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By Godfrey Olukya 22-5-2013

World Bank has today announced US$1 billion pledge to Africa’s great lakes region, targeting energy, roads, agriculture, cross-border trade, health and Jobs.

This comes on the first day of an historic joint United Nations/World Bank Group mission to the Great Lakes region, the World Bank Group announced $1 billion in proposed new funding to help countries in the region provide better health and education services, generate more cross-border trade, and fund hydroelectricity projects in support of the Great Lakes peace agreement that was signed by 11 countries in February.

World Bank Group President Dr. Jim Yong Kim, who is traveling with the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, on a three-day trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda, said that a secure and developed Great Lakes region was vital to Africa’s efforts to
dramatically reduce extreme poverty and create prosperity for millions who have had little economic opportunity.

‘We made extraordinary efforts to secure an additional $1 billion in funding because we believe this can be a major contributor to a lasting peace in the Great Lakes region, Kim said. ‘This funding will help revitalize economic development, create jobs, and improve the lives of people who have suffered for far too long. Now the leaders of the Great Lakes region, by restarting economic activity and improving livelihoods in border areas, can boost confidence, build economies, and give new opportunities for millions of people.’he added.

Kim said the new regional pledge, in zero-interest financing from the International Development Association or IDA, will support two major regional development priorities: recovery of livelihoods to reduce the vulnerability of people living in the Great Lakes whose communities have suffered greatly during conflict in the region; and revitalizing and expanding cross-border economic activity to spur greater opportunity and integration in the areas of agriculture, energy, transport and regional trade.

The World Bank’s proposed additional funding includes roughly $100 million for supporting agriculture and rural livelihoods for 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 for the rehabilitation of the Ruzizi I and II hydroelectric
projects and financing for Ruzizi III, supplying electricity for Rwanda, Burundi, and DRC; $165 million toward building roads in DRC’s North and South Kivu and Province Orientale; $180 million for improving infrastructure and border management along the Rwanda-DRC border; and additional millions of dollars for public health laboratories, fisheries, and trade facilitation programs among others.

While other parts of sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing high growth rates, countries of the Great Lakes region have had extremely high levels of poverty and very low levels of key services such as access to electricity.

Yields from agriculture also are typically quite low. A key part of the World Bank Group’s development approach to the region is to increase power generation and inter-connectivity to take advantage of low-cost and renewable sources of hydropower and geothermal energy.

Developing the hydro power potential in DRC, in particular, will provide Burundi and Rwanda
access to low-cost power and a stake in regional stability. Currently, there is no regional grid and very limited inter-connectivity between countries in the region.

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, warmly welcomed the World Bank Group pledge.

Ban Ki-moon said,’Many countries in Africa are taking dynamic forward strides, and now the people of the Great Lakes region, especially the DRC, deserve their full chance for progress. A peace agreement must deliver a peace dividend. That is why Dr. Jim Kim and I are making
this visit. We see a horizon of hope for the people of the Great Lakes, and we are determined to help them every step of the way.’

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