Abidjan, 21 January 2010 – World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick arrives Wednesday night in Abidjan from Freetown (Sierra Leone) on the second 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.
In Cote d’Ivoire, Zoellick will meet with President Laurent Gbagbo, Prime Minister Guillaume Soro and the Cabinet. He will visit a cocoa-coffee, agriculture and energy projects and hold working sessions with members of the Independent Electoral Commission, and the representatives of the donor community. He will encourage progress in the electoral process; discuss ways of boosting World Bank support to the private and financial sector and civil society organizations involvement in the promotion of transparency, accountability, equity and good governance.
The World Bank is working with the Government of Cote d’Ivoire and hopes to secure debt forgiveness of about US$2 billion in nominal terms by end-2011. The fiscal space that debt relief would bring could help the country begin reversing the dramatic increase over the last 20 years of poverty from 10 percent in 1985 to 49 percent in 2008. For 2008 and 2009, the Bank was the largest donor in Cote d’Ivoire where it committed $852.5 million IDA and GEF resources, with disbursement of US$526 million. Existing commitments are $645 million, with an undisbursed balance of US$330 million. The Bank is preparing a new Country Partnership Strategy for 2010-2013 to support implementation of Cote d’Ivoire’s PRSP prepared in 2009. IFC’s total committed portfolio as of December 31, 2009 is US$70.06 million. The largest investments are a US$48.7 million equity investment in Devon Energy Cote d’Ivoire (oil and gas) and US$13.29 million loan to Azito (electricity generation), both of which have performed well throughout the crisis. MIGA’s existing portfolio in Côte d’Ivoire consists of one agribusiness project. This was issued in 1999 to Touton SA of France for their investment in the rehabilitation of three cocoa plantations and the expansion of a production facility.
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 Côte D'Ivoire, Benin, Mauritanie, Niger, and Togo, Madani Tall.