Sierra Leone’s Minister of Finance, Sheku A.F. Bangura, Calls for Increased Budget Support for Low-Income Countries

On Thursday, 9th February, in Abuja, Nigeria, the Minister of Finance, Sheku A.F. Bangura, joined other ministers of finance from the West and Central African regions in a roundtable to discuss how they can engage and support a successful financing and policy package for IDA-21, the grand development priorities in the region, and the ongoing evolution of the World Bank.

The roundtable meeting in Abuja was convened following recent ones held by African governments, including the Heads of States meeting to discuss the need for additional concessional resources (Abidjan, July 2021), Heads of States summit for the IDA-20 launch (Dakar, July 2022), and the World Bank and IMF Governors meeting on new modalities and mechanisms to finance economic development in Africa (July 2023, Praia).

Giving his opening remarks as co-chair of the meeting, the Nigerian Minister of Finance, Wale Edun, said that following the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing macroeconomic challenges faced by many countries, additional concessional financing from the World Bank would be beneficial for countries to achieve their development goals.

He added that as African leaders engage the World Bank on the new funding and policy package for IDA-21, they remain committed to strengthening their partnership with the bank to improve the lives of citizens in the continent.

Sierra Leone’s Minister of Finance, Sheku A.F. Bangura, expressed that the World Bank has an unmatched advantage of sharing knowledge, convening power and providing resources to support the economic transformation of the West and Central Africa regions.

The Minister highlighted that the World Bank should seek to bring along countries in their reform efforts by providing increased budget support to create the fiscal space required for governments to deliver their development programmes. According to the Minister, this is particularly crucial when countries deal with macroeconomic challenges and other related crises.

Minister Bangura also acknowledged the rising debt levels many countries are saddled with and that current support received is sometimes swapped up by debt repayments to the bank.  The Minister noted that the debt remains a huge challenge, depleting resources needed for investment in sectors that spur growth and development.

Contributing to the discussion, World Bank Managing Director for Operations, Anna Bjerde, said that the institution remains committed to moving from “ambition” to “reality” in its support of countries by expanding electricity access, addressing food security, scaling up social protection, primarily through cash transfers, and promoting the digital economy. She expressed that as part of the World Bank’s role of making investments to achieve long-term prosperity, the bank’s funding to Africa had risen from $10bn in 2010 to $28bn in 2024.

The Operations MD reaffirmed the commitment of the World Bank to raise resources for IDA-21 and build stronger partnerships, especially in mobilising private sector participation. “The bank will also continue to use specialised windows to support conflict prevention and regional integration”, she said.

The contribution from other ministers and dignitaries in the roundtable underscored the importance of critical priority areas such as human capital development and job creation, improving macroeconomic conditions, strengthening revenue mobilisation efforts, investment in infrastructure and financing through the private sector.

Delivering the closing statement, Vice President of Western and Central Africa, World Bank and co-chair of the event, Ousmane Diagana, articulated that the bank’s evolution process reflects the development needs of countries and the ideas of African countries will be vital to ensuring the achievement of the listed priorities. Participating governments will hold a follow-up meeting on 26th February 2024 to discuss the next steps in the process.

Following the roundtable discussions, the participating Ministers of Finance and staff of the World Bank held a closed-door meeting with the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to discuss cross-cutting issues of development and concessional financing for West and Central Africa.

As part of the replenishment process, IDA donor partners, representatives from borrower countries, and World Bank management come together once every three years to determine IDA policies and top up IDA funds. IDA-21 will run from July 2025 to June 2028, and the final replenishment package is expected to be announced in December 2024.

©MOF Communications