• Sunday, February 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

World Bank says ready to surpass biggest support to Nigeria, others

Extreme poverty in Nigeria reduced by seven percent in 2023– World Bank

The World Bank has signaled a commitment to give Nigeria and other African countries the highest-ever developmental support under its upcoming International Development Association (IDA 21) billed to commence next year.

But the benefitting countries must “make it happen”, according to Anna Bjerde, World Bank managing director of operations, who made the pledge on Thursday during a meeting of West and Central Africa finance ministers with the World Bank Group, in Abuja.

Read also: Nigeria seeks World Bank support on economic recovery

The most recent replenishment of IDA’s resources, the twentieth (IDA20), was finalised in December 2021, resulting in a historic $93 billion financing package for 74 IDA countries for fiscal years 2022-2025. The financing package was the largest ever mobilised in IDA’s 61-year history, BusinessDay finds.

IDA, a lending arm of the World Bank Group helps the world’s 75 poorest countries, 39 of which are in Africa through zero to low-interest loans (called “credits”) and grants for programmes that boost economic growth, reduce inequalities, and improve people’s living conditions.

The IDA is one of the world’s largest sources of development assistance for these countries, providing support for health and education, infrastructure and agriculture, and economic and institutional development.

Speaking at the meeting which equally had World Bank governors from West and Central African countries as well as its senior management present, Bjerde re-emphasised a consistent and steadfast partnership with African countries.

“We would like to raise the largest IDA ever, even larger than IDA 20. It’s going to require your help, your voice, your leadership on why IDA matters,” she stated.

“We are interested in your success. We are here with you when you succeed, and also when challenges arise, not just when it’s convenient, and certainly not just to issue a statement, but really, we want to work hand in hand with you for achievable results for the long-term prosperity of your countries.

“This is why we seek an even stronger engagement with you going forward to give you the priority, and partnership and the investments of the financing and knowledge that you need. Your voice matters,” Bjerde who has been holding talks with Nigerian authorities on economic recovery stated in her fairly long speech.

The meeting, hosted by Wale Edun, Nigeria’s minister of finance and coordinating minister for the economy, provided a forum for the leaders to discuss ambitious priorities for development in the region and to work towards a holistic overview of needs and a convincing plan for how additional IDA resources can help countries “leap forward” to attain sustainable growth, jobs and development.

Bjerde expressed concerns that the world today faces multiple challenges, many of which have outsized effects and impacts on African countries, including conflict and insecurity, low trade and financing systems as well as high levels of debt which make for an incredibly challenging environment.

According to her, energy access for instance can be accomplished, but having been prioritised by African leaders since the year 2000, and consequently, more than doubled across the continent, yet, close to 600 million Africans are likely to remain without electricity by 2030, despite significant investment and progress.

Encouraging the leaders, the managing director noted, “We can do better. To reach universal electricity access by the end of the decade, the electricity access growth rate needs to triple.

“This is doable, and the World Bank is ready to accompany you on this journey, including the macroeconomic energy sector and the co-creation of innovative and scalable solutions with the private sector, catalyse the power of the World Bank Group and in partnership with the development finance community.”

She cited an example with Nigeria where 85 million of its people still lack access to electricity. She then pledged the bank’s commitment to expand access to over 70 million unserved and underserved rural Nigerians to fully distribute energy solutions, working with the government.

“We can build on needed integration efforts, such as the West African Power Pool, which was established 25 years ago to extend the benefits of clean and affordable energy across the continent,” she stressed.

The World Bank further estimated that with about $30 billion in its IDA support through 2030, translating to $5 billion a year, it could facilitate energy access to 300 million people by the end of the decade across Africa, including 100 million in West end Central Africa.

Earlier in his welcome speech, Edun noted that the meeting was holding against the backdrop of global and localised challenges across the region and that African countries must find ways to deal with them.

“The meeting is essentially to discuss the major financing round that is coming from the World Bank, major concessional, cheap funding for the West Africa and Central African countries, and the poor countries in general. And this is focusing on the International Development Association.

“So, we are here to discuss that funding, electricity access, social safety nets, digitalisation and generally, the major issues that affect poor countries and the major role that the World Bank, as a trusted development partner can play.