As we reflect on the promise of the New Year in Africa, the irrefutable link between peace and development has never been clearer after my recent travels.
Earlier this month, I joined leaders from 53 African nations, the United Nations, and the African and European Unions at the Elysee Summit for Peace and Security in Africa to talk candidly about how our countries can work together to maintain and enhance peace.
We talked about what this would mean in practice. For example, we must curb drug trafficking on the continent, increase financing for African peacekeeping operations, fight terrorism, manage borders more securely, include women fully in the political and economic decision-making process, and condemn the intolerable persistence of sexual violence when conflicts do occur. This last measure was strongly endorsed by the First Ladies of the Summit who also met to discuss issues of gender, development, and women’s rights.
The African leaders recognize that for many of these measures to work, economic development must be twinned with public and private investment in business, technology, agriculture, climate-smart policies, and in young people who are fast becoming Africa’s driving force and future. Africa is now the world’s youngest continent and how well we meet the skills needs of our young people will greatly determine the continent’s future.
Peace and development was also on the mind of World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim in May of this year when, together with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, we traveled to Africa’s Great Lakes region to reaffirm our two institutions’ commitment to do whatever it takes to end poverty and build prosperity for the millions of people who live in this resource-rich part of Africa, but who have suffered from years of conflict.
The two world leaders traveled again last month, this time to the Sahel, to draw attention to the economic and security challenges facing this highly vulnerable region, notably livelihoods for pastoralists, ways to improve irrigation and in turn agricultural output and food security, and addressing the demographic challenge of reducing world-high rates of fertility and the impact of women’s and girls’ economic opportunities.
On both occasions the message was clear: peace will not happen without development, and development will not happen without peace.
This is a message that we at the World Bank will focus on heavily over the coming months through our work aimed at improving people’s lives by providing them with better access to quality health care and education, as well as to more nutritious food and better jobs. Health, education and productive work are proven assets in many countries to help repel conflict and enhance stability.
It was during my trip to the Elysee Summit that we learned of the passing of Nelson Mandela. Like you, I have been thinking deeply about how much he shaped and changed the history of our continent. His courage to stand up for his principles, even at a high personal cost, will remain an eternal example to humanity.
President Hollande opened the Elysee Summit with an inspiring tribute to this beloved man. It was one of the most moving experiences in my life to hear one African leader after another rise to their feet and speak about what the life and times of Nelson Mandela meant to them.
On my way to Uganda and Kenya several days later, to celebrate two major milestones in the development history of these two countries, I thought about how much President Mandela shaped and changed the history of our continent and also brought hope to the rest of the world that freedom cannot be indefinitely denied to oppressed people wherever they endure injustice and degradation.
I couldn’t help but think that Nelson Mandela would agree with the principle that an end to poverty must go hand-in-hand with peace and security for all people.
As we work toward this goal, I pledge my strongest support to African countries that continue to walk the long road as Mandela did. Countries such as Uganda and Kenya serve as an example of how Africans are changing their own story vastly for the better.
In my remarks to last week’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of Bank engagement with Uganda, the legacy of this past half-century is not what the Bank brought to Uganda, but what Uganda has taught us. Emerging from years of civil war, Uganda put in place the right policies and secured a firm social contract with its citizens, allowing for the transition towards higher, more sustained economic growth. Uganda was at the vanguard of the PRSP process – another valuable lesson to the Bank and development thinking writ large. The country devised its own development solutions, based on robust and inclusive consultations – which guided us in working more effectively with country counterparts.
As I told President Kenyatta at last week’s dedication of the new Bank Group building in Nairobi, we are proud to be associated with the spread of universal health care across Kenya, with the focus on the private sector as an engine of growth and with Kenya’s drive to be a middle income country in the next decade; and with home-grown institutions embodied in their constitution with devolved authority to local governments. With its emphasis on the “tea roads” more than four decades ago, Kenya inspired a generation of Bank work in Africa and elsewhere in the world, based on helping small farmers to increase productivity and incomes. We have also learned, through our engagement with Kenya, about the centrality of the private sector as the engine of growth. We owe a debt of gratitude to Kenya that this proposition of private sector-led growth, long accepted outside the continent, was shown to be possible in Africa.
This is what we want for all of Africa – peaceful resolution to conflict, home-grown development solutions, and inclusive, private sector-led growth.
I wish all of you restful and joyous celebrations with your families, safe travels, and an even greater year for the Africa Region in 2014.