Usman Diagana (World Bank): “donors should invest in African agriculture”

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

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

These two crises complement the crises related to climate change and conflicts in Africa. They undermine the momentum of the started structural reforms. Before the pandemic, West and Central Africa had experienced a long period of growth that had reduced poverty to an average of 25-30%. Growth in these two regions has accelerated since the end of the pandemic (3.3% in 2021 and 4.3% expected in 2022), but it remains insufficient due to population growth. We fear that the number of poor people (15 million people) will double due to the food crisis. Disruptions in logistics and supply chains have led to product shortages and skyrocketing prices. There are risks of famine, while food production is largely deficient. Part of the population will probably be forced to leave their land to live elsewhere. Given the difficulty of accessing fertilizers, the level of agricultural production will fall. The World Bank is currently investing US$570 million, particularly in irrigation programs around the Senegal River, to improve food security. We ensure that the most vulnerable segments of the population have access to social safety nets and assistance to finance their small economic activities.

Will donors massively reinvest in agriculture?

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

Should intensive farming or agricultural programs be encouraged?

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

Scarcity of resources is again giving rise to conflicts between farmers and pastoralists…

These historical tensions have been exacerbated by both mismanaged development policies and climate impacts. Cattle herders face difficulties in accessing the race corridors. It is important to redesign the livestock lanes to calm relations with farmers. The World Bank is financing a major regional pastoral development program in the Sahel countries to create a framework for dialogue between pastoralists and farmers. It is also necessary to provide support to livestock farmers in the care of livestock and processing of livestock products.

“The educational offer must be regulated and organized at the state level, in particular through the creation of joint training programs. It is also necessary to improve technical and vocational education, the poor ratio of education. General education is of poor quality, which then trickles down to the university”

African leaders decry broken funding pledges after COP 21…

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

Doesn’t demographics demand more investment in education?

Another more serious crisis is brewing – the education crisis. Children go to school and usually finish it. But the classes are overcrowded, and the level of training is extremely low. Invested resources do not lead to improved skills. This creates social tension. Population growth is very high, by 3.1%. This means the population is doubling every twenty years. At a level of economic growth of about 4%, development is very low. Investments in education are insufficient by international standards, about 3% of the national budget. This effort is poorly distributed between primary, secondary and tertiary education. And the money is mainly allocated to current expenses such as salary and running costs. Little money is allocated for education. We need additional resources, including through replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education. We made it a priority and conducted a diagnosis of education systems in the Sahel. The conflicts have caused many classrooms to be closed, particularly in Mali and Burkina Faso. We met in Nouakchott last December to make changes: implementing education policies with communities and the private sector, training teachers, providing learning materials, creating second chance schools. We brought together education ministers in Ghana on June 28 to confirm this strategy.

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

Parents cope as best they can and send their children to affordable institutions, often to 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 co-educational programs. It is also necessary to improve technical and vocational education, the poor ratio of education. General education is of poor quality, which is then transferred to the university. Many students are directed to literary streams. We must develop science and technology education and rekindle a taste for these subjects from an early age.

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

How to deal with crazy urbanization?

Conflicts force part of the rural population to migrate to the outskirts of large cities. Their establishment usually takes place in an anarchic manner in poorly controlled urbanization. It then becomes a factor in the growth of 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 to absorb some of the population displacement. Finally, there is a need to strengthen prevention in large cities, which are particularly vulnerable to climate change, particularly to catastrophic flooding in the coastal zone.

Should the family planning policy be restarted?

This is a religiously sensitive topic. It remains a priority for donors to control the effects of demographics. The best way is to fund women’s empowerment programs. In recent years, our approach has changed significantly. It is based on partnerships with thought leaders such as religious and family leaders. With awareness of the latter, it is easier to organize better regulation of population growth. Some examples should be continued, including the school for men in Niger. Many Afro-pessimists see demography solely in terms of challenges. Demographics should be understood in terms of opportunities. The African population is young and dynamic. Investing in youth will allow Africa to position itself in the community of nations.

Development specialist

A polyglot (French, English, Arabic, Soninke, Fulani and Wolof), Usman Diaghana has a double degree in economics and education policy. A citizen of Mauritania, he joined the World Bank in 1992. Appointed Vice President of the institution in 2020, he coordinates relations with 22 West and Central African countries and manages a portfolio of projects, technical assistance and financial resources worth more than $40 billion. dollars