July 4, 2022 - These days, it feels like one crisis is chasing the next – Covid-19, conflict, climate, debt, and more. The latest is a global food crisis which is reaching alarming dimensions. Across Africa, more than 282 million people are food insecure – and that number is rising.
One of the worst aspects of crises is the tendency to turn inward and look after one’s own interests – when in fact greater solidarity is needed. This is particularly true for Africa, which is often hit by crises that do not originate in the continent but its people pay for the fallout.
An effective crisis response, then, is needed – but one that goes beyond the immediate impact of the crisis to support the longer-term development agenda.
At times it seems that the world has forgotten the goals to eliminate extreme poverty or educate the world’s children or provide universal health access – as captured by the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs are alive on paper but not in action.
Now is not the time to reduce engagement, but rather, a time to double down on partnerships that matter. It is time to make a difference in the lives of families, so parents can send their kids to school, so mothers and babies can have adequate post-natal care, so that the younger generations have a chance to find jobs and realize their dreams.
All of this requires resources and the human capital that ultimately will drive the success of Africa.
African leadership is confronted with meeting this double challenge of responding to crises but not losing sight of the longer-term development needs of their country or the continent.
For these leaders, an additional challenge is that, while OECD countries may have vastly greater financial resources, this is much more difficult in Africa – as we saw during the COVID pandemic when rich countries were able to spend 5 times more for stimulus packages than what African governments were able to spend.
The challenge for the international community is, then, how can we best support Africa during these trying times and deliver real actions, real partnership, and real money?
The World Bank stands ready. This week, I am in Dakar to meet more than a dozen Heads of State from across Africa to kick off the implementation of our latest three-year, $93 billion global program – about 2/3 of which will support Africa’s development agenda – delivered through the International Development Association (IDA).
IDA is the world’s largest source of concessional funds, including grants for low-income countries, helping them seize opportunities to reduce poverty and stimulate inclusive growth.
This latest IDA replenishment will enable our support to Africa to increase even more in the years ahead. Africa has become the prime region benefiting from IDA resources – growing more than tenfold its annual program of about $3 billion in 2000 to well over $30 billion currently. This support, plus our growing on the ground presence across Africa, is enabling us to work hand-in-hand with governments, with the private sector, and civil society to implement the continent’s ambitious development agenda.
African leaders have, through the African Union process, articulated clear goals – from digitalization to electricity to education – and we are committed to helping Africa translate these ambitions into strong programs that can, within a short period of time, improve people’s lives and transform the continent.
I am energized by the many conversations about the boundless opportunities in the African continent. A youthful population bursts with energy and vibrancy. A new free trade agreement can bring tremendous gains and African leaders are seeking their own solutions.
I am also energized by the great potential that IDA, as a fund for development, offers to the African continent. IDA has been well-supported by international partners and well-utilized by countries. And my hope for this week’s dialogue is that we emerge with ambitious, concrete plans to maximize the use of IDA to support countries as they weather the storm of multiple, overlapping crises, and set up the policies, investments, and innovations that will spur resilient recovery, sustainable growth, and prosperity for all in Africa.