WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2010—The World Bank on Monday released its draft strategy for Africa, Africa’s Future and the World Bank’s Role in it, aimed at steering its policies and operations in the Sub Saharan region for the next five years.
The strategy, which comes later than its expected September release date due to the large amount of feedback from external stakeholders and as the Bank incorporated lessons learned from the previous Africa Action Plan, takes into account input received from more than 1500 people in 36 countries, who were consulted online and in-person over the period June-September 2010.
“We heard from a diverse range of people from all walks of life in many different countries, who all have a stake in Africa’s development,” said Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa. “We carefully reviewed their inputs and produced what we think is a strong draft of a plan that will help carry the Bank forward as it supports Africa’s unprecedented transformation and growth.”
The draft strategy lays out three, interdependent themes: (i) competitiveness and employment, (ii) vulnerability and resilience; and (iii) governance and public-sector capacity, and the challenges and opportunities that exist within each. The Bank’s intervention in each country will be guided by these themes as a framework but certainly not limited by it.
The competitiveness and employment theme, as presented, captures the various inputs from stakeholders that Africa be seen as a destination for business; and a growth pole with development assistance as catalyzing investment. Harnessing private sector opportunities for wealth creation within this framework has implications for agricultural productivity, the empowerment of women, innovative approaches to improving the business climate and infrastructure development. They remain key drivers for facilitation of Africa’s growth and competitiveness in a manner that leads to job creation.
“Since it is the most often-cited constraint, improving infrastructure services is the highest priority,” the strategy reads. “The infrastructure financing gap (estimated at $48 billion a year for the continent) can only be filled by a combination of domestic, public and private funding. To attract private funding and to improve services more generally, there needs to be reform of infrastructure policies and institutions.”
The vulnerability and resilience focus of the strategy acknowledges the inevitable shocks that often have immediate impacts on living standards. Among them: macroeconomic shocks; idiosyncratic shocks, such as those related to individuals’ health (AIDS, malaria, maternal mortality, road accidents); natural disasters; and conflict and political violence. A major policy option promoted in the strategy is the adoption of social safety nets as a remedial measure for dealing with macroeconomic and certain idiosyncratic shocks; public health interventions for health and disease related shocks; climate adaptation policies to address natural disasters associated with climate change; and, to prevent conflict and political violence, peace and institution building initiatives.
Across the continent, strong views were expressed about governance as a major constraint to development outcomes; and the need to strengthen accountability at all levels of society. The strategy attempts to capture these sentiments by positioning Governance and Public Sector Capacity as a foundation on which the preceding two pillars must be built. This focus will leverage the growing political openness across Africa and civil society’s increased involvement in demand-side governance. “The use of CSOs upstream in monitoring government processes will be promoted and evaluated. Greater attention will be given to building the capacity of the legislative and judicial branches of government, as well as sub-national governments,” according to the strategy.
To implement its Africa strategy, the World Bank will rely on traditional implementation instruments— finance, knowledge and partnerships—but proposes to reverse the order. “The main instrument of implementation will be partnerships—with African society and with other development actors. We will mobilize the development community to support a “Marshall Plan for Africa,” aimed at relaxing the financing constraint to reach the MDGs (and beyond).”
The Bank will use knowledge to contribute an evidence-based approach to debates about Africa’s development; and flexible and innovative financing to support countries’ financial needs. “In the new strategy, the goal will be to leverage the Bank’s financing to crowd-in other sources of financing,” the strategy reads.
The World Bank is seeking feedback on its draft strategy. Stakeholders, including those who may already have contributed online or in-person during phase 1 of the consultation process, are encouraged to use the Online Feedback Form to offer fresh opinions. Views will impact the final strategy due for publication in March 2011.