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Madame "Banque mondiale" in DRC

Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly moved to Kinshasa in May 2008, just 14 months after the World Bank’s Country Manager in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had to be evacuated in an armored UN vehicle under a barrage of bullets. By becoming the first resident Country Director there, she gained the respect of her governmental counterparts and a chance to watch the Bank’s portfolio more closely. To the street children who recognize her car, she became simply “Madame Banque Mondiale”.

Marie-Nelly, who was born in Martinique and educated in France, is happy to put a human face on the institution even if it means living with guards around the clock and having a chauffeur who doubles as a bodyguard. Showing leadership is an important part of the battle to promote change in the way World Bank business is done in the DRC. The DRC is one of 17 countries receiving support for country-wide governance and anti-corruption work from the Governance Partnership Facility (see list of “Window 1” projects).

Marie-Nelly now has a good understanding of the history and culture of the country and takes a longer view on systemic corruption, entrenched under President Mobutu. “It’s an old problem, therefore it will not be solved overnight. We need to establish principles first. The challenge is to avoid both complacency, and being perceived as minding other people’s business. It’s a constant balancing act”.

She holds monthly meetings with the heads of Project Implementation Units so that they feel compelled to perform at a higher standard, and has invited INT to talk to them in the past to stress the importance of ethical values. She has witnessed nepotism even at ministerial levels, and suspects widespread cheating on expense accounts in certain circles.

Lack of capacity, transparency and organization defeats the best efforts

But more than corruption, it’s the lack of governance that worries her in the DRC. “I see how ineffectively investment choices are made and how poorly decisions are carried out by the administration. It’s connected to a lack of capacity, transparency and organization that defeats the best efforts.” The size of the country – the third largest in Africa – compounds the difficulty of achieving results on a meaningful scale in a state weakened by invasions and civil wars.

The first batch of emergency multi-sectoral projects, which were approved after a peace deal in 2001, will close in a few years, giving the Bank an opportunity to refocus its efforts on a smaller number of sectors. “We’re currently in 12 sectors. That’s too many,” says Marie-Nelly. “We’re not here to deliver projects for projects’ sake. We have to move toward a more strategic, sectoral approach and think about making our contributions more sustainable”.

Drawing on political economy assessments for more effective projects

Understanding the political economy of selected sectors is crucial to improving the Bank’s impact in a more limited number of sectors. Analysis of key players can help explain why certain projects have been stalled, and inform project preparation beyond basic procurement and financial arrangements. For example, mapping different stakeholder interests will help design and position more effectively a small mining project in the Katanga province.. An analysis of conflicting interests in the road sector will help tackle the question of road maintenance in a more durable and systematic way. Forestry is another area where political economy assessments are already helping shape operations.

“Traditionally this kind of work was not part of project preparation,” says Tony Verheijen, the governance specialist who leads the DRC’s countrywide governance and anti-corruption efforts financed by a $3 million GPF grant. “But Task Team Leaders are now convinced of the usefulness of taking a detailed look at who’s who in their sector. In a country like the DRC it’s very difficult to carry through a project without in-depth understanding of the competing interests and the local, provincial and central levels of power. I hope that once the GPF project is over, political analysis will be so instilled, it will become automatic. Luckily, we have a Country Director who is not afraid of pushing her team to accept this logic”.

--published March 15, 2010

For more information about the Governance Partnership Facility, please contact the GPF Secretariat at

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