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Speeches & Transcripts October 20, 2020

Remarks by Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director, Operations at the Ministerial Roundtable on the Central Sahel - Responding to Humanitarian Challenges in a Long-Term Perspective

Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for today’s event.

The Sahel region was already dealing with many challenges related to conflict, climate change, human capital – and now there is the COVID crisis added to this.

This is an enormous worry to the World Bank. Particularly because the COVID crisis is creating additional poverty.  We have pointed out in our latest poverty report that  the world will see a reversal of fortunes in poverty reduction efforts.

And unfortunately, the Sahel zone is not exempt from this.  We are estimating that 1.3 million people this year will fall into extreme poverty in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.  

This is unacceptable and we have to act, and we have to act now.

Clearly we have to understand the drivers of the conflict and engage and be willing to take risks.

And this means, for us, we have to act on various fronts.

First and foremost, in the short term, on the health front, we need to continue to provide the necessary support in conjunction with other multilaterals, with the WHO, International Red Cross and others. In the next stage, we need to move onto vaccine support.

And we also need to provide social protection by expanding existing cash transfer schemes, as many people have lost their jobs and livelihoods due to COVID and are falling into poverty.

And finally, we must never lose sight of the longer-term development agenda – when we are talking about conflict, and climate change – these are longer term issues.   We need to act, we need to be engaged, more strongly engaged – and stay engaged.

The World Bank Group has changed its approach by scaling up very  significantly our support to the Sahel region.

Take for example, in  IDA 17 – we supported the region with $2.5 billion over three years; in IDA18, $6 billion – and this last year alone about $2.3 billion in support.  And in IDA19 we are scaling up even more and our ambition is to provide $8.5 billion to the Sahel region.

It is clear we want to do more, and the international community has to do more, and work across the entire development spectrum, to provide the necessary long-term support. So there is a call that we need to stay engaged, in the long run with the countries and give them a chance to succeed.

Not only through public interventions but also through the private sector. That is why we have the Private Sector Window, to help the private sector derisk investments.  We are asking our private sector arm, the IFC, to really scale up and I have been challenging them to put $1 billion in investments there.

That is what is needed.

We have heard today from Ministers from the Sahel countries how great the needs are. What is clear is that with this scope of crisis, we need to do more.

We are frontloading IDA19 and we need more for Sahel and African countries. It is why we are asking for an additional package of about $25 billion for COVID emergency related support – we would like to seek about $10 billion of this support from donors and the rest to be mobilized by the World Bank.

This is our call for action. We cannot wait.

The solidarity with the Sahel countries is very much welcome – now we need to act, and act more than ever.