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Dates of existence
The operations function of the World Bank has, in one form or another, been organized by geographic region throughout the Bank's history. While the units responsible for World Bank lending and technical assistance have changed frequently in name and status since the Bank began operations in 1946, the Africa Region (AFR) has remained relatively constant. One exception is the permanent transfer of responsibility for Northern African countries (specifically, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria) from AFR to the Middle East and North Africa Region (MNA) in 1968. Thus, from 1968 to the present the Bank's Africa Region consists exclusively of sub-Saharan African countries. Another exception was the separation of AFR into Eastern and Western African regions between 1968 and 1987.
1946 - 1952
Of the twenty-eight original International Bank of Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, also known as the World Bank) Articles of Agreement signatories, only three were African: South Africa, Ethiopia, and Egypt. While the Bank engaged with and, in a few instances, offered loans to non-member African countries over the next two decades, no other African countries joined the World Bank again until 1957 when the removal of colonial powers from the continent had begun.
Upon the Bank's opening in 1946, operational lending was executed out of the Loan Department (LOD). The LOD was responsible for developing loan operation policy, receiving and investigating loan inquiries, presenting loan inquiries to Bank management for consideration, and negotiating loans. The organizational structure of LOD fluctuated over its seven year history but was, for the majority of the time, organized geographically. The Bank's focus in these early years was on post-World War II reconstruction - particularly in Europe - and this is reflected by the initial divisional organization of the LOD. Of the seven original divisions, four dealt with Europe and two with the Western Hemisphere. One division was responsible for the two continents of Asia and Africa: the Asiatic-African Division.
In 1948, the seven divisions were briefly consolidated into two (the European and United Kingdom Division and the Latin American, Asiatic and African Division). Then, in November of 1948, divisions were abolished altogether, as loans were assigned to loan officers on an ad hoc basis. In 1950, LOD was again divided into three geographical areas: Latin America Division; Asia and the Middle East Division; and European Division. Noticeably, the African region was not represented at this time.
Parallel to the LOD was the Economic Department (ECD) which conducted sector analysis and research work. Between 1946 and 1952, the ECD was responsible for both functional and geographic analyses, i.e. general economic studies and country specific studies. ECD supported the LOD and its loan administration and advised member countries on their economic and sector development plans. The ECD also liaised with international organizations on economic research. It alsoprovided staff for Bank staff missions from the Bank's DC headquarters to countries to conduct both economic and project-focused research. Like the LOD, the organization of the ECD reflected the Bank's focus on post-war Europe. The Department initially consisted of three area divisions (with Africa located in its "Development Areas Division" alongside Latin America, the Middle East, and South Asia) and an Economic Technology Division responsible for specialized sector studies. In August 1948 a new organizational structure featuring two area divisions was installed. Area Division I was responsible for Europe and Area Division II was divided into four sections of which Africa and the Middle East was one. In March 1950 another reorganization divided the Department into an advisory staff and an area staff, the latter consisting of three divisions of which Europe and Africa was one.
While much of the Bank's initial attention was focused on post-war countries in Western Europe and the developing nations of South America, the Bank investigated possibilities for investment in Africa immediately upon beginning operations. The first mission to African countries occurred in March of 1950 when Vice President Robert Garner visited South Africa and Southern and Northern Rhodesia. That same month, the Bank sent a mission to Ethiopia to evaluate an application for funding. This six-week mission resulted in the first funding for an African country. Ethiopia received loans for two projects: Loan 0031 Highway Project (01) included $5 million for rehabilitation and maintenance of road system and Loan 0032 Development Bank Project included $2 million for a new development bank. World Bank loans for South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Southern Rhodesia followed in 1951 and 1952.
1952 - 1972
Largely due to an expansion in operations in less developed countries, a Bank-wide reorganization took effect in September of 1952. The new operational structure endured for the next twenty years. LOD staff were combined with the country-related staff from the ECD to form three distinct geographical Area Departments: Western Hemisphere (WHM); Europe, Africa and Australasia (EAA); and Asia and Middle East (AME). These units were primarily responsible for World Bank-member country relations. Functions included: loan policy and plan development; country development program appraisal and review; preparation of proposed loans; and country economic monitoring.
