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WB revises strategy for Africa

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 3 – The World Bank has revised the strategy to guide its relationship with Africa for the next five years as it seeks to assist the continent attain its development goals.

The new approach titled "Africa\’s future and World Bank support to it" has been developed after extensive consultations with leaders and experts from across the continent and aims to take into account the developments and challenges that face and are likely to face Africa between now and 2016.

"This strategy is coming on the heels of unprecedented opportunity for economic transformation and growth by Africans. Africa is increasingly being seen as a credible investment destination which has over the last one decade been growing at five percent per annum," said World Bank\’s Vice President for the Africa region Obiageli Ezekwesili.

Experts however acknowledge that despite this positive economic growth, the trickledown effect has not been felt by majority of Africans, who continue to grapple with abject poverty, unemployment and diseases.

This is what prompted the bank to revise its plan from \’the Africa Action Plan\’, which it has been using since 2005 in order to foster development on the continent.

The rationale is that the new plan will allow more people on the continent to participate in the decision making and development processes which will eventually enable them to improve their quality of life.

\’Africa\’s future and World Bank support to it\’ has two pillars; \’the Competitiveness and Employment\’ which will focus on empowering the private sector to bring reforms in and attract investments to sectors that have the potential for high growth as well as job creation.

This stems from the realisation that while the private sector has been described as the engine of growth in many African countries, it still has not played a major role in reducing poverty.

Light manufacturing, agribusiness, mining, ICT and tourism are some of the industries that have been identified as having the potential to rope in thousands of poor women and youths in jobs that can enable them to boost their incomes and improve their households\’ livelihood.

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These interventions will be complemented by broader measures that aim to improve the business climate, develop the infrastructure and address the skills gap in the region.

The bank also acknowledged that there is need to change the negative perception about Africa which in turn affects the investment climate and development on the continent.

"Not everyone sees Africa as the emerging frontier.  If the mindset can be shifted closer to the current reality, it can create a virtuous cycle of investment and growth. The bank can play a role not just in providing the evidence of the changes on the continent and sharing knowledge with the rest of the world but also in supporting those who can interpret this evident to the public," said Ms Ezekwesili.

Pillar two of the strategy dubbed \’Vulnerability and Resilience\’ is more focused on addressing challenges such as diseases, food shortages and political violence that lower people\’s living standards.

It also looks into how macroeconomic shocks have a huge impact on the real economy and the welfare of the poorest. For instance, a recent survey indicates that the food, fuel and financial crises of 2008 and 2009 led to a 4.2 percent rise in poverty levels in Africa. The impact is estimated to have been higher in rural areas.

"The strategy for preventing or mitigating the effects of shocks has to be tailored to the nature of the shock. For macroeconomic and some of the idiosyncratic shocks, social safety nets can be a powerful remedy. They can both strengthen resiliency by helping households to build assets and undertake higher return," the new strategy showed.

For the plan to be successfully implemented however, good governance and leadership will be crucial.

The Bank also recognises that some risks still abound that could hinder the implementation of the plan. The global economy is still not out of the woods yet while conflict and political violence in Africa still remain a major threat. In addition, the continent lacks adequate resources to implement the strategy.

However, the bank underscored the importance of increased public and private sector partnerships which can mitigate these risks and enable the continent to realise its full potential for sustainable growth and poverty reduction.

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