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World Bank President Wants to Work with Kenya to Boost Economy - 2003-07-23

The president of the World Bank, on a visit to Kenya, said he is eager to work with its government to improve the country's education and health systems, as well as to develop its economy.

The head of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, told Wednesday reporters in Nairobi he is impressed with steps taken by the Kenyan government in several areas. It has, he said, introduced free primary education and begun the fight against corruption and started reforming the financial sector.

According to the World Bank president, the government's goals of creating half a million new jobs and aiming for an economic growth rate of seven percent are, in his words, challenges which are achievable.

Mr. Wolfensohn's comments illustrate how the World Bank's attitude toward Kenya has changed since President Mwai Kibaki replaced Daniel arap Moi, whose long reign ended last year. Two years ago, the World Bank suspended its financial aid to the East African country because of its concerns about corruption in the Moi government.

"The reason that we diminished our support was really very straightforward. We had an understanding of what would be done. Those things were not done, and so we pulled back. We are now coming to this relationship with an entirely different perception. We are very keen to move forward," Mr. Wolfensohn said.

Mr. Wolfensohn met with President Kibaki and members of his cabinet on Wednesday, as well as representatives of the private sector.

Much of the talks focused on ways to increase the partnership between the World Bank and Kenya. But Mr. Wolfensohn stopped short of announcing new funding in these areas.

The World Bank gives out loans and grants to governments for projects in such sectors as health, education, the construction of infrastructure, and private sector reform.

In Kenya, the World Bank currently funds 13 projects valued at almost $800 million.