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Speeches & TranscriptsFebruary 8, 2024

Remarks by Anna Bjerde, World Bank Managing Director of Operations, at the Roundtable of Africa West and Central Ministers of Finance and World Bank Governors

As delivered

It’s a great privilege to be among you today. On behalf of the World Bank Group, I would like to convey my deep appreciation to His Excellency President Tinubu, Finance Minister Edun, and the entire Nigerian Government for their very warm hospitality in hosting today’s important gathering of World Bank Governors representing West and Central African countries.

The World Bank Group is a consistent and steadfast partner for countries in Africa. We are invested in your success. We are here with you when you succeed, but also here when challenges arise. Not just when it is convenient, and certainly not just to issue a statement. Working hand-in-hand with you toward the best achievable results for the long-term prosperity of your countries is the World Bank Group’s raison d’être. Which is why we seek an even stronger engagement with you going forward, to give you the priority, partnership, and investment that you need.

Your voice matters. On two previous occasions you have come together to tell us what your priorities and pressing concerns are. The 2021 Abidjan Declaration, and the 2022 Dakar Call for Action were hugely important to secure a record 20th replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA20) – our fund for low-income countries. They put a uniquely African, high-level stamp on these important processes, and sent a strong message that the ambitions and financing needs of African people are high and need support.

Your voices, advocacy, join statements, and intellectual contributions were particularly critical to shaping the IDA20 agenda. Key issues like the jobs agenda, fragility, and regional integration were prioritized as a direct result of your collective advocacy.

I am acutely aware that the world today faces multiple challenges, and many of these have outsized effects and impacts on your countries and populations. Conflict and insecurity, disruptions to the global trade and financing system, and high levels of debt make for a challenging environment.

Yet the reality is that a lot is happening in the region. Through our engagement, we have been able to support impressive progress and results at a regional scale.

Energy access is an excellent example of what can be accomplished. It is also an issue that African leaders have prioritized. Since 2000, access to energy has more than doubled across Africa. Yet, despite significant investments and progress, at the current pace, close to 600 million Africans are likely to remain without electricity by 2030 with two-third of these living in countries currently classified as fragile and conflict-affected.

Together, we can do better.

To reach universal electricity access by the end of the decade, the rate of electricity access growth would need to triple. But this is doable, and the World Bank Group is ready to accompany governments in the journey from ambition to reality, including through deep macro-economic, energy sector and utility reforms, and through the co-creation of innovative and scalable solutions with the private sector catalyzing the power of the one World Bank Group, and in partnership with the development financing community. Take Nigeria, for example, where over 85 million people still lack access to electricity but where our level of ambition is proportional to the size of the challenge. Together with the Government, we are committed to expanding access to over 17 million unserved and underserved rural Nigerians through distributed renewable energy solutions. And we can build on regional integration efforts, such as the West Africa Power Pool, which was established 25 years ago, to extend the benefits of clean and affordable energy across the continent.

We estimate that with about $30 billion in IDA support through 2030 (about $5 billion/year), the World Bank Group could faciliate access to about 300 million people by the end of the decade across Africa, including 100 million in Western and Central Africa. That’s real impact. And it counts on public resources, the convening and mobilization of the private sector, as well as domestic resources. This would be a real turning point to get all these people access to electricity. This counts on both public and private mobilization of funds.

This is just one example of the transformational impact we could envisage together. We can build on this to accelerate progress in other sectors to overcome the most pressing development challenges affecting countries while creating jobs and opportunities for all.

Digitalization is possibly one of the most transformative efforts for the African continent. Under the Digital Economy for Africa Initiative, we together committed to double broadband penetration over five years from 2016 to 2021 – but in fact we tripled it. This was made possible through country specific reforms and investments, and through regional projects such as the West Africa Regional Communications Infrastructure project, which increased geographic reach of broadband networks and reduced the cost of communications services across 16 countries. Let us build on that. We can and must do more.

On food security, we know that Africa can feed itself – and in climate-smart ways. We can build on the regional Food System Resilience Program and our growing support to the private sector for locally produced fertilizer and local and sustainable crops. 

On social protection, one of the many lessons from COVID-19 was how important it is to have strong targeting and delivery systems, to help the most vulnerable to build resilience to shocks – whether they be from pandemics, conflict, or climate. We accelerated the use of established cash transfer systems to reach more than 50 million people – 10% of the total regional population. We also supported about 20 million farmers and pastoralists with urgent agricultural inputs. The investments that you have all carried out to build robust delivery and targeting systems means that more can now be done to help the most vulnerable. Let’s do it.

These examples show that transformation and impact at scale is possible if countries decide to create the conditions to convert opportunities into transformational accomplishments on key development priorities. We find a great example of such commitment here in Nigeria, where the Government has removed the gasoline subsidy and addressing exchange rate distortions.

The role of the World Bank is more important than ever. We exist to work with you hand-in-hand toward the best achievable results for your countries' long-term prosperity. IDA’s financing to Sub-Saharan Africa has grown from around $2 billion in 2000, to $10 billion in 2010, to $28 billion this year. And our support is here to stay. IDA provides long-term predictable concessional financing to deliver long-term goals. During the current IDA20 three-year cycle, we estimate that around $44 billion will go to country allocations in Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, significant amounts are provided through specialized windows, including to prevent conflict and support regional integration.

The growth in IDA allocations means that it now constitutes more than 1/3 of total official development assistance (ODA). In countries affected by fragility, conflict, and violence, we contribute more than 40% of total ODA.

But we can and should do more and do it faster. This is why the World Bank Group is on the move for a significant transformation that will deliver impact at scale for Africa in support of regional development priorities.

A better and bigger Bank offers a unique opportunity to further scale our support and strengthen our partnership. You, our clients, are asking for this. In fact, many of the themes and issues that we aim to tackle through our so called “evolution process” have been prompted and raised by you over the past years. 

The ongoing World Bank evolution will widen the path to progress on the priorities that you have raised on energy, digital development, human development, girls’ education, food security and agriculture. Our new vision – a world free of poverty on a livable planet – is ambitious but necessary to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow.

The roadmap presented in Marrakesh is centered on improving the Bank's speed and efficiency, building stronger partnerships and knowledge, and improving our financing and ability to mobilize the private sector.

The realization of this new vision is premised on addressing six Global Challenges that all matter for Africa – biodiversity, digitalization, energy, food security, pandemic preparedness, and water security – with a cross-cutting focus on climate, fragility, and domestic resource mobilization. These Global Challenge Programs and cross-cutting areas should be embedded in country engagements to ensure that we bring additional knowledge, experience, and financing to help you address these challenges with local solutions in a meaningful way.

Your voices are needed to help us deliver on the promise of these changes. The fact that you are gathering here today is a great step towards making your voices heard. I encourage you to continue the dialogue, building on what already took place in Abidjan and Dakar in previous years. Your strong advocacy and leadership will be instrumental in supporting an ambitious IDA21 financing and policy package.

Let me end on that note: we would like to raise the largest IDA ever. Larger than IDA20. It's going to require your help, your voice, your leadership on why IDA matters. Let’s work together and do it. IDA delivers. IDA is the single largest source of concessional resources for low-income countries. It is also the single largest provider of climate finance in low-income countries, including for adaptation. We count on your support; you can count on ours.


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