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Development Aid

World Bank pledges aid for Great Lakes region

On a trip to Africa's Great Lakes region, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim announced 1 billion dollars would be made available for development projects. Meanwhile fighting has resumed in eastern DRC.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon are on a three-day trip to the Great Lakes region in central Africa.

Speaking in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kim announced that the World Bank would make $1 billion (770 million euros) available for development projects in the region.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim (Photo: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

World Bank President Kim says people in the Great Lakes region need to be helped

The World Bank's website quotes Kim as saying that a secure and developed Great Lakes region is vital to Africa's efforts to dramatically reduce extreme poverty and "improve the lives of people who have suffered for far too long."

The announcement was made on the first day of a first joint United Nations/World Bank Group mission to the region.

Maktar Diop, the World Bank's Vice President for Africa, is part of the joint delegation. He stressed the benefits of increased cross-border trade.

"There will be very large economic pay-offs if we can all help to make border crossings easier and faster for people and their goods to move from one country into another," he said.

Peace dividend

Speaking in Kinshasa, the UN Secretary General welcomed the World Bank pledge.

"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," Ban ki-Moon said.

He was referring to a UN-brokered peace deal signed in February 2013 by 11 African countries which was designed to bring peace and stability to the eastern DRC following an uprising by M23 rebels.

Ban said "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."

Wrong way round?

Pascal Kambale, Deputy director of the Africa Governance and Advocacy Project, takes a skeptical view of what the new funding could achieve. In an interview with DW, he said a lot of money had already been poured into the Great Lakes region and into individual countries by the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Union, among others.

There have been no concrete benefits in terms of economic, political or peace gains, he said. Kambale puts this down to a "flawed assumption which the donor community makes about the Great Lakes. The predominant assumption has been that development will bring peace."

In fact, Kambale said, it is the other way round. "Development will come only if peace is there."

The World Bank's $1 billion dollar pledge was overshadowed by news of fresh fighting in eastern DRC. M23 militia forces clashed with government troops for the first time since the ceasefire entered into effect.

Ban and Kim are scheduled to visit Goma, the main city in the east, on Thursday.

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