What is the World Bank Group?

World Bank headquarters. Washington DC. Photo: © Deborah W. Campos / World Bank
The World Bank Group’s headquarters are located in Washington, D.C., where most of its employees work. The other employees work in more than 100 country offices around the world

The World Bank Group is actually made up of five separate branches. Two of those branches—the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA)—usually work with governments and together are commonly known as the “World Bank”.

Two other branches—the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)—usually work with private businesses. The fifth branch is the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which handles disagreements between foreign investors and governments.

When we say “World Bank Group” we are talking about all five branches. When we just say “World Bank” we are talking about the branches of the World Bank Group that work only with governments—IBRD and IDA.
The Kremenchug Hydroelectric Power Plant on the Dnieper river, Ukraine. Photo: Victor Zablotskyi / World Bank

The World Bank is not exactly like the banks you might have been to in your town or nearby cities. People do not use it as a place to put their money for savings or safekeeping.

Instead, the World Bank lends money to governments to build things like dams or roads, or to make changes to government policies. The money the World Bank provides to governments usually needs to be paid back to the World Bank.