$1 Billion for Development in Africa

In one of the first joint ventures between the World Bank and the U.N., the World Bank’s International Development Agency (IDA) has pledged $1 billion to finance major development projects in East Africa, like hydroelectric dams, agriculture, and infrastructure, at zero interest.

In February of this year, 11 countries in the region signed a peace agreement that sanctioned U.N. security forces to shut down Congolese rebel groups. The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) mineral-rich eastern region has been riddled with guerilla warfare by rebel groups for almost two decades, and the East African community decided to ramp up their security response to end the conflict. Many in the humanitarian community, however, protested that the root causes of conflict, like poverty and poor infrastructure, were going unmet.

Four months later, the U.N. answered those protests by working with the World Bank to fund a new development initiative that addresses those roots. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who visited the DRC in May to seal the pledge with African leaders, released a statement arguing that a rush of development in the region is necessary to help Africa combat extreme poverty, end conflict, and increase economic opportunity.

“We made extraordinary efforts to secure an additional $1 billion in funding because we believe this can be a major contributor to a lasting peace in the Great Lakes region,” Kim said. “This funding will help revitalize economic development, create jobs, and improve the lives of people who have suffered for far too long.”

They hope that the initiative, which focuses on renewable energy, road-building, and border management, will provide a foundation for increased productivity and interconnectivity between nations. Cross-border trade is the key to prosperity and peace, and the beginning of trade is a reliable power grid, a reliable road network, and trustworthy governance. Hopefully, the funding marks a new beginning for the area.

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and Special Convoy to the Great Lakes region, expressed optimism about the initiative and hope for the future. “There is a fresh chance to do more than just attend to the consequences of conflict,” she said. “There is a chance to resolve its underlying causes and to stop it for good.”

– John Mahon

Source: World Bank Al Jazeera
Photo: Oromo Liberation Front