As its name suggests, one of the key aims of “Peace is Profitable” is to show that peace facilitates prosperity. That does not mean that war cannot be lucrative, but that concrete steps can (and should!) be taken to make peace the more profitable option for the parties involved. To complete the circle, development is necessary for peace to be sustainable. Or as World Bank President Jim Yong Kim recently put it, “We cannot have development without peace and we cannot have peace without development.”
As it happens, Kim made this comment in relation to one of the world’s most intractable conflicts – the fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that has been characterized as Africa’s World War, due to the plethora of foreign countries involved as well as the carnage caused. It is beyond the scope of this article to explore all factors that fuel this conflict but the observation that war-ravaged eastern DRC both suffers from abject poverty and has a plethora of natural resources points to some contributing factors. The region’s minerals are pocketed by a number of different rebel groups, while the local population lacks access to dignified living conditions.
It is therefore noteworthy that UN Special Envoy Mary Robinson talks of the need for a “peace dividend”, in the form of a marked improvement in living conditions for the local population through better health, education, and job opportunities. Along this line, the World Bank has made a $1 billion pledge, some of which aims to develop hydropower and bring electricity to the region, literally bringing “power to the people” in Robinson’s words.
As a symbol of this new commitment, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and WB President Kim made a joint trip to the region in May. The point was to signal the crucial role that economic development can play to bring peace and security to the DRC. Surprisingly, this was the first joint trip made by the UNSG and WB President. As the realization sinks in that peace and development really do go hand in hand, this is hopefully a sign of things to come. As Afro-pessimism is finally going out of fashion, a solution to the continent’s most deadly conflict would be the most potent signal that Africa is indeed on the rise.