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BRIEF July 28, 2019

Putting Africa Front and Center


Next week, African Governors will head to Accra, Ghana for this year's first meeting of the African Caucus.

Established in 1963, the caucus is an important coordination and policy-making platform to strategically engage with the World Bank Group (WBG) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on macroeconomic and structural policies to promote the continent's socioeconomic development. Five of the 25 ED offices have African nations in their constituencies.

This year's theme explores "Africa Beyond Aid: Enhancing Institutional Capacity and Innovation Finance for Sustainable Growth." The caucus, which runs from July 31 through August 2, will be chaired by Ghanian Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta.

"This year's caucus gathering in Accra provided a perfect opportunity for our Governors to reflect on what more the World Bank Group can do to scale up support to the public and private sectors to accelerate growth and poverty reduction in Africa," said Executive Director Jean-Claude Tchatchouang, whose office represents 23 African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Niger, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal and Togo.

All African countries, who are members of the World Bank and the IMF, are eligible for membership in the caucus. Currently, all 54 countries on the African continent are members.

Countries are represented by their Governors, who are usually Ministers of Finance and Economic Development and Central Bank heads. The African Caucus meets twice a year—first in the host country of the Chairperson and then at the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings.  

In addition to ED staff, the World Bank Group will be represented by senior management, including speakers Hafez Ghanem, Vice President for the Africa Region; Yvonne Tsikata, Vice President and Corporate Secretary; and Dena Ringold, Regional Director for Human Development in Africa.

Africa has experienced steady growth in recent years, but still many challenges remain. Public debt levels and debt risk are rising, which could jeopardize debt sustainability in some countries. The availability of good jobs has not kept pace with the number of entrants in the labor force especially for young people. And many countries are affected by conflict or fragility.

The World Bank Group strategy for Africa builds on opportunities for growth and poverty reduction to support structural transformation, economic diversification, resilience and inclusion. The region is made up of a combination of low, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high-income countries. Eighteen countries are fragile and conflict-affected states.

With more than 1.2 billion people, 43 percent of which are below the age of 15, Africa is well endowed with human resources. For the region to compete in the global, digitizing economy and to make a real dent in poverty, it is imperative that Africa's young workers are enabled to fully develop their human capital.

Job creation through private-sector led growth is essential, said Executive Director Anne Kabagambe, whose office represents 22 African countries: Botswana, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Eswatini, Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

"The promotion of a business-friendly environment for private sector investment is particularly key to Africa," she said. "African governments, with the support of the WBG and the IMF, are expected to advance reforms and investments to facilitate entrepreneurship and innovation including in agribusiness, manufacturing, renewable energy, housing and digitization."

Currently, half of the world's extreme poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty will remain in double digits by 2030, absent significant shifts in policy.

​"If we are serious about achieving the twin goals, they mean nothing without Africa," said Executive Director Shahid Ashraf Tarar, whose office has Ghana as a member of its constituency. "The war against poverty will be won or lost in Africa. We must give due importance to Africa and analyze, discuss, evaluate and review appropriate recommendations."

The other two offices with African constiuencies are headed by Dean Merza Hasan and Alternate Executive Director Armando Manuel.

This year's gathering is unique and opportune for several reasons, ED Tchatchouang said. Last year, the World Bank adopted a comprehensive capital increase package, which aims at scaling up lending and non-lending support to low-income, middle-income, and high-income countries. IDA19 replenishment negotiations are ongoing and aim to mobilize substantial resources to help promote jobs and economic transformation in African and other low-income countries. New World Bank President David Malpass has come on board and a new Managing Director is expected to take the helm of the IMF by next year. And finally, African countries have recently launched the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, which aims at boosting trade between countries and promoting economic and regional integration of the African continent.

The African Governors are expected to release their Accra Declaration August 2, 2019.

Previous achievements of the African Caucus include lobbying for the Sub-Saharan African third chair for the World Bank Board of Executive Directors; promoting meaningful representation of African nationals among top management and increasing World Bank commitments to the continent in agriculture and energy infrastucture.