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World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick to Visit Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda

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  • President Zoellick will visit Africa’s Great Lakes region from August 9-13.
  • While there, the president will urge additional investment and donor support to the region.
  • Regional integration and infrastructure development are crucial to growth in Africa.

WASHINGTON, August 7, 2009 --World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick on Sunday will begin a three-nation African tour to encourage investor and donor support to help the world’s poorest continent cope with the global economic crisis.

Zoellick’s first stop will be in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a nation of 64 million people, and Africa’s fourth most populous country. The DRC has been hard hit by the global financial crisis. A six percent growth rate in 2008 has recently slowed to 2.7 percent as DR Congo’s two primary export commodities - copper and cobalt – have receded. The country also faces an estimated $13.5 billion in debt and is implementing a program supported by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to secure debt cancellation under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC).

Through the International Development Association (IDA), the soft-lending arm of the World Bank which provides interest-free credits and grants to the poorest countries in the world, the World Bank has a total investment of $2.9 billion in DR Congo, with 17 investment projects that seek to improve stability and governance, enhance private sector growth and increase access to social services.

In Rwanda, the second leg of the trip from Aug. 11-12, Zoellick will continue to see the effects the global economic crisis has had on Africa. Whereas the Rwandan economy grew 11 percent in 2008, it slowed to eight percent in 2009 due to lower exports and a drop in remittances and tourism.

As in DR Congo, Zoellick will visit World Bank-financed projects in Rwanda, where a major focus has been on support to infrastructure and private sector development, education, agriculture and health. The Bank’s total financial investment in Rwanda through IDA is $126.4 million.

Zoellick will finalize his tour of Africa’s Great Lakes region in Uganda from Aug. 12-13.

Uganda has maintained one of the world’s highest per capita economic growth rates over the past two decades. Its GDP growth accelerated from 3.4 percent to more than five percent over the last five years. And, despite facing an armed conflict in the north, Uganda has seen substantial reductions in poverty.

Here, as elsewhere across Africa, a combination of deft macro-economic management and fiscal discipline has not sufficed to completely shield Uganda from the damage wrought by the global financial crisis. Export prices for its main commodities have fallen, as have remittances and foreign investment. The Bank’s investment in Uganda is approximately $1.4 billion, largely in infrastructure and institutional reform projects.

The World Bank president is visiting Africa within weeks of the September 24-25 Group of 20 Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This year’s summit will focus on the global economic crisis. Across Africa, the crisis has meant a sharp fall in four revenue generating areas: private capital flows, remittances, foreign aid and commodity prices, according to the World Bank’s Vice President for the Africa Region Obiageli Ezekwesili.

Ahead of his trip, Zoellick encouraged investors to take advantage of investment opportunities that continue to beckon from Africa, despite the crisis.
“Some of the biggest gains in fighting poverty in Africa can be made if investors and donors boost support for agriculture, helping Africa achieve food security, while improving rural incomes and facilitating post-harvest marketing, conservation and agricultural processing,” Zoellick said.

The funding most urgently needed should help expand Africa’s share of global and intra-African trade, foster regional integration, curb armed conflicts, and build the crucial infrastructure in energy, transport and irrigation to promote manufacturing and industrialization on the continent, he added.

World Bank Group support for Africa is mainly provided through the International Development Association (IDA) and International Finance Corporation (IFC). IDA provides grants and low-interest loans to the world’s 79 poorest countries, half of which are in Africa. IDA has over the last year committed more resources than initially planned in order to help African countries cope with the negative effects of the global crisis. IFC provides investments and advisory services to build the private sector in developing countries. IFC's commitments in Africa have grown from $445 million in FY05 to $1.82 billion in FY09.