News Column

Africa to Set Growth Agenda at Kigali AfDB Conference

May 13, 2014

Eugene Kwibuka

Achievements of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in financing Africa in the past 50 years and what should be the bank's focus for the future will be at the centre of discussions at its 49th annual assembly due in Kigali next week.

Each year, members of the Bank's Board of Governors hold their annual meetings to review its operations in the previous year as well as examine and endorse those for the current year.

At the meetings, the governors and other invitees comprising development experts, academics, business people and civil society activists also discuss a range of issues related to Africa's future such as the economic development of AfDB regional member countries.

But the five-day Kigali summit will be special since AfDB will be celebrating 50 years of its existence and deliberating on what should be its priorities in the next 50 years.

AfDB president Donald Kaberuka said at the launch of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Bank last month that 50 years is a major milestone for an institution, and that it called for deep refection.

"Our celebration is not so much a festivity, but a solemn occasion to pause and look back at this fifty year journey. A moment to look ahead at the mountains we must still climb," he said.

Dr Kaberuka added that it was time to redesign the bank to take on new challenges of the continent and also take advantage of the opportunities that Africa presents.

"Fifty years later, our mandate remains as relevant as ever. Old problems have metamorphosed. New ones have arisen. And our toolbox, our responses, must accordingly evolve," Kaberuka said.

More than 3,000 people are expected in the AfDB annual meetings in Kigali, including government delegations from the Bank's 78-member countries.

Rwanda's Finance and Economic Planning minister Claver Gatete has been the chairperson of the Bank's Board of Governors since May, last year.

He is expected to hand over the mantle to the person who will be picked by the Governors next week - after chairing the upcoming meetings. The Board of Governors is constituted of the ministers of Finance from all the 54 African member states.

"It's a privilege for Rwanda and the region that we are hosting this meeting in Kigali," Amb. Gatete told The New Times yesterday.

Gatete said during the General Meetings the Governors will discuss AfDB's current status, take stock of its last 50 years of existence and chart the future.

He said delegates will also discuss global economic trends that affect the continent in one way or another, and how best Africa can continue on the path to sustainable development.

Under the theme, "The next 50 years: The Africa we want," featured seminars, briefings and media conferences will focus not only on the global economy and international development, but mainly on Africa's economic perspectives and its financial markets.

AfDB officials have also announced that the discussions will be inspired by the vision of the African Union's Agenda 2063, which summarises the aspirations of the African people.

Agenda 2063

The Agenda 2063 emphasises the need for a prosperous and peaceful continent based on inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth, an integrated continent based on Pan-Africanism, and a continent characterised by good governance, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law, among others.

Economists at the AfDB reckon that Africa is taking major strides to improve its economy.

"Its growth during the past decade marked the longest period of unbroken increases in per capita incomes since the 1960s," said AfDB Chief Economist and Vice-President Mthuli Ncube.

Ncube said the continent's demography has improved with higher rates of education and lower mortality rates in the last decade, while export performance, domestic demand and investments remained strong.

Africa has also become more stable, with 85 per cent of Africans living in countries that are relatively stable while almost 94 per cent of Africa's GDP is generated in those secure countries.

But experts say more adequate infrastructure and policies that promote competition, entrepreneurship and job creation, as well as a strong private sector must be enabled in the next 50 years to support shared prosperity and offer real opportunities to all citizens on the continent.

The AfDB vice-president and secretary-general, Cecilia Akintomide, said Rwanda has registered development achievements that provide hope for the future and can be emulated elsewhere.

About AfDB

The African Development Bank Group is an international finance institution that aims to spur economic and social development in African countries.

With 54 African countries and 25 non-African countries as members, AfDB is the premier development financial institution on the continent.

The main goal of the Bank is to reduce poverty. It does this by promoting investments, authorising loans, and providing technical assistance to its member countries. By the end of 2011, the Bank had been involved in over 3,600 loans and grants amounting to $92 billion (Rwf62 trillion).

The funds are used to finance projects in sectors such as infrastructure, agriculture, health, and education. For example, the Group recently granted $37.5 million (Rwf25 billion) to Rwanda to promote skills training and entrepreneurship and reduce unemployment.

The AfDB also provides its members with policy advice and support in reducing their debt.

This year, AfDB is celebrating 50 years of service in Africa.

Planning for the Group began in 1961.

During a meeting in Monrovia, Liberia, a committee of representatives from the countries of Cameroon, Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Sudan, Tanganyika and Zanzibar (the latter two were later mergerd to form Tanzania) drafted a charter for the Bank. They decided the AfDB would play a role in reducing poverty. Then, they visited almost every African country, as well as many Eastern and Western leaders to promote the plan.

The organisation was officially established at a 1963 conference in Khartoum, Sudan. In attendance were representatives from 25 newly-formed African governments. Operations began in 1966.

At first, only independent African countries were allowed to become members of the AfDB, but because of limited financial resources and growing investment demands, membership was opened to countries outside of Africa in 1982.

Much of the funding for the AfDB comes from countries in Europe, America and Asia. Funding also comes from some of Africa's financial powerhouses.

The 2011 AfDB ICT study says Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria and Algeria together account for nearly 60 per cent of African GDP.

Over its past 50 years, it has helped create jobs, educational opportunities, infrastructure and a better life quality all throughout Africa.

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Source: AllAfrica

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