Ousmane Diagana (World Bank): “Donors should invest in Africa’s agriculture”

The World Bank has already mobilized $5.1 billion for agriculture, as well as water mobilization and electrification in the Sahel, recalls its vice president for West and Central Africa.

What is the impact of the health crisis and the war in Ukraine?

These two crises are in addition to those related to climate change and conflicts in Africa. They undermine the momentum of ongoing structural reforms. Prior to the pandemic, West and Central Africa experienced a long period of growth that reduced the poverty rate to an average of 25-30%. Growth accelerated after the end of the pandemic (3.3% in 2021 and 4.3% expected in 2022) in these two regions, but remains insufficient due to population growth. We fear that the number of poor people (15 million people) will double because of the food crisis. Disruptions in logistics and supply chains have led to food shortages and price spikes. There is a risk of famine while food production is largely in short supply. Part of the population is likely to be forced to leave their land to live elsewhere. Given the difficulty in accessing fertilizers, agricultural production will decline. The World Bank is currently investing $570 million in irrigation programs around the Senegal River to improve food security. We ensure that the most vulnerable have access to social safety nets and assistance to fund their small economic activities.

Will donors massively reinvest in agriculture?

Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, a number of international initiatives have been taken to increase investment in agriculture. It is important to mobilize resources when few countries allocate 10% of their national budget to agricultural development in line with the Maputo Declaration. Agriculture should be included more in development programs, invest in training of technicians and product processing, improve resource management and finance the energy sector in order to have quality electricity at a low cost.

Should intensive farming or farming programs be promoted?

We must find the right balance between modernizing farms and supporting family farms. First of all, we must not abandon smallholders. Reflections on the transformation of agriculture must be carried out globally, taking into account this parameter.

Lack of resources exacerbates conflicts between farmers and pastoralists…

These historical tensions have been exacerbated by both poorly managed development policies and climate impacts. Pastoralists face difficulties in accessing transhumance corridors. It is important to rework livestock rights of way to pacify relations with farmers. The World Bank is funding a major regional pastoral development program in the Sahel to create a platform for dialogue between pastoralists and farmers. It is also necessary to provide support to livestock breeders in caring for their livestock and processing livestock products.

“The educational offer should be regulated and organized at the state level, in particular through the creation of joint training programs. Also need to improve technical and vocational education, poor education attitude. General education of poor quality, which then seeps into the university.”

African leaders condemn broken financial promises after COP 21…

Many promises have been made, but much remains to be done to fulfill them. Our institution is trying to go beyond its promised commitments by funding the Great Green Wall and programs to reduce deforestation. With an initial plan of $14 billion, the World Bank has already mobilized $5.1 billion for agriculture, water mobilization, and electrification in the Sahel.

Doesn’t demographics call for more investment in education?

Another, more serious crisis is looming, the learning crisis. Children go to school and usually complete the course. But the classes are overcrowded, and the level of preparation is extremely low. Invested resources do not lead to improved skills. This creates social tension. Population growth is very strong, at 3.1%. This means doubling the population every twenty years. With an economic growth rate of around 4%, development is very low. Investment in education is insufficient by international standards, accounting for about 3% of national budgets. These efforts are poorly distributed between primary, secondary and higher education. And the money is mostly allocated to recurring expenses like payroll and running costs. Little money is allocated for education. Additional resources are needed, including through replenishment of the Global Education Partnership. We have made this a priority and have carried out a diagnosis of education systems in the Sahel. The conflicts have led to the closure of many classrooms, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso. We met in Nouakchott last December to make changes: implementing education policy with communities and the private sector, training teachers, providing learning materials, creating second chance schools. On June 28, we brought together Ghana’s education ministers to endorse this strategy.

More and more parents are sending their children to madrasas and private schools. How to return the state system to the center of the educational project?

Parents manage as best they can and send their children to accessible institutions, often in madrasahs. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the educational offer should be regulated and organized at the state level, in particular through the creation of joint training programs. Also need to improve technical and vocational education, poor education attitude. General education of low quality, which is then transferred to the university. Many students are sent to literary streams. We must develop education in science and technology and restore a taste for these subjects from an early age.

“Many Afro-pessimists view demographics solely in terms of problems. Demographics should be understood in terms of opportunities. The African population is young and dynamic. Investing in youth will enable Africa to position itself in the concert of nations.”

How to deal with rampant urbanization?

Conflicts force part of the rural population to migrate to the outskirts of large cities. Their installation is usually carried out in an anarchic way in a poorly controlled urbanization. This then becomes a factor in increasing poverty, while the city should be the center of wealth creation. Of course, it is necessary to strengthen the policy of regional development and access to basic social services (water, electricity, transport). We must also focus our actions on the development of secondary cities in order to absorb some of the population movements. Finally, prevention needs to be strengthened in large cities, which are particularly vulnerable to climate change, in particular to terrible floods in the coastal zone.

Should family planning be reintroduced?

This is a religiously sensitive topic. It remains a priority for donors to control the impact of demographics. The best way is to fund women’s empowerment programs. Our approach has changed a lot in recent years. It is based on partnerships with opinion leaders such as religious and family leaders. When the latter are aware, it is easier to organize a better regulation of population growth. Some examples should be continued, in particular the school for husbands in Niger. Many African pessimists view demographics solely in terms of problems. Demographics should be understood in terms of opportunities. The African population is young and dynamic. Investing in youth will position Africa in the community of nations.

Development Specialist

A polyglot (French, English, Arabic, Soninke, Fulani and Wolof), Ousmane Diagana has dual experience in economics and education policy. A citizen of Mauritania, he joined the World Bank in 1992. Appointed as the institution’s Vice President in 2020, he coordinates relationships with 22 countries in West and Central Africa and manages a portfolio of projects, technical assistance and financial resources worth more than $40 billion. dollars.