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Bank Hones Plan to Accelerate Progress in Africa

January 2011The World Bank is reviewing its strategy for Africa, which is outlined below in the Africa Action Plan. The strategy is being reviewed against a backdrop of changes in the global economy, in Africa and the World Bank. For more, visit the site 'Renewing the World Bank Strategy for Africa'.

The Africa Action Plan

April 9, 2007—Two years ago, Africa seemed at a turning point.

Could it reverse a two-decade decline in economic and social progress? Could it end poverty and hunger in a decade?

Read the complete Document
The Africa Action Plan- [English] - PDF

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The need to reduce poverty and speed up quality of life improvements in Africa will be on the agenda at the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings this week.

The World Bank’s key strategy for Africa—the three-year Africa Action Plan—is up for mid-term review April 15 at the Development Committee, the body that that advises the Boards of Governors of the Bank and the Fund on critical development issues.

While the Africa Action Plan has many successes from its first 18 months to report, it also acknowledges that if current trends continue, poverty in Africa will only fall to 37 percent by 2015—the target date for fulfilling the eight Millennium Development Goals that include eradicating severe poverty and hunger and achieving universal primary education.

With many countries at risk of being left behind, the Bank decided to amend its strategy to accelerate progress and work more effectively with countries and other development partners.

The result is a more focused and outcome-oriented plan that leverages the Bank Group’s strengths and seeks to improve the odds for all 48 African nations, says John Page, Chief Economist for the Bank’s Africa region.

Page says the revised plan does not affect the Bank’s traditional focus of working one-on-one with countries. Nor does it change the amount of financing each country receives from the International Development Association (IDA), the arm of the World Bank that provides zero-interest loans and grants and 90 percent of the Bank’s financing for Africa.

But an assessment of the action plan, first approved in September 2005, revealed it was “too wide ranging.” As a result it has been pared down from 14 focus areas to eight that now include:

  • Strengthen the African private sector
  • Increase the economic empowerment of women
  • Build skills for competitiveness in the global economy
  • Raise agricultural productivity
  • Improve access to and reliability of clean energy
  • Expand and upgrade road networks and transit corridors
  • Increase access to safe water and sanitation
  • Strengthen national health systems and combat malaria and HIV/AIDS

Each area was carefully selected for maximum impact in working toward achieving the MDGs and complementing the work of development partners such as the African Development Bank, United Nations, individual country donors, and foundations.

“We wanted to see what we could do as the Bank group to be the most helpful,” says Page. “In each case, we tried to give thought to what the Bank’s core competencies are, relative to other partners, in order to get the development outcomes that we need.”

The changes reflect a continuing effort “to position the Bank strategically to be most useful as a member of the development partnership in supporting growth and attainment of the MDGs in Africa,” he says.

Recent Signs of Progress

  • Economic growth averaged 5.5 percent in 2005 and 5.3 percent in 2006.
  • 11 countries introduced reforms to reduce the time and cost to start a business in 2006
  • Ghana and Tanzania were among the top 10 reformers in the World Bank Group's 2006 Doing Business survey
  • Primary school enrollment rate surged to 96 percent in 2004
  • Mortality rate for children under 5 fell from 161 in 1990 to 149/1,000 in 2004

Working with Countries

The eight new focus areas respond to emerging demand from countries, according to the report for the Development Committee, Accelerating Development Outcomes in Africa: Progress and Change in the Africa Action Plan.

Many countries would like to develop or are developing national strategies for health, energy, water, education, private sector development and other crucial areas. Part of the Bank’s role is helping to match country plans and strategies with appropriate financing, deal with new development partners, and adapt global or regional programs, such as malaria or AIDS programs, to country-specific circumstances, says the report.

“One of the Bank’s most useful roles is helping to mobilize others to help finance these programs in countries,” says Page.

The Bank’s strategy will vary from country to country. Mineral-rich countries will receive analytic and advisory assistance to help them manage revenues from natural resources and invest them to sustain prosperity.

In slow-growing countries, where more than a third of Africans live, the Bank’s most effective role is often helping to develop core government functions and mobilize donor support, the report says. The Bank’s impact would likely be most felt in human development, such as improving education and health systems, and in basic infrastructure such as water and roads.

The costs of conflict and recent post-conflict countries are borne beyond their borders, says the report. The Bank can help by supporting their efforts to build capacity in the government to deliver services and establish a viable state..

Action Plan Achievements

  • Provided 1.7 million people with access to safe water
  • Built systems to irrigate 15,524 hectares of farmland
  • Trained 86,116 teachers and built 46,058 classrooms between 2002 and 2006
  • Reached 173 million people with HIV prevention messages
  • Provided prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV for 1.5 million women.
  • 14 countries agreed to make their extractive industry sector more transparent.

Many faster-growing countries have already reduced poverty. The Bank can help these countries by leveraging IDA funds to attract additional private and public resources to break such constraints to growth as unreliable energy supply or lack of skilled workers.

Such countries can offer clues to solving problems in slower growing countries, says Page. Lessons learned through identifying growth constraints in faster growing economies and finding ways to fix them may be applied in other countries, says Page.

“It’s about understanding what these growth leaders might help us do to accelerate growth more generally in Africa,” he says.

Their success is “important for them, important for their neighbors, and important for the region as a whole.”

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