There was no formal divisional structure within EAA. The Department was led by A. S. G. Hoar between 1952 and 1955. Sydney Raymond Cope became Department Director in June of 1955. All three Area Departments reported to Vice President Robert Garner from 1952 to 1956. After Garner became President of the new International Finance Corporation (IFC) in 1956, the Area Departments reported to J. Burke Knapp and William Iliff.
As part of the 1952 reorganization, the sector-oriented staff of the former ECD formed the Technical Operations Department (TOD) in the new Area Departments and was placed in charge of project appraisal and supervision. Specifically, the TOD was responsible for: the appraisal of proposed projects; advising Area Departments on proposed projects and assisting in negotiations; supervising approved projects and assisting borrowers in procurement efforts; and monitoring and reporting on member countries' sector economies.
Bank operations in Africa continued to expand in subsequent years. In September 1953 the Bank's first General Survey Mission to an African country - Nigeria - was undertaken. In March 1955, funding for the first regional project in Africa was agreed upon. Loan 0110 Railways and Harbours Project financed harbor improvement of multiple ports on the east coast of the continent as well as four railway lines in the region. In 1960, the position of Special Representative for Africa was announced. The position, initially held by Henry R. Labouisse but replaced soon after by Leonard Rist, was responsible for keeping the Bank informed about developments in Africa and recommending approaches to be taken.
As African countries began to achieve independence in the 1950s, the Bank enjoyed a dramatic increase in membership by African countries beginning in 1957. Between 1957, when there were still only two sub-Saharan members, and 1967, 32 African countries joined the World Bank. By 1962, this increase of member countries in Africa, together with the attendant increase in lending activities, necessitated the split of the EAA. Two new departments were created out of the former EAA: the Department of Operations - Europe (EUP) and the Department of Operations - Africa (AFR). Pierre L. Moussa was named department director of AFR.
Resident country and regional missions were established in Africa beginning in 1964. That year, the World Bank opened its first African Resident Mission office in Ethiopia. An office in Nairobi, Kenya followed in 1965. In 1965 a West African office in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, was opened; an East African office in Nairobi, Kenya, opened the following year. The principal function of these regional offices was to assist these new members with the identification and preparation of development projects.
In 1965 the World Bank implemented a major reorganization of country groupings in its regional departments. AFR was not effected with the exception that northern African countries (including Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco) were moved into the Europe and Middle East Department (EME). Note that these countries have since remained in regional units responsible for Middle East countries. In 1965 the Department of Operations - Africa was also renamed the Africa Department (AFR). Abdel G. El Emary served as Department Director from 1965 to 1968.
In October 1968, due to the increased volume of lending operations anticipated over the next several years, the World Bank executed a major reorganization of its regional departments. Due to the rapid increase in African member countries in the 1960s, AFR was divided into two separate departments: Eastern Africa Department (EAF) and Western Africa Department (WAF). The functions of the two units remained unchanged from their predecessor. Each new department was composed of several divisions. EAF contained three divisions upon its creation and had increased to five by 1972. WAF contained five divisions during this period. EAF was led by Abdel G. El Emary from 1968 to 1970 and Michael L. Lejeune from 1970 to 1972. The Director of WAF was Roger Chaufournier from 1968 to 1972.
1972 - 1987
From the time he became World Bank president in 1968, President Robert McNamara led the Bank towards an increased focus on extreme poverty and an emphasis on the agricultural, rural, and transportation sectors. The agriculture sector had always been the primary focus of investment for the Bank in Africa, but in the 1970s this investment grew significantly. The types of agriculture, rural development, and transportation projects were also altered in terms of scope and scale. Whereas in the past many projects aimed to provide local and small-scale lending, in the 1970s lending began to support regional development projects, focusing on fertilizer use, the expansion of rural road networks, and agricultural research (often through the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research [CGIAR]).
