WASHINGTON, April 11, 2014—The extraordinary pace of change across Africa has accelerated not only the transformation of the continent, improving the lives and livelihoods of Africans, but it has highlighted the fact that all countries are vulnerable to fragility.
“Fragile states are not a ghetto group of countries or just a certain category or island of countries. Fragility is a risk inherent in the development process itself,” President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Donald Kaberuka, told a packed-to-capacity auditorium on April 10th at World Bank Group headquarters in Washington, DC.
Mr. Kaberuka was speaking at an event on the sidelines of the ongoing World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings convened to discuss the findings of “Ending Conflict and Building Peace in Africa: A Call to Action”; an AfDB-sponsored report authored by a high level panel of experts led by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The report was first launched at the African Union summit in January 2014.
“Money alone is not a solution to this problem,” Mr. Kaberuka added, pointing out that development agencies like the AfDB are “navigating without radar” or compass unless they develop a deeper understanding of the political economy of their member countries.
“How come we did not see these things coming?” he asked, citing the breakdown into armed conflict in South Sudan on the same day the AfDB approved a $25 million loan for a power project in that country and his Bank’s failure to accurately predict the descent into hell of the Central African Republic.
“Countries have shown that it is possible to move from fragility to high growth and high performance. This has been demonstrated in Africa,” said World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region, Makhtar Diop, who also spoke at the April 10th event.
Diop pointed to Rwanda as proof that resolving fragility “works best where you have great leaders” and where the climate change aspects, gender and regional dimensions of fragility and conflict are not overlooked.
“Purely technocratic approaches” to resolving fragility have failed, Mr. Diop said, emphasizing that solutions have tended to be found where there is “an alignment of the political process and the economic process” and where resolving conflicts and fostering peace is understood as being “an art, not a science”.
“We have to be better at prevention”, said Jan Eliasson, a Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, whose presentation challenged development partners to “work and think horizontally” by fostering “peace, security, development, justice and human rights” at the same time under a formula which he described as “Rights Upfront”.