Addis Ababa, DC, 21 January 2010 – World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick on Saturday January 30, arrives in Ethiopia at the start of a four-day visit, the last leg of his eight-day, three-nation Africa visit to help focus the attention of African governments, development partners and private investors on seizing the opportunity for renewed momentum in economic growth and overcoming poverty. Although hit by the global food, fuel and financial crises, African governments have persisted in strengthening their economic policies as they pursue development, or rebuild after conflict.
Ahead of the trip, Zoellick noted that many sub-Saharan African countries had enjoyed a decade or more of solid growth before the crisis and it was important to preserve and expand on these gains by drawing investment to high growth areas.
“I am visiting Africa to learn about how its people have coped with the global economic crisis and to see how the World Bank Group can work with them to improve prospects for economic growth and expanded opportunity. Much of Africa has a solid record of economic growth, including in some of Africa’s fragile states, and it has the potential to be another pole of growth for the world economy,” Zoellick said.
Zoellick said that a combination of policy and institutional reforms and external resources are urgently needed to help build capacity, generate economic opportunities in fragile states, and lay the foundation for stability and overcoming poverty. He also called for policies and investments that would expand Africa’s share of global and intra-African trade by fostering regional integration and building crucial infrastructure in energy, transport and irrigation needed to promote agriculture, manufacturing and industrialization on the continent and for helping countries adapt to climate change.
At a working breakfast forum on the sidelines of the AU summit, which Zoellick is hosting jointly with African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka, several African leaders will discuss the transformative impact that information and communications technologies (ICTs) can have on the continent.
“The skeptics wondered whether Africa was ready for a revolution in telecommunications. But African entrepreneurs, with the help of supportive government policies, changed the facts on the ground,” said Zoellick.
Acknowledging that private sector participation will continue to be key to take Africa to the next level of high-speed connectivity and to create jobs, the forum is expected to urge African leaders to further lift barriers to private sector investment in the sector. It is also expected to encourage African leaders and the private sector to take advantage of ICTs to advance agriculture, education and health sectors, and to similarly realize the considerable promise of other sectors.
During his trip, Zoellick will visit energy, agriculture and fishery projects that have benefited from World Bank support. He will hold working sessions with representatives of other donor agencies; discuss ways of boosting World Bank support to governmental and civil society organizations promoting peace, transparency, accountability, and good governance.
In Ethiopia, Zoellick will meet with African Heads of State attending the African Union summit, including the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi. He will hold discussions with African leaders on climate change; visit a shoe-making factory owned by an Ethiopian female entrepreneur, and staffed by under-privileged Ethiopians who craft shoes retailed globally. He will also visit the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange which has helped the country transit rapidly from rudimentary methods of marketing agricultural products to the kind of sophisticated platforms offered by globally-accessible modern electronic facilities.
The World Bank has been helping to fight poverty and improve the living standards for the people of Ethiopia since 1945. This country is one of the largest beneficiaries of the World Bank’s concessional lending program, the International Development Association (IDA). The World Bank’s strategy for the period FY 2008-FY 2011 aims to help sustain the ‘dual take-off’ of growth and basic services by supporting the implementation of key elements of the governments’ poverty reduction strategy framework. The Bank’s lending and non-lending activities aim to support Ethiopia in sustaining high levels of investments in key areas (both physical and human capital as well as institutional capacity building), while addressing priority policy issues to maximize the impact of such spending. Currently, the Banks’ portfolio consists of 32 active projects worth around US$ 3.6 billion of which around US$ 2.1 billion is provided as credit and the remaining US$ 1.5 billion is provided as grant. These projects support among others, initiatives across a number of areas including Governance and Public Sector Development, Private Sector Development, Agriculture and Rural Development, Protection of Basic Services (PBS), Health and HIV/AIDS, Transport, Education, and Water Sector Development Programs . After eight years of absence, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has re-established its role in helping growth become more private sector-led. It now has staff in Addis Ababa and is more actively engaged in key sectors. Multilateral International Guarantee Agency (MIGA) is exploring new opportunities to support investment in Ethiopia.
President Zoellick will be accompanied by the Bank’s Vice President for the Africa Region, Obiageli Ezekwesili, the Director for Strategy and Operations for the Region, Colin Bruce, the IFC Vice President for Africa, Thierry Tanoh, and the Country Director for Ethiopia and Sudan, Kenichi Ohashi.