McNamara's vision for the Bank was manifested in a massive, Bank-wide reorganization completed in 1972. As part of the reorganization, the geographic organization of the Regional units was again altered. The seven departments that made up the Area Departments were elevated to five Regional Vice Presidencies (RVP). The organization of Africa into two separate units was maintained in the form of the Eastern Africa Vice Presidency (EAN) and the Western Africa Vice Presidency (WAN). All RVPs reported to the new Senior Vice President, Operations (SVPOP).
A more significant aspect of the reorganization, however, was the integration of the former Technical Operations Department (renamed the Projects Division [PRJ] in 1965) with the new RVPs. The period between 1952 and 1972 had been characterized by frequent reorganizations of the geographically-based area units responsible for country liaison and loan policy and negotiation. However, the division of responsibility between these units and TOD/PRJ was maintained. But in 1972, in an attempt to more effectively fuse country knowledge and sectoral skills, the reorganization removed most of the Bank's operational project work from the Projects Department to the five new Regional Vice Presidencies. Staff from the former PRJ were distributed into the Regional Vice Presidencies and were organized into sector-oriented Project Departments and were known as Central Projects Staff. Thus, rather than one Projects Department that supported projects in countries on an ad hoc basis, each RVP would maintain its own projects staff. Each RVP was, in turn, given "line authority" to analyze, decide and act on country development operations. Each RVP was responsible for planning and executing IBRD/IDA development assistance programs subject to the overall framework of Bank policies, priorities, and operating procedures. The RVPs created regional plans and budgets, ensured the effective implementation of approved plans, created country economic and sector reports, and developed and implemented loan, credit, technical assistance, and other forms of development projects. The RVPs were also responsible for maintaining sound relations with governments of assigned countries and with aid organizations and donors involved in those countries.
Upon the completion of the 1972 reorganization, EAN and WAN consisted of two Country Program Departments in addition to the new Projects Department. The Country Program Departments were staffed by country economists and loan officers whose primary responsibilities were: conducting area reviews of Bank activities and countries' economic and political developments; formulating country lending and economic and sector work programs and implementing country programs; and reviewing loan applications, negotiating loans, and administering loans.
The Projects Department provided technical assistance and advice to members and borrowers on sectoral issues, country priorities, and project development from identification through implementation and review. It consisted of economists, financial analysts, and sector specialists, and was specifically responsible for: creating sector policies; assisting countries with the identification and preparation of projects; appraising potential projects and assisting the Country Program Departments in loan negotiation and credit agreements; and helping borrowers manage consultants and procurement. Both EAN and WAN's Project Departments were initially divided into four sector-based divisions: Agriculture; Education; Public Utilities; and Transportation. Over the next fifteen years, new divisions were created for sectors such as energy, water, telecommunications, industry, finance, and urban.
Note that not all staff and operational responsibility was transferred from the former PRJ to the RVPs. Staff in sectors too small to decentralize to the five regions continued to provide a complete "operational package" of technical services to the regions. These units, such as the Population and Nutrition sector and Urban Projects sector, were known as Central Operating Projects Departments and were located in the newly formed Vice President, Central Projects (CPSVP) which, like the RVPs, reported to the SVPOP. In addition, those former PRJ units which had their operational functions dispersed to the RVPs still maintained a core staff in the CPSVP with responsibility for policy and advisory work only.
Throughout the 1970s, Bank lending to Africa increased, particularly in the agriculture and rural development sectors, but also in the urban development and industry sectors. However, by late in the decade many in the Bank and in member countries grew increasingly frustrated due to a lack of growth in many African countries. In 1979 the Bank's African governors asked for a special report describing the challenges of the region and the Bank's proposed solutions. In response the Bank published Accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Agenda for Action in August 1981. The report discussed factors that led to slow economic growth in Africa in the recent past, analyzed policy changes and program orientation needed to promote faster growth, and concluded with a set of recommendations to donors, including doubling aid to the continent and increased reliance on structural and sectoral adjustment lending.
