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Africa: Whatever you thought, think again

Sept. 8, 2005, Washington D.C. – Echoing the compelling theme of National Geographic magazine’s September 2005 issue – “Africa: Whatever you thought, think again” – a panel discussion hosted by the World Bank and National Geographic Society brought the continent’s complex issues into sharp focus.

We live in an interdependent world,” said World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz as he reiterated the Bank’s strong commitment to Africa. “The 600 million people on this vast continent have hopes and expectations of moving forward with the rest of the world. At the World Bank, we made a commitment to turn this hope into reality. Africa is at the top of our development agenda. 
Full speech.

Paul Wolfowitz small image

                                                                                                                     Paul Wolfowitz

Africa explorer, ecologist, and conservationist, Michael Fay, whose remarkable achievements include having traversed a chunk of the continent on foot, presented maps of what he called the ‘human footprint’ in Africa, highlighting those regions in which the weight of this footprint – a measure of human influence on ecology – was greatest.

mike fay smallFay also shared a number of unique aerial views of Africa – a tiny fraction of the 110,000 photographs he took while criss-crossing the continent in a Cessna 182. These included views of environmental degradation, shanty town development around massive mines, and an elephant carcass representative of the incalculable loss of wildlife killed by displaced populations.  More about 'Africa Megaflyover'.
     Michael Fay

Frannie Leautier, Vice-President of the World Bank Institute, spoke of the great cultural diversity of the African continent with its 2000 languages. She emphasized the need for integration and collaboration for African development, as did Bank Executive Director Paulo Gomes, who also called for a positive ‘re-branding’ of Africa, an effort that he said must come from African countries themselves.

Also launched at this event was the World Bank-National Geographic  Millennium Development Goals Map entitled ‘A Global Agenda to end Poverty’ – a full-color, large-format wall map that highlights progress toward the goals across the world. The map is intended to increase awareness of the goals among all audiences, especially young people, and uses data from the World Bank’s  World Development Indicators.MDG National Geographic map - feature story
    More about the map
"The MDGs are important targets on which countries have agreed to focus their efforts, but they also serve as a vehicle to raise awareness and knowledge of the development challenges we face," said Christopher Neal, senior communications officer in the Bank's Development Economics Vice Presidency who is managing the MDG Map project. 

“We need to come to terms with what we can and cannot achieve with the MDGs,” said President Wolfowitz at the launch. “We know today that many countries will not meet the MDGs on the schedule hoped for. We also know there are many countries that are on track to meet some of these goals. We need to focus our efforts where it can make a difference. And in those cases where meeting the MDGs will take longer, we must set realistic intermediate goals, rather than abandon the effort entirely.”


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