Freetown, 21 January 2010 – World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick on Tuesday arrives Freetown at the start of an 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.
In Sierra Leone, Zoellick will meet with President Ernest Bai Koroma and the Cabinet and will visit energy, agriculture and fishery projects that have benefited or will benefit from World Bank support. He will hold working sessions with representatives of the donor community; discuss ways of boosting World Bank support to the government’s anti-corruption efforts, to the private sector and to civil society organizations involved with promoting peace, equity, transparency, accountability and good governance.
The World Bank was swift in providing technical and financial support to Sierra Leone’s disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and reconstruction efforts following the end in 2002 of its 11-year war. The Bank was the biggest single donor counterpart of the Government of Sierra Leone in financing the decentralization reforms, which included the capacity building of the newly elected local councils, direct financing to community groups, building social capital, and boosting access to basic infrastructure and services. Since 2005, the public sector in Sierra Leone has benefitted from US$ 117 million from the World Bank Group’s IDA resources, about one third of which is provided as direct budget support. The World Bank is collaborating closely with three other donors (DFID, EC and AfDB) in a joint donor budget support framework. The Bank is currently supporting nine active projects costing approximately $US160.5 million. Sierra Leone joined the World Bank in 1962, one year after independence.
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, and the Country Director for Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea and Liberia, Ishac Diwan.