Zoellick in Ghana, Ethiopia.

Zoellick started the first leg of his African trip in Ghana on Wednesday. Ghanaian newspapers reported that Zoellick met with the ministers of finance of Ghana, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso and “discussed not countries but regional dimension of projects such as the West African Gas Pipeline“. While in Ghana he also met with vice president Alhaji Aliu Mahama, energy minister John Adda, chairman of the public utilities regulation commission, Kwame Pianim, and with some civil society organisations, “all behind closed doors”.

Zoellick is reported to have said though African countries were trying to deal with challenges of providing adequate education, health, food, energy and shelter for its people, there was a need to focus more on infrastructure development like roads as a catalyst to achieving the other goals. When asked about conditions attached to loans, Zoellick said there was the need for some performance standards in African countries and in African regional institutions as far as the application of loans from the World Bank was concerned. He said to the extent that the World Bank must account to its lenders, its beneficiaries needed to show signs of prudent and judicious application of funds from the World Bank.

On Thursday Zoellick was in Ethiopia holding discussions with Ethiopian government officials working on finance and economic issues and ambassadors to the African Union.

Today Zoellick will be in South Africa – look for more extensive news coverage. In an address to editors and publishers at the World Association of Newspapers annual meeting Wednesday, South African finance minister Trevor Manuel said that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund suffered from a “huge deficit of democracy” that is unfair to the developing countries they purport to help.