New World Bank chief starts Africa tour in Ivory Coast

By IndepthAfrica
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Sep 5th, 2012
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President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim (L) speaks during a press conference with I. Coast president Alassane Ouattara (AFP, Issouf Sanogo)

The new president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, began an African tour Tuesday with a call to Ivory Coast to “choose peace” in order to foster economic growth.

Kim, 52, a Korean-American physician and anthropologist, took up his functions at the beginning of July. On Tuesday evening he met Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara for talks followed by a dinner.

“I could see today all around me the evidence of peace — what we know is that with peace, there can be rapid economic growth,” the World Bank chief told reporters after the talks.

“In order for a country to have sustainable growth, it must include women and especially it must include jobs for young people,” he added. “We need Cote d’Ivoire to be successful.”

Ouattara, a former deputy managing director of the IMF, expressed the hope that the World Bank would show “great flexibility” and “substantially increase” economic aid into the country, which he said had made all the necessary reforms to move from recession last year to eight percent growth this year.

The Ivorian leader also welcomed the fact that Kim had chosen to make Africa his first port of call in his new post.

In a statement earlier Tuesday, Kim explained that “reducing poverty and creating opportunity for people to succeed are vital to the World Bank Group’s mission and I plan to continue to strengthen our work towards these goals.

“For this reason I chose Africa for my first official visit as World Bank Group President, recognising the priority given by the continent’s governments to faster growth and less poverty.”

In his talks with Ouattara, who currently heads the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Kim reviewed regional crises and the way the World Bank can best support their resolution.

He also asked his host about the progress on security and reconciliation in Ivory Coast, where Ouattara came to power in April 2011 after a serious political and military crisis that cost some 3,000 lives in four months after his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to admit defeat in elections.

The World Bank group has invested about $1 billion (793 million euros) in development programmes in the west African country.

Kim was also scheduled to meet “women leaders to discuss the importance of women to the country’s efforts to create jobs, open more businesses, and achieve lasting reconciliation and development in the former war-torn country,” the bank said.

He will also “meet unemployed young people, including former soldiers, who are learning new job skills in a World Bank-financed training program,” as well as visiting an industrial zone for small and medium-sized companies.

The World Bank chief will leave Abidjan on Wednesday for South Africa, where he is scheduled to meet President Jacob Zuma.AFP

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