WORLD Bank country manager for Zimbabwe Marjorie Mpundu has completed her tour of duty, less than two years after her appointment as she takes up a new role as the multilateral lender’s legal counsel for Africa in Washington DC, The NewsHawks has established.
Zimbabwe, currently ineligible to access loans from the World Bank Group, owes the Bretton Woods institution nearly US$1.5 billion and has been in arrears since the turn of the millennium. The debt-ridden government now relies on domestic resources such as taxes, debt instruments and expensive loans to finance some of its capital projects.
Official figures show that World Bank Group assistance to Zimbabwe totalled US$1.6 billion between 1980 and 2000. Direct lending was suspended due to non-repayment.
However, the World Bank remains fully engaged through trust funds such as the Zimbabwe Reconstruction Fund (Zimref) and the Global Financing Facility.
High-level sources told The NewsHawks that Mpundu held her farewell dinner at the Meikles Hotel on Monday and the private event was attended by diplomats, senior government officials, representatives of international financial institutions and business executives.
“During the meeting several speakers spoke highly of the achievements she made over a short period of time. Stella Illieva, the World Bank Zimbabwe office senior economist, is currently the acting country manager,” a diplomatic source said.
During her first media briefing, Mpundu, a Zambian national, expressed her wish to see Zimbabwe come out of the woods and build a strong economy. She said just like neighbouring Zambia, Zimbabwe has enormous potential to turn around its economic fortunes if the southern African nation adopts neo-liberal reforms.
In her short stint, she managed to play a critical role in the formulation of Zimbabwe’s debt resolution and arrears clearance programme which is currently being pursued.
Durung Mpundu’s tenure, the Bretton Woods institution also managed to publish its first Country Economic Memorandum (CEM) in nearly four decades.
The last CEM for Zimbabwe was done in 1985. The World Bank produces CEM reports in all countries that the financial institution works in. These reports take a long-term view of economic developments in the country and recommend policy options to support inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction.
Mpundu holds an LLB from the University of Zambia, an LLM (international business) from the University of Manchester and an LLM (international law) from Cornell Law School.
She joined the Bank in 2005 as a legal associate in the legal vice-presidency.
She has since held various positions in legal portfolios covering Europe, Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa, including as decentralised senior counsel in Australia and in Kenya. Recently, she was the senior strategy and operations officer in the office of the vice-president for Eastern and Southern Africa.
The World Bank is currently administering Zimref that was established in 2014 to strengthen the country’s systems for reconstruction and development.
Zimref has multi-sectoral projects that support the business environment, gender, education, public financial management, climate change, state-owned enterprises and poverty monitoring.
The US$150 million World Bank country portfolio also includes the Zimbabwe Idai Recovery Project, the Health Sector Development Project and the Kariba Dam Rehabilitation Project.
The portfolio also includes the International Finance Corporation’s advisory programmes, namely the Victoria Falls Tourism Destination Program, Health Care Quality Assurance Assessment and Zimbabwe Warehouse Receipts Programme.