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World Bank fund for poor African countries gets record boost

Publishing Date : 13 January, 2020

Author : TLHABO KGOSIEMANG

Fifty-two countries and other donors have pledged 23.5 Billion US Dollars in new funds for the world’s poorest states, pushing replenishment of the International Development Association IDA fund to a record 82 Billion US Dollars, the World Bank said on Friday.


That fund, which includes more than 53 Billion for Africa, will help countries work to create jobs, invest in infrastructure, boost economic growth and bolster resilience to climate shocks and natural disasters, top bank officials said. First created in 1960, the fund is replenished every three years. This 19th replenishment covers 2020-2023. The new funding level exceeds the previous level by 7 Billion US Dollars.


‘’There has been an agreement on the largest-ever replenishment of IDA, The World Bank’s fund for the poor,’’ David Malpass, the bank’s president, said, noting that some countries that had previously received money from IDA had increased their donations. Six new countries had joined effort, and others could follow suit in coming weeks, he said. Malpass said this year’s IDA replenishment would support people in 74 countries, home to almost 500 million people, or two-thirds of the world’s poor.


He said the funds would help countries deal with the challenges posed by climate change, gender inequality, and conflict and violence, including in the Sahel, the Lake Chad region, and the Horn of Africa. IDA is one of the largest sources of funding for fighting extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries. It provides zero-or low-interest loans and grants to countries for projects and programs that boost economic growth, build resilience and improve the lives of poor people around the world. Since 1960, IDA has provided more than 391 Billion for investments in 133 countries.


The World Bank said it would not release a list of individual donor countries and the amounts they pledged until after a board meeting early next year, but said additional countries could join the effort in the near term. In addition to country pledges, IDA is also supported by repayments of outstanding IDA loans, contributions from the World Bank, and financing rose from the capital markets.


Meanwhile, the World Bank has announced 1 Billion US Dollar pledge to Africa’s Great Lakes Region. The new proposed funding is said to help countries in the region to provide better health and education services, generate more cross-border trade, and fund hydroelectricity projects in support of the Great Lakes peace agreement that was signed by 11 countries in February.


World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, who is travelled with the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, on a three-day trip to Congo, Rwanda and Uganda said that a secure and developed Great Lake was vital to Africa’s efforts to dramatically reduce extreme poverty and create prosperity for millions who have had little economic opportunity.


‘’We made extraordinary efforts to secure an additional 1 Billion US Dollars in funding because we believe this can be a major contributor to a lasting peace in the Great Lakes region. This funding will help revitalize economic development, create jobs and improve the lives of people who have suffered for far long. Now the leaders of the Great Lakes region, by restarting economic activity and improving livelihoods in boarder areas, can boost confidence, build economies and give new opportunities for millions of people’’


Kim said the new regional pledge, in zero-interest financing from the International Development Association IDA will support two major regional development priorities: recovery of livelihoods to reduce the vulnerability of people living in the Great Lakes whose communities have suffered greatly during conflict in the region and revitalizing and expanding cross-border economic activity to spur greater opportunity and integration in the areas of agriculture, energy, transport and regional trade.


The World Bank’s proposed additional funding includes roughly 100 Million US Dollars for supporting agriculture and rural livelihoods for internally displaced people and refugees in the region 340 Million US Dollars to support the 80 megawatt Rusumo Falls hydroelectric project for Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania 150 Million US Dollars for the rehabilitation of the Ruzizi I and II hydroelectric projects and financing for Ruzizi III, supplying electricity for Rwanda, Burundi and DRC 165 Million towards building roads in DRC’s North and South Kivu and Province Orientale 180 Million for improving infrastructure and border management along the Rwanda-DRC border and additional millions of dollars for public health laboratories, fisheries and trade facilitation programs among others.


While other parts of sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing high growth rates, countries of the Great Lakes region have had extremely high levels of poverty and very low levels of key services such as access to electricity. Yields from agriculture also are typically quite low. A key part of the World Bank group’s development approach to the region is to increase power generation and interconnectivity to take advantage of low-cost and renewable sources of hydropower and geothermal energy. Developing the hydropower potential in DRC, in particular, will provide Burundi and Rwanda access to low-cost power and a stake in regional stability. Currently, there is no regional grid and very limited interconnectivity between countries in the region.


In announcing its new funding pledge, the World Bank Group said that promoting significantly more trade is in the common interest of all countries in the region and will greatly improve the effectiveness of national development policies. ‘’Together with much more electricity for the Great Lakes, there will be very large economic pay-offs if we can all help to make border crossings easier and faster for people and their goods to move from one country to another’’ said Makhtar Diop, the World Bank’s Vice President for Africa.


‘’Africa’s potential to provide food for its citizens, however, is not yet being realized because farmers in areas like the Great Lakes face more trade barriers in getting their food to markets across the region than farmers anywhere else in the world. Too often borders get in the way of getting plentiful food supplies to homes and communities that are struggling with too little to eat’’ Diop said.


In calling for a regional peace and development solution for the Great Lakes, the World Bank officials said the new financing pledge will help to rehabilitate roads to connect remote trading communities with regional markets. Bank support will focus on rehabilitation of primary cross-border trunk roads, to be complemented through the rehabilitation and opening of secondary roads required to bring goods to markets. The benefits of this approach are two-fold: first, increased trade will significantly increase economic activities, livelihoods and jobs second; connectivity will allow free movement of people and goods, and enable restoration of the state’s regulatory functions.


Within the DRC, the Bank Group’s current roads project (Pro-Routes- 248 Million US Dollars) is having an important impact by contributing to the reopening of 2,176KM of roads in Province Orientale, South Kivu and Katanga. The economic impact of the rehabilitated sections has been significant, reducing transportation costs by as much as 80 per cent in some cases and cutting travel time by more than half. Empirical evidence suggests that insecurity is decreasing in areas where roads have been rehabilitated.

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