World Bank president pays first visit to Africa | Africa | DW | 10.09.2012
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World Bank president pays first visit to Africa

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim chose Africa for his first official overseas trip. The visit is being seen as the first step towards improving relations between the World Bank and the continent.

During his three-day visit to Africa, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Africa is a "top priority." He said he was "deeply committed to the growth and success of Africa." Kim's visit started in Ivory Coast and ended in South Africa. It was his first trip overseas since being appointed head of the World Bank.

A new beginning

Kim's visit to Africa is being seen as the start of a new era in the relationship between the World Bank and the African continent, and as a sign that the World Bank's view of Africa is gradually changing. "I believe that the World Bank is beginning to understand that there more opportunities than risks in Africa," said Ralf Wittek, West Africa regional director of the Hanns Seidel Foundation, in an interview with DW.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara. (AP Photo/Fred Dufour, Pool)

I vorian President Alassane Ouattara will host the next UN conference on development cooperation

For over ten years, small and large business nations have been active in Africa, he said. "Europe should watch out that it doesn't get left behind."

Babacar Gueye agrees. He is a political scientist and director of the Institute for Legal Studies in Dakar, Senegal. He says that, over the years, Africa has changed and that has affected the way it is seen by the rest of the world.

"20 years ago, Africa was seen as the continent of war. Today that's different. Continents such as America and Europe have reached a maximum level of development but Africa is still developing and there is a lot of potential."

Priority for larger economies

The World Bank president selected two important African economies for his trip. Ivory Coast accounts for 40 percent of the African continent's economic performance. This makes it the continent's second largest economic power. The country which witnessed a bloody power struggle in December 2010, now has become relatively calm.

South African President Jacob Zuma. Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/GettyImages)

South African President Jacob Zuma heads Africa's leading economy

In addition to President Alassane Ouattara and other ministers, the World Bank president also met with former combatants, who were involved in the unrest in 2010. They are now participating in a training program funded by the World Bank. While in South Africa, Africa's leading economy, Jim Yong Kim met with President Jacob Zuma and several ministers.

Another view of Africa

Experts hope that Jim Yong Kim's visit to Africa will enhance the relationship between the World Bank and the African continent. After 20 years of misguided development policy, says Ralf Witteck, the World Bank should cast aside its idea of acquiring influence by "scattering a large sum of money and granting generous credits."

The World Bank needs a more focused approach, with greater participation by civil societies, Witteck says. Jim Yong Kim's announcement that the next United Nations conference on the financing of development cooperation is to be held lager this year in Ivory Coast, boosts hopes of a lastin g improvement in the relationship between the World Bank and Africa. Up to now, the conference has always been held in Washington.

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