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07.06.2007 General News

Africa needs to integrate - Zoellick


Robert B. Zoellick, US President George Bush's nominee for the World Bank presidency has called on African countries to integrate as a pre-requisite to get the attention and adequate support of the global economy.

He said it was difficult for the multilateral organisations and the large-scale financiers of development projects in the developing world to deal with small and fragmented countries such as were in Africa.

"It is the expectation of the World Bank and other multilateral financiers to see African countries focus on common goals and have an integrated and regional approach to dealing with their challenges because it makes it easier for the financiers," he said.

Mr. Zoellick made the remark during his familiarisation tour of Ghana where he met with the Ministers of Finance of Ghana, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire and of Burkina Faso and discussed not countries but regional dimension of projects such as the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP) among others.

His visit was part of a two-week duty tour that would take him to Ethiopia, South African and later on to parts of Europe and Latin America.

Whilst in Ghana he also met with the Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama, the Minister of Energy, Joseph Addah, the Chairman of Public Utilities Regulation Commission (PURC), Kwame Pianim, and with some civil society organisations all behind closed doors.

Mr. Zoellick said he chose to start his duty tour from Africa because he had had 20 years working experience in various capacities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

"I started from Ghana in particular because of the political and economic stability in Ghana and also because of Ghana's current position as Chair of the African Union.

"I came to listen and learn from African leaders and from regional institutions in Africa," he said. "I am just a nominee and it is up to the peoples of the world to decide if they want me or not."

He said since he arrived in Ghana he had not specifically asked for the support of African leaders to concretise his appointment but he was confident of their support.

Mr. Zoellick noted that his brief meetings with African leaders in Ghana was an eye opener for him in that he had understood that Africans had their own understanding and approach to various challenges and issues facing them, different from what the rest of the world thought.

He said, for example, he realised that in Cote d'Ivoire, there was a clear distinction between government's understanding of peace process and their understanding of conflict resolution, which for the rest were the same.

"In my opinion, I think the world must begin to listen to and work with Africans the more in trying to deal with challenges facing Africans," he said. "Africa's problems can best be solved from within and not from without."

He said though African countries were trying to deal with challenges of providing adequate education, health, food, energy and shelter for its people, there was a need to focus more on infrastructure development like roads as a catalyst to achieving the other goals.

Mr. Zoellick touched on the issue of strings attached to money lent to African countries by the World Bank and said there was need for some performance standards in African countries and in African regional institutions as far as the application of loans from the World Bank was concerned.

He said to the extent that the World Bank must account to its lenders, its beneficiaries needed to also show signs of prudent and judicious application of funds from the World Bank.

Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, the Minister of Finance, told journalists that since the World Bank had no instruments that support individual countries but regional projects, it was only instructive to focus on projects such as the WAGP among others to attract the World Bank's support.

He said a river had been discovered in Guinea that was big enough to generate hydroelectric energy to feed the whole of the sub-region with an investment of 80 billion dollars.

"We have mentioned that to Mr. Zoellick and we trust that it would be on his agenda when he finally takes office," he said.

Mr. Zoellick has since left for Ethiopia.

Source: GNA