Kim will be Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s Vice President for Africa.
In Côte d’Ivoire, an important economic engine in West Africa, Kim will meet with President Alassane Ouattara and senior cabinet members to discuss the next phase of the country’s development and growth.
Dr. Kim will also meet with women leaders to discuss the importance of women to the country’s efforts to create jobs, open more businesses, and achieve lasting reconciliation and development in the former war-torn country. The Bank Group President will meet unemployed young people, including former soldiers, who are learning new job skills in a World Bank-financed training program. Côte d’Ivoire has as many as four million young people who are jobless.
“Côte d’Ivoire’s efforts at peace and reconciliation are important elements for laying the foundation for sustainable development for itself and neighboring countries. I look forward to learning more about how the World Bank can better help fragile and post conflict states transition to stability and development,” said Dr. Kim said.
Dr. Kim will also see first-hand the emerging dynamism of African private sector in a visit to an industrial park for small and medium-sized agri-businesses. Côte d’Ivoire is boosting food production in a region increasingly challenged by hunger and high food prices. Agriculture has broad development impact and plays an essential role in reducing poverty and hunger, while creating jobs and private investment.
In South Africa, Dr. Kim will meet with President Jacob Zuma, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, and cabinet members to discuss how the World Bank Group can support South Africa’s efforts towards inclusive and sustainable growth. He will also exchange ideas with local entrepreneurs on how the private sector is creating opportunities and growth.
“South Africa is a key factor of African growth and a leading voice for the African continent in the G-20 and other global forums. It is also an important driver for trade and investment,” said Dr. Kim. “I look forward to discussing how we can strengthen our partnership for better development prospects, both in the country and across the continent, especially in the vital area of better regional integration.”
Côte d’Ivoire, with a population of 22 million people, has the second largest economy in West Africa. The World Bank Group has currently invested approximately US$ 1 billion in the country’s development programs.
These include a post-conflict assistance project to help young people and ex-combatants reintegrate into the national economy, along with others that improve water and sanitation, governance and public sector reform, and foster the creation of small and medium businesses (SMEs) and a more dynamic private sector.
The World Bank Group’s private sector arm, International Finance Corporation (IFC), focuses on strengthening financial institutions for the growth of SMEs, supporting the country’s agribusinesses and improving the business climate to attract more private investment. The World Bank Group’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) is helping to carry out a bridge project over the Ebrié lagoon in Abidjan which is expected to have significant benefits such as creating jobs and easing traffic congestion. This project is one of the first private sector- led foreign direct investments in the country since the end of the recent conflict.
The World Bank Group’s program in South Africa is still in early stages. In April 2010, the World Bank approved the US$ 3.75 billion Eskom Investment Support Project to help bring badly needed electricity to homes and businesses in Southern Africa while also pioneering the biggest solar and wind power plants in the developing world
The IFC’s strategy in South Africa focuses on supporting South African companies “going north” and “going global” as well as providing advice and financing to underserved niches of the market; technical assistance to small businesses; and supporting the development of renewable energy.
MIGA provides support to foreign investors looking for opportunities in South Africa and to South African companies wanting to invest abroad. The Bank Group agency has provided support to agribusiness and financial services over the past three years.