The cross : The donor countries of the World Bank announced on December 15 that they had raised 93 billion dollars to help poor countries, an amount that is a marked increase compared to past efforts. What convinced them to increase their contribution?
Axel van Trotsenburg: This is indeed a historically high amount. This sum was raised under the IDA fund, one of our main instruments for helping the poorest countries. In principle, this fund is recapitalized every three years.
But in agreement with the 55 donor countries and the Board of Directors of the World Bank, due to the effects of the pandemic, we have decided to recapitalize this fund after only two years and thus increase the amount of our investments. We are therefore making an extra effort for poor countries and in particular for Africa: 70% of the amounts of the IDA fund go to this continent.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the IDA fund has provided $38 billion to Africa. This massive transfer is an elementary gesture of solidarity with poor countries, in crisis due to the pandemic.
What are the effects of the pandemic in these fragile countries?
A. v. T.: First, the measures taken to slow down the epidemic caused a sharp reduction in tax revenues. And because of the slowdown in trade, we estimate that 120 million people have fallen into extreme poverty, that is to say find themselves on less than 1.90 dollars a day (2.16 €). For the first time in 20 years, poverty is increasing in the world. And Africa suffered its first recession in 25 years last year, so disposable income per capita fell.
Africa has been left out of the vaccination campaign, which we find unacceptable. There was an objective to arrive this year, in each country of the world, at least 40% of vaccinated population. This threshold has been reached in many countries, but not in Africa. A second objective is to reach 70% of the population vaccinated by the middle of next year… It is necessary to mobilize for this objective to be achieved.
To achieve this, the World Bank is mobilizing by supporting the strengthening of health systems and the deployment of vaccination. It is a long-term commitment. We are also working through IFC, our private sector financing arm, to build local vaccine production capacity. There are already plans to develop manufacturing labs in South Africa, Senegal and Rwanda.
Who is responsible for this delay in vaccination?
A. v. T.: In the face of a crisis, there is no point in blaming anyone. A multitude of factors have intervened, and no one person can be named responsible. There is of course the fact that the industrialized countries wanted to have the vaccine first. It’s a reality. As a result, underdeveloped countries did not have access to vaccination at the same time. This is the main problem. But we must also add the logistical problems, very real.
→ ANALYSIS. Will the vaccination of the countries of the South finally be able to take off?
Around 12 billion doses of vaccines will have been produced in 2021 worldwide by laboratories. Next year it will be double. Things should therefore be able to change and we must support countries so that they are ready to massively inject these vaccines into their populations.
How does the World Bank manage to be present in Afghanistan, without discussing directly with the Taliban?
A. v. T.: Before last August, we had a very large aid program for Afghanistan. The World Bank helped finance up to 30% of the country’s budget, supporting essential government functions. For example, it covered 80% of health expenditure. If we withdraw from this country, it will be a real problem. This is why we have worked with donors to see how to continue to help the population.
Afghanistan is currently experiencing a very serious humanitarian crisis. 22 million people find themselves in serious food insecurity. We have to help the Afghans get through the winter. This is why we have chosen to resume our support by contributing to the World Food Fund and Unicef, two UN agencies with which we work and which are still present in the country.
Last December 10, we approved the transfer of 100 million dollars to Unicef and 180 million dollars to the Food Fund. We considered this support to be both important and necessary.