- Pledges to uphold social, environmental safeguards intact
Introducing a five-year Country Partnership Framework (CPF) where the World Bank Group aligns its development financing activities with the country’s strategies, it announced that active projects worth USD 13 billion are currently operational in Ethiopia.
Earlier this week, during a media roundtable, Carolyn Turk, country director of the WBG for Ethiopia and South Sudan, said that for the newly launched CPF, the bank has committed USD 4.7 billion bringing the total value of bank’s portfolio in Ethiopia to USD 13 billion, mostly availed from the International Development Association (IDA)- part of the WBG which provides the poorest countries of the world with concessional loans.
The newly approved CPF focuses on the socioeconomic and developmental aspects of the country including service delivery in areas such as education, health, social protection, water supply and sanitation, natural resources and environmental safeguards. Replacing the previous Country Partnerships Strategy (CPS), the CPF has taken into account the need to better measure outcomes and impacts of the intervention the bank undertakes in Ethiopia.
In the energy sector, the CPF aims to assist the government of Ethiopia in doubling the number of people with access to electricity. In education sector, the goal is set to achieve better learning outcomes for girls and achieve gender parity.
That being noted, Turk and her team have also been cognizant of the challenges they have been facing in this country. Accountability and corruption are some of the setbacks, according to her. Addressing the problem of child malnourishment, stunning and food insecurity requires huge resources and efforts, she noted.
According to the country director, some 14 million people have been under the radar for protection against food insecurity in Ethiopia, so far. These and many similar projects have paid huge dividend in terms of helping the country become one of the fast-growing economies in the world. Yet again, there are some challenges. The bank was under the spotlight in relation to the contested villagization programs in Gambela region.
According to the allegations, the regional government’s strategy for improving access to basic services was incorporated in the Villagization Program Action Plan of 2010, and that the planned resettlement envisaged moving 45,000 households, which is close to 70 percent of all the households in Gambela. The regional government also reported that the program formally ended in mid-2013, after resettling a total of 37,883 or approximately 60 percent of households in Gambela. Following a 2014 report, which was launched by an independent inspection panel, the bank’s board of directors was forced to address the matter and explain the alleged support for such projects which are believed to jeopardize social and environmental safeguards.
Turk says that these kind of incidents are quite rear. “We adhere to bank’s commitment and set of standards and thorough scrutinizing of projects for possible impacts on societies and environments,” she stresses. According to Turk, it has taken time to build the capacity of Ethiopia authorities with regards to social and environmental safeguards.
In terms of the bank’s portfolio, Ethiopia ranks relatively higher compared with many countries in the Africa region. By the end of 2017, USD 1.2 billion is expected to be disbursed to Ethiopia. Last year, USD 1.3 billion was released, representing a 33 percent increase from previous fiscal years. While the progresses with the targets of CPS have found to be mostly satisfactory, the bank is said to be working to maintain collaborations with the country until it attains improvements in eradicating poverty and shared prosperity.