It is a pleasure and a privilege for me to welcome all of you to this celebration event, marking 50 years of fruitful partnership between the World Bank Group and the Ugandan people. Before we mark this milestone, allow me to offer my condolences on the passing of Nelson Mandela, and ask you all to join me in a moment of silence to honor his memory.
I am here in Kampala to help observe the 50th anniversary of the engagement of Uganda and the World Bank. The Bank has been here in Uganda since its independence and the portfolio is our eighth largest in Africa. Our cooperation here has been very successful. But what comes to mind when we think about 50 years of collaboration between the World Bank and Uganda? It is important to highlight what we have learned from our collaboration with Uganda. We have learned that when a country has leaders who make a firm commitment, put in place the right policies, and have sustained financial and institutional support from the donor community, along with a firm social contract with their citizens, that country can go from a low equilibrium to one of higher, more sustained economic growth. Paul Collier and others have documented the importance of the trajectory out of fragility. Uganda’s experience 20 years ago inspires us today as we address ongoing fragility and conflict in Central African Republic. In fact, before traveling to Kampala, I attended the Elysee Summit on Peace and Security in Africa, hosted by the French Government. Discussions there focused on conflict, economic development, and climate change as the three broad pillars of peace and security.
The second major lesson of our engagement with Uganda has been the PRSP process – the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. Countries formulated their own development solutions and devised those solutions on inclusive, robust consultations. As you will remember, Uganda was one of the first countries in Africa to prepare a PRSP and benefit from a series of PRSCs – the Bank’s budget support instrument – the Poverty Reduction Support Credit. The lesson we learned from Uganda was the need for a consultative process from which to develop inclusive, pro-poor policies. The PRSP process provided valuable lessons in how to work more effectively with our country counterparts.
When Uganda joined the World Bank in 1963, most African economies were in transition, taking charge of their economies and working hard to boost growth and make their way in the world economy. Fast-forward to 2013: despite the slow recovery of the global economy, growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remains strong at 5.8 percent in 2012 (excluding South Africa) boosted by growing domestic demand and high commodity prices. Over the last decade, six of the world’s fastest-growing economies were African. In fact, Africa is the fastest-growing region, second only to East Asia, and Uganda aspires to achieving middle-income status.
This is not a question of “luck”; rather, the results reflect a sustained commitment by Uganda’s leaders and it is a tribute to their vision and leadership. With a more educated, more urbanized population, a new social contract is needed between Uganda’s leaders and her people. Growth alone, no matter how sustained, will not be enough. When I served as Finance Minister of my country, Senegal, I would occasionally travel by taxi around Dakar, incognito, to get a sense of people’s views and concerns. When I asked a taxi driver one day what he thought of the latest figures on economic growth there were being discussed on his car radio, he replied “I cannot eat growth.”
That exchange has stuck with me, more than a decade later. It teaches us that sustained growth, if it is capital-intensive, will not generate jobs that will lead to poverty reduction and narrowed inequality.
Every day, we hear reports of new discoveries of oil and gas in Africa – including Uganda. We cannot miss the opportunity to translate this mineral wealth into better health services and outcomes, greater transparency, improved governance. These revenues must be used to invest in people – and not just the percentage of students enrolled or the number of clinics, but the quality of those services. The prospect of massive hydrocarbon revenues highlights the importance of accountability – a clear social contract under which government officials serve the people, and not themselves.
As we mark 50 years of collaboration, I would once again like to thank the people and the leaders of Uganda for your hospitality today and for your leadership. You have taught us much about development, growth, and ownership of the process, which in turn has influenced development thinking. Thank you very much.