AfDB Annual Meetings Seminars Emphasize Shared Growth

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Poor economic growth and the need to promote growth to benefit all Africans were high on the agenda of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group’s Annual Meetings seminars which opened on Monday, 6 June 2011 in Lisbon, Portugal.

One of the major events was the release of the 10th edition of the African Economic Outlook, which shows that recent political events in North Africa and other factors have affected the continent’s overall prospects. It said Africa’s economic growth, would decline to 3.7 percent in 2011, compared to 4.9 percent in 2010.  The 2010 figure was an improvement on the 3.1 percent rise in 2009, which had been depressed by the global economic crisis.

The Outlook is a joint publication created by the AfDB, the OECD, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, and the United Nations Development Programme.

In a related event, a joint World Bank-AfDB report presented  at the seminar indicated that Africa’s financial system needed competition if the continent is to continue to grow and prosper.

Featuring a report titled, “Financing Africa: Through the Crisis and Beyond”, to be launched in September 2011, under the Making Finance Work for Africa (MFW4A) initiative, experts from both institutions maintained that increased competition would spur financial innovation, development of new products and new technologies as well as diversification for better and expanded client-oriented service delivery.

The book takes stock of recent changes and reviews the long-term prospects for African finance and proceeds to provide policy analysis and recommendations for policymakers, development partners, and financial institutions. The  book  aims to  stimulate debate on Africa’s financial sector development and stresess its importance for the MFW4A initiative and the AfDB’s agenda.

The two reports were part of the AfDB’s Annual Meetings high-level launches and events emphasizing the Bank´s growing commitment to inclusive and shared growth in Africa.

Participants at the meetings, composed mostly of finance ministers, Central Bank governors, development experts and civil society groups from the Bank’s 77 member countries, discussed critical African development issues in the areas of health, finance, infrastructure, science and technology, and education..

Echoing the time-honored adage, “Health is Wealth”, the physical health of the continent’s population was high on the agenda as the participants stressed that greater efficiency and equity in the continent’s health sector would accelerate efforts toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Many African countries are unlikely to meet these goals, prompting participants to press for better collaboration on efficient health funding commitments.

“It’s time to change the health agenda in Africa”, said Agnes Soucat, the AfDB's human resources director, who spoke on the theme: ‘Beyond Aid: New Agenda for Health Financing.

A presentation on Rwanda’s health insurance policies dealt with  the role of good health insurance policies in establishing adequate healthcare systems in Africa. The state of the country’s health policies since 1994 was presented by Kampeta Sayinzoga, a permanent secretary in the finance and economic planning ministry.  

Ms.  Sayinzoga said the number of Rwandans benefitting from health insurance rose to nearly 90 percent from 10 percent in 2002. She suggested that the Rwandan case shows that “poor people do not mind to pay if the health system is well-structured and transparent”.

Through a strong local governmental advocacy campaign and a system of ‘Muttuelles’ (micro-health systems), the health insurance achieved spectacular results compared to many neighboring countries, where the sector was fully financed by public funds and/or by donors. ‘It’s better to get a bus than to wait for a limo’, she remarked.

These seminars will lead up to the 9-10 June meetings, on the theme “Towards an Agenda for Inclusive Growth in Africa,”  and will review the Bank’s 2010 operations and its 2012 development funding portfolio, as well as challenges facing the African region in key areas such as climate change, infrastructure, private sector and governance.