The African Development Bank (AfDB) marks its Golden Jubilee this year. The Bank will mark the anniversary with an event in Abidjan on November 4, 50 years to the day that it held its first Board Meeting. A series of other events will also unfold in the days before in Abidjan, including the African Economic Conference. Full reporting on each of the events will follow.
The Bank's 50th Anniversary coincides with the development finance institution's return to its headquarters in Abidjan, after over a decade of relocation to Tunis, and gives the celebrations a double significance. As it looks back on the past 50 years, the African Development Bank has much to celebrate. Since its inception it has marked four milestone celebrations.
It was in November 1964, that the Bank held its first Board of Governors' Meeting in Lagos, Nigeria. That was barely four years after most of the founding nations had attained their political independence. Today, worthy tributes are paid to the founding fathers for their vision for United Africa.
Monrovia, Tunis, Khartoum all played important roles in the establishment of AfDB, but the Bank's existence officially commenced with the inaugural Board of Governors meeting in Lagos in November 1964. The Agreement establishing the African Development Bank was actually signed on August 4, 1963 in Khartoum by the Finance Ministers of the then 23 independent African countries.
Fifty years on, and from a very modest beginning, the Bank has grown in stature and maturity, in brand and credibility and its achievements as the continent's largest financial institution have gone beyond African borders. The 50 years of the Bank's continuity has become synonymous with 50 years of sustainability and Africa's economic resilience.
When the Bank marked its 10th Anniversary celebrations in 1974 in Rabat, Morocco, the Bank's cumulative commitment was barely US $125 million. But there was hope for renewal that year, with decisions relating to the second capital increase and the kick-off of African Development Fund (ADF) operations.
The Bank's 20th Anniversary in Abidjan in 1984 was closely followed by the 25th Anniversary, or the Silver Jubilee, in Abuja in 1989. While the 10th Anniversary celebration saw a Bank in its infancy, the 1984 and 1989 events represented, according to one Bank economist, the take-off stage of the institution. In May 1983, in Nairobi, Kenya, 17 non-regional countries attended their first AfDB Group Annual Meetings as full members. In fact, as a result of the admission of non-regional membership, the Bank's authorized capital had increased from US $2.5 billion over the preceding 20 years, to US $6.3 billion by the 20th Anniversary.
Barely four years later in Cairo, Egypt, in 1987, the Bank had successfully concluded a 200% increase and, by its 25th Anniversary in Abuja Nigeria, the Bank's attention turned to the Committee of Ten, a group of eminent persons reflecting on the future of the Bank. The Golden Jubilee is therefore a one-of-a-kind celebration. It is not a Silver Jubilee nor is it an Annual Board of Governors Meeting. Rather, the Golden Jubilee is a rare celebration of the African Development Bank's past, present and future.
In 2014, the Bank's Golden Jubilee provides all stakeholders and friends of the Bank an opportunity to look back with satisfaction through the landmark moments of its past 50 years and to look ahead to the future of the institution and its role in the development of the African continent.