BAMAKO, December 18, 2010–World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick arrived in Bamako on Saturday at the start of a two-day visit aimed at deepening the Bank’s good relationship with Mali, while underscoring the need to sustain reforms, including the urgent need to diversify Mali’s economy away from over-dependence on natural resources (gold, oil) and cotton.
Mali is the second and last leg on Zoellick’s trip, which began Thursday in Zambia and is also aimed at promoting private sector-led and inclusive growth; competitiveness, capacity building and job creation; the development of vital infrastructure (electricity, roads, rail, water, etc.) especially for land-locked African countries; and the need to boost agricultural productivity and enhance food security.
Within an hour of getting off a plane at the Senou International Airport in the Malian capital, Bamako, Zoellick held a working session with Prime Minister Modibo Sidibe and several key members of his Cabinet, followed by an hour-long tete-a-tete with President Toumani Toure.
“We had a wonderful opportunity to talk of some of the president’s economic priorities, focusing on energy, capacity, education, infrastructure and agriculture,” Zoellick told reporters after emerging from the Koulouba Presidential Palace overlooking the Malian capital.
“My primary purpose was to listen and to learn, so we can see how to become better partners for Mali,” Zoellick added, thanking the Malian leader for sharing his time and his perspective.
Flanked by President Toumani Toure and the World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region Obiageli Ezekwesili, Zoellick thanked Mali for its strong support and for hosting the June 2010 meeting of donors to the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the world’s 79 poorest countries, 39 of them in Africa.
The June 2010 IDA delegates’ meeting in Bamako “enabled the donors for this fund to see how their money is invested and it helped us to achieve just this week a replenishment of this fund worth close to $50 billion”, Zoellick explained.
Upholding Malian ancestral traditions of hospitality, Prime Minister Sidibe and President Toure both offered gifts, thanking Zoellick and the World Bank for the good relationships and for the successful replenishment of IDA-16, which now opens the way for Mali to get perhaps as much as a 20 percent increase in its allocation over the next three years.
The two also discussed the “success Mali has achieved with basic growth and how it can now build on this foundation”. They agreed on the importance of regional economic integration for a land-locked country like Mali.
Zoellick will on Sunday visit a private sector project funded by the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, as well as an agricultural research station.
Mali currently devotes about 13 percent of its budget to agriculture, agricultural research and extension services.