World Bank pledges $1B for Great Lakes

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim (right) shakes hands with Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Augustin Matata Ponyo (middle) during their visit to the country on May 21, 2013. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) was also present. Photo by: World Bank Photo Collection / CC BY-NC-ND

The World Bank has high hopes for fragile states in one of Africa’s most conflict-ridden regions.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Wednesday pledged $1 billion for the Great Lakes region after meeting Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila, just two days after heavy fighting left 19 dead and 27 injured in the country.

Kim toured the DRC with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a show of commitment to help put into action a regional peace agreement signed in March by 11 African nations.

“The funding is for the governments of the DRC, Rwanda and Uganda [and] the project pipeline includes funding for fiscal years 2013, 2014 and 2015,” a World Bank spokesperson told Devex.

The International Development Assistance, the World Bank’s lending facility for the world’s poorest countries, will likely extend a combination of grants and interest-free credits to the three so-called fragile states.

“Our funding will be a combination of the two, and exact financing modalities will only become clear after project cofinanciers come together and agree on a financing package,” the spokesperson added.

The World Bank proposes to finance the following multiyear projects:

  • $100 million to support the livelihoods of internally displaced people and refugees in the region.

  • $340 million to support the 80-megawatt Rusumo Falls hydroelectric project for Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania.

  • $150 million to rehabilitate the Ruzizi I and II hydroelectric projects, and finance Ruzizi III for Rwanda, Burundi and DRC.

  • $165 million to build roads in the DRC provinces of North and South Kivu, and Province Orientale.

  • $180 million to improve infrastructure and border management along the Rwanda-DRC border.

  • Additional funding for public health laboratories, fisheries and trade facilitation programs.

Of the pipeline projects, the official explained that the most advanced is the $340 million, 80-megawatt Rusomo Falls hydroelectric dam due for board presentation in 2014.

Fragile states ripe for turnaround

The World Bank, according to the spokesperson, has identified the projects needed by the three countries based on the partnership strategies, which the bank has developed with the client governments, but the Washington, D.C.-based institution has has yet to put a concrete timetable for rolling out the projects.

“Each project has different preparation milestone,” the spokesperson said.

After Kim announced in April an ambitious plan to end extreme poverty by 2030, the bank’s vice president in charge of IDA replenishment told Devex that the target requires the World Bank to change the way it engages with fragile states, by being more flexible in terms of requirements and faster in rolling out projects, but at the same time, stricter in ensuring funds go to intended purpose.

Investing in fragile and conflict states is worthwhile because there are “opportunities for turnaround” and post-conflict development can be handled, even in the DRC, where there is ongoing conflict.

Two months ago, humanitarian assistance concerns flared up after at least 70 people died in clashes between the Congolese army and rebel groups allegedly supported by Rwanda, which prompted the United Kingdom to briefly suspend aid to the country.

Jim Yong Kim and Ban Ki-moon will travel next to Uganda and finally Rwanda before concluding their joint official trip to the Great Lakes region.

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About the author

  • Alliage profile

    John Alliage Morales

    As a staff writer, John Alliage Morales covers the Americas, focusing on the world's top donor hub, Washington, and its aid community - from Capitol Hill to Dupont Circle, Foggy Bottom to the downtown headquarters of USAID, the World Bank and Millennium Challenge Corp. Prior to joining Devex, Alliage worked for a variety of news outlets including GMA, the Philippine TV network, where he conducted interviews, analyzed data and produced in-depth stories on development and other topics.