Newly appointed World Bank president Dr Jim Yong Kim, who visited South Africa on Thursday as part of a larger African tour, said the bank stood ready to support Africa’s largest economy in its efforts towards improving social inclusion through higher levels of, as well as more inclusive, growth.
Kim took over leadership of the development finance institution in July and his missions to Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa in early September marked his first official visits outside the US since taking over from Robert Zoellick.
South Africa’s success was important for the “region, the continent and the world” and, thus, a priority for the World Bank, notwithstanding the country’s middle-income status.
The Washington-based institution would start engagements soon on a new country strategy for South Africa, which was likely to be aligned to South Africa R3.2-trillion, multidecade infrastructure plan. But it would also place emphasis on improving policy implementation and service delivery.
Addressing the media following meetings with President Jacob Zuma and eight Cabinet Ministers, in Pretoria, Kim said he was “deeply impressed” by South Africa’s level of analysis, policy and planning.
The focus, however, needed to shift to ensuring that its good policy was implemented – a theme that would form the basis of the future structure of the bank’s relationship with South Africa.
“We had a very intensive discussion on how the World Bank and South Africa could work together on improving implementation and delivery,” Kim said, adding that the World Bank had extensive experience in improving implementation in a number of other countries.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who together with World Bank VP for Africa Makhtar Diop flanked Kim at the briefing, said South Africa was optimistic that, under Kim, the bank would help find “new and different answers” to the world’s inclusive-growth dilemma.
Gordhan hoped that South Africa would become a “laboratory of good practice and innovation”, particularly in the areas of employment creation generally, and youth employment in particular.
Even more than its financial resources, Gordhan said government was keen to draw on the bank’s technical expertise. But he did not discount seeking further financial assistance, but only if “we absolutely need it.”
“What we do need in South Africa are efficient delivery systems so that intentions and policies begin to be converted, very efficiently, into actions on the ground,” Gordhan said.
In the infrastructure environment, that meant improving the sequencing and coordination of projects and developing visibility around a “10 to 20 year pipeline of projects”.
Diop indicated that the bank also planned to collaborate with South Africa to support key African Union-backed regional infrastructure projects, particularly those in the area of energy.