Mr. Finance Minister,
Representatives of government and non-governmental organizations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted by the opportunity to participate in the signing ceremony for two projects that are highly symbolic of the partnership between the World Bank and the DRC. The projects for which this afternoon’s signing ceremony is being held represent the realization of the Great Lakes Regional Initiative launched in May 2013, following the joint visit to the region of the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. You may recall that the main objective of this initiative was to support the Great Lakes countries’ peace agreement signed in February 2013 by 11 countries. It was aimed at helping the countries of the region reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity by targeting some of the most vulnerable groups, increasing cross-border trade, and financing hydroelectric projects.
The World Bank considered it important to support this peace agreement since we view the security and development of the Great Lakes region as being essential to Africa’s work to reduce extreme poverty and create economic opportunities for millions of individuals. Today’s ceremony therefore attests to our resolve to make peace the cornerstone of our interventions in a wide range of sectors—from telecommunications to support for the survivors of gender-based sexual violence.
With the implementation of the CAB5 project, the DRC will tackle a major challenge. As you are aware, telecommunications is currently one of the main drivers of development and economic growth. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is no exception, for several reasons:
- The income of mobile operators alone accounts for 2% of GDP;
- The total economic impact of the telecom sector in Central Africa represents 3.5% of GDP; and
- A 10% increase in the rate of mobile penetration will boost GDP by 4.5%.
Through this project of more than US$90 million, the World Bank will support the Government’s efforts to develop the high-speed network by financing roughly 3,000 km of fiber optic links in the Kinshasa and Bas-Congo regions and building fiber optic networks in the eastern part of the country to link Lubumbashi to Goma. Consequently, this project will not only provide the DRC with a model national network but with interconnection to the neighboring countries of Zambia, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, as well as Angola and the Republic of Congo.
By 2017, all residents of the DRC—from Kinshasa to Lubumbashi, Goma to Kisangani, and in all the provinces of this vast country will have reliable and affordable communications services that will not only foster trade among the regions of the DRC but also between the DRC and neighboring countries, in particular the Great Lakes region.
Helping Survivors of Sexual Violence
The second project for which the agreement is being signed today is near and dear to my heart. The Great Lakes Emergency Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Women’s Health Project is indeed the first such World Bank project in Africa that focuses on the survivors of sexual violence and offers them integrated services that combine health care, psychological support, legal aid, assistance with efforts to achieve economic independence, and violence prevention activities.
It was becoming essential for the World Bank to participate in efforts to combat this modern-day scourge, given its profound impact on development and the major challenge it poses to the resolution of public health issues. Added to the physical and psychological toll taken by gender-based violence on survivors are the significant social and economic costs it produces. It is also a known fact that a climate of fear hampers participation in economic, social, and political life. Survivors are often stigmatized and rejected by their spouses, families, and communities. These factors, taken together, have a profound impact on social cohesion and undermine peace, development, and poverty reduction.
The World Bank acknowledges the noteworthy progress made by the Government to expand access to maternal and reproductive health services. We firmly believe that innovative reforms, such as the performance-based financing to which the Government is committed, will place emphasis on results, enhance accountability, and strengthen national systems. Despite the work done thus far, much remains to be done to accelerate progress toward achievement of the health-related MDGs.
This regional project will provide support to the DRC, Burundi, and Rwanda and to the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. Of the total project amount of US$107 million, US$73 million is earmarked for the DRC, in particular for activities targeting vulnerable persons in North and South Kivu or working in collaboration with the Government. The project will facilitate (i) the extension of integrated services in communities and health facilities in order to limit the short- and medium-term impact of gender-based sexual violence, and (ii) the expansion of a range of health care interventions for poor and vulnerable women.
Now that more than 30,000 survivors of sexual violence will receive assistance, 280,000 women will benefit from prenatal visits, and 337,000 births will be attended by qualified medical staff, we have reason to be hopeful. While these statistics are encouraging, they are, sadly, insufficient and we must continue to work tirelessly to improve the fate of large numbers of vulnerable persons whose health, security, and future have been tragically compromised.
Numerous challenges therefore lie ahead. The implementation of these two ambitious projects can succeed only if we continue to work together closely, as we have been doing thus far. I would like to express my appreciation for the fruitful collaboration between the World Bank and the DRC over many years and to reiterate our commitment to provide assistance with all efforts to achieve development, as we have come to firmly believe that the DRC is endowed with all the attributes needed to become Africa’s powerhouse.
Long live the cooperation between the World Bank and the DRC! Thank you very much!