In order to achieve the increase in investment prescribed by the 1981 report, the Bank integrated alternative ways to raise and inject funds into the region. This involved a greater reliance on cofinancing to the point that, by the middle of the decade, more than half of Bank-financed projects in Africa included cofinancing. A Special Facility for Sub-Saharan Africa meeting was also convened in Paris in January 1985 where over a billion dollars was raised for the provision of fast-disbursing and untied (i.e procurement is not contingent upon the purchase of goods and services from the donor country) financing for the continent. In 1987 the Special Program of Assistance to Africa (SPA) was launched. Its objectives included: mobilizing resources and coordinating support for economic reforms in Africa; streamlining donor procedures; and monitoring adjustment programs for efficacy.
Roger Chaufournier continued to serve as head of the new WAN following the 1972 reorganization and would do so until 1980. He was succeeded by A. David Knox, from 1980 to 1984, and Wilfried A. Thalwitz, from 1984 to 1987. Bernard R. Bell was named the Regional Vice President of EAN in 1972. He was succeed by S. Shahid Husain, from 1974 to 1976, and Willi A. Wapenhans, from 1977 to 1984. In 1985, due to shifts in country memberships, EAN was renamed the Eastern and Southern Africa Vice Presidency (ESA). The division of African countries between WAN and the new ESA did not change. Edward V. K. Jaycox served as Vice President of ESA from 1985 until 1987.
1987 - 1996
While the composition of the Country Program Departments and Projects Department changed between 1972 and 1987 (most notably with a considerable increase in the number of Projects Department sector divisions), the organization and functions of the RVPs was consistent until 1987. In July of 1987, however, a Bank-wide reorganization under President Barber Conable altered the structure of the RVPs considerably. The changes were brought on by a desire to strengthen the Bank's country focus by making the Country Department the basic program and budget unit.
The new Country Departments that replaced the Country Program Departments combined the macro-economic work of the former Country Program Departments and the sector work of the former Regional Projects Department. Each Country Department would consist of a Country Operations Division (COD) as well as multiple Sectoral Operations Divisions (SOD) made up of staff from the former Regional Projects Departments. The COD was composed of lead, country, and specialized economists as well as country officers and was responsible for: liaising with state governments and developing knowledge of issues in the country; preparing and supervising the country's aid strategy; and providing full responsibility for certain country-wide operations such as Structural Adjustment Loans and country economic work. SODs were responsible for overall sectoral strategy and for planning, programming and implementing development activities for the countries in their respective sectoral specialties; this would include the provision of full lending project management as well as lending and sector evaluation work.
Not all staff was moved from each Region's Project Department into the Country Departments' SODs. Those remaining formed a new Regional Technical Department within each RVP. It was responsible for higher level knowledge collection, assessment, and dissemination. The Technical Department, which was organized into sector-focused divisions, was to stimulate innovation in operational work and undertake strategic thinking by providing advice, operational support, regional studies, staff training and the dissemination of materials to Bank staff, donors, and other institutions outside the Bank. The Department would continue to offer operational help in the form of task management, task support, and advice. They would also work closely with Policy, Planning and Research (PPR) staff in conducting regional studies and reviews and advising on sector policy and research priorities.
A subsequent reorganization in 1993 strengthened the Country Departments' SODs through unit reorganization and a transfer of staff from the Regional Technical Departments to the SODs. The Technical Departments were greatly reduced in size and were restructured to reflect the emphasis on sectoral and thematic responsibilities of the SODs. The Technical Departments operational support function was consequently reduced.
During the 1987 reorganization the number of RVPs was decreased from six to four. This involved the merger of the Eastern and Southern Africa Vice Presidency (ESA) and the Western Africa Vice Presidency (WAN) into a single Africa Vice Presidency (AFR). AFR initially contained six Country Departments and a single Technical Department. Another reorganization of the Bank's RVPs occurred in 1991 and involved the expansion of the four RVPs into six. However, AFR was not affected by the change. Edward V. K. Jaycox assumed the role of Vice President of AFR until 1996. Jean-Louis Sarbib replaced him in 1996.
