World Bank President James Wolfensohn is concluding a five-day tour of central Africa on Thursday, which centered on countries emerging from conflict and included the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Tanzania.
The visit culminated in a meeting in Dar es Salaam with finance and economic ministers from nine African nations—Angola, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Uganda—emerging from conflict to discuss issues of economic recovery and reconstruction efforts.
At the meeting, Wolfensohn and ministers discussed the imperative for countries to own and lead the recovery and reconstruction process, and the Bank Group’s strategy for helping these countries quickly put in place the basic structures needed in rebuilding their economies.
The World Bank’s involvement in countries emerging from conflict around the world focuses on preventive work and support for recovery and reconstruction, working with governments and other development partners to demilitarize and re-integrate combatants, settle displaced people, and start the recovery process.
In a joint press conference held Monday following a meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Wolfensohn praised Rwanda’s economic achievements, noting that "from an economic point of view the country has done very well in terms of basic economics…and getting the country on a sustainable basis."
However, he also expressed his concerns that Rwanda needs to do more to expand its markets and promote peace. " I do not think you can look at an economic activity separate from peace…To move into industry and tertiary industries and technology, you probably need bigger markets. And that means working in the Great Lakes region and that means a peaceful environment."
Wolfensohn kicked off the trip last Friday with a three-day stay in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where he expressed strong support for the country’s economic recovery program and pledged to work with the government and civil society to bring about rapid and visible peace dividends to the Congolese people as the peace and reconciliation process takes hold.
He urged the government to maintain the pace of economic reforms which has resulted in significantly lower inflation, increased government revenue, transparency in budget processes, and real prospects for economic growth after years of decline.
"My colleagues and I are aware of the need for the people of Congo to see quick tangible improvements in their lives. We are determined to work towards that goal," he told President Joseph Kabila and other audiences during his stay in the Congolese capital.
Wolfensohn pointed to those areas where urgent action could immediately begin to bear fruit and improve living standards for citizens, including special infrastructure rehabilitation in areas ravaged by conflict; rehabilitating hospital and other infrastructure in some urban centers, and funding community projects.
He also paid a visit to one such project in Kikimi II where a community-driven initiative that grew out of a need to help poor rural mothers has provided health, educational and nutritional services over the last two decades to some 30,000 women, children, handicapped adults, and the elderly.