World Bank magazine

Institutional magazines are at the worst a waste of money and frequently serve no further purpose than aggrandizing the noble leadership of said institution with managers pictured seated behind dark mahogany desks. So, I was pleasantly surprised by the recent bi-lingual World Bank magazine publication for Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Burkina Faso and Benin, ‘L’espoir’ (hope), now in its sixth edition and actually a very informative read.

Despite for example the current wind of optimism, I thought the following paragraph at the end of an article entitled ‘The Coalition of the International Community’ had an unusual bite (World Bank translation, refined by myself):

“But above all, the main requirement for getting effective support from the range of Cote d’Ivoire’s partners lies in the existence of a vision and a coherent strategy that will set forth how to translate this vision into real actions; a strategy which will have to be owned by the State and its constituent parts. If this vision has been formulated – and there is no doubt it has – the strategy remains a work in process. Despite official declarations, clarifications will have to be made between the PRSP (Poverty Reduction Stategy Paper) which, until further notice, remains the official reference document and which contains a Priority Action Programme (PAP); the PEP (Presidential Emergency Programme), which given the speed of its implementation seems no longer to be judged urgent; and the National Development Plan (NDP) which was initiated recently by the government. This multiplication of initiatives certainly shows a desire to do well, but amid the polyphony and the cacophony, there needs to be a symphony.”

Another article caught my attention in the magazine, ‘Cote d’Ivoire – the time for major reforms’, which hasn’t been translated into English. Here are some extracts:

Reforms “will be painful in many respects, but this will be the price worth paying to allow the country to again be what it should never have stopped being” [i.e. economically successful].

On planned cocoa reforms; “There are two main things to note in this crisis-hit sector – i) the farmer isn’t getting a fair remuneration for his labour ii) despite everything going on between the farmer and the port, the actors of the sector were able to export over a million tons of cocoa during a military-political crisis, proof if anything is, that the sector isn’t completely dysfunctional.” Cocoa reforms, the bank notes, need to i) give farmers a higher price, farmers get “up to now around 40% of the world price, compared to 60-70% in neighbouring Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon” ii) lower taxes and levies in line with the 22% of the world price target, and “iii) the establishment of ‘lighter’ management institutions (why not just an inter-professional body?) that are transparent in their functioning”. Ivorian productivity is estimated at 350-400 kg per hectare per year compared to 900-1200 in Malaysia and Indonesia.

And finally, the following note on the port; “The other major area with lots at stake, is the port of Abidjan. A real hub for many countries in West Africa, the port was the object of a first reform, which among other things led to the concession of the container terminal at the end of 2003. Despite the controversy of this move, the container port has become the highest-performing along all the African Atlantic coast, up to Durban, with a working speed of 23-30 containers an hour. But paradoxically, as a recent World Bank study showed on the sources of Ivorian growth, the port is one of the least competitive in West Africa because of harassments of all kinds, the costs of moving goods, and the obstacles to foreign trade. So, the container transit times are around 9-12 days, as opposed to 2 days at the port of Dakar. The overall costs of sending goods through Abidjan to Burkina Faso is 16% more expensive than from Lome [Togo] and 40% more expensive than Tema in Ghana. Overall, the port of Abidjan is estimated to be 35% more expensive than Lome. This situation is due to, among other things, the number of different hoops to jump through at the port and above all the omnipresence and omnipotence of the customs service. The reduction of steps, the creation of a real Unique Office for External Commerce (GUCE) would lead to both reduction of costs and the length of time it takes. If these changes were made, it would allow the port of Abidjan to become competitive again and become an effective hub. But all the time Tema, Lome, Cotonou and even Dakar are improving their performances. The competition is tough and Abidjan is handicapped by the prohibitive costs of racketing and bribery of all types on the transit of goods between Ivory Coast and its neighbours.”

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The World Bank’s Durable Development coordinator here, Daniel Sellen, is leaving the country after four years. I’ve been repeatedly told by World Bank staff that he is one of the most popular bloggers at the bank. Sadly, all this blogging is internal, so we’re in no position to judge, though the posts I have been able to see are very well done #missed_opportunity

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