1996 - 2014
In November 1996 the World Bank released Taking Action to Reduce Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. The document reported on the Africa Region's Poverty Task Force. It also outlined specific actions that the Bank should take, suggesting an intensified emphasis on poverty reduction in Bank programming and lending, and the establishment of stronger partnerships for poverty reduction.
Another reorganization in 1996-97 modified the changes made to the RVPs in 1987 and 1993. The RVP continued to be responsible for all aspects of country development assistance for its member countries, including: country assistance strategy; lending operations; technical assistance operations; and economic and sector work. However, the primary objective of the reorganization was to deepen the country focus and responsiveness to client needs. This was accomplished in a number of ways. The most striking changes concerned the new Country Management Units (CMUs) which replaced the former Country Departments. The CMUs were smaller than their predecessor (that is, each was responsible for a smaller number of countries) while their number correspondingly increased. The internal reorganization of AFR resulted in an increase from five Country Departments in May 1996 to sixteen CMUs in November of the same year.
In addition, an increased decentralization of CMU staff and country directors from Bank headquarters in Washington to locations within client countries was undertaken. At the same time, a strengthening of authority with regard to strategy and budget was given to the country directors. The CMUs continued to be responsible for overall preparation and supervision of the country's assistance strategy, full lending project management, and evaluation of lending and sector work.
During the reorganization, the former Technical Departments were changed into Sector or Technical Families. The role of the Technical Families, which consisted of sector and project economists and selected specialist staff, was to formulate knowledge on technical subjects and best practice and to suggest innovation through research and development. A Technical Families group was placed alongside a number of CMUs within each Regional Vice Presidency.
As part of the 1996 reorganization, Edward V. K. Jaycox was replaced by two co-Vice Presidents for the Africa Region: Jean-Louis Sarbib and Callisto E. Madavo. This new arrangement effectively split the region into West Africa and Eastern and Southern Africa with one new VP responsible for each. This arrangement lasted until 2000, when Sarbib became the new Regional Vice President of Middle East and North Africa (MNA), leaving Madavo as the sole VP for AFR. Madavo was subsequently replaced by Gobind Nankani in 2004. Obiageli Ezekwesili was appointed to the position in 2007 and was replaced by Makhtar Diop in 2012.
2014 - Present
In order to stimulate the sharing of knowledge and best practices across the Bank, President Jim Kim introduced a Bank-wide reorganization in 2014 that removed sector staff from the Regional Vice Presidencies and placed them in one of fourteen Global Practices (GPs) or five Cross-Cutting Solution Areas (CCSAs). The GPs are responsible for each of the major thematic areas that the Bank supports through projects, such as agriculture, water, and education. Each GP functions as a vertical pillar of technical expertise and is responsible for: defining the strategic direction and the World Bank's activity in their respective sector; developing and deploying expertise globally; delivering integrated solutions to client countries; and capturing and leveraging knowledge in their respective fields. The CCSAs, on the other hand, serve as horizontal pillars providing leadership in areas such as climate change, gender, and public-private partnerships and focusing on Bank-wide strategic goals and directions.
After the 2014 reorganization, the Regional Vice Presidencies exclusive function became the overall client engagement. Specifically, each RVP: sets and drives regional strategic direction; offers development solutions to clients; agrees on work program and budget with GPs and recruits expert GP staff to meet client needs; manages corporate and other stakeholder relationships; and oversees country programs. Each RVP retained multiple Country Management Unit (CMUs) responsible for one or more countries. The CMU is the primary interface with the country and is responsible for ensuring global solutions are applied to the local context. Specifically, the CMU: identifies client challenges and opportunities; sets country strategy and manages selectivity; develops work programs and provides solutions; manages client and stakeholder relationships; and manages the country office.
The number of RVPs did not change as a result of the 2014 reorganization nor did the country make-up of each RVP. Makhtar Diop served as Vice President of the Africa Region throughout the reorganization.