Africa50 Fund, strong financial infrastructures and PPPs dominate discussions at African Development Forum

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The African Development Forum, which officially opened on October 13, was notable for several speeches. These included speeches by the King of Morocco, read by the Moroccan Prime Minister Abdel-Ilah Benkiran, as well as speeches by the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, and the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, and by the Prime Minister of Cape Verde, José Maria Pereira Neves, and UNECA Executive Secretary Carlos Lopes.

The AfDB Group was represented by the Vice-President for Operations, Aly Abou-Sabaa, and the AfDB Special Envoy on Gender Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi. They were accompanied by the Resident Representative of the Bank to Morocco, Yacine Fal. The AfDB representatives were very much in demand and held bilateral discussions with participants.

The speakers stressed the importance of the event which, according to the participants, is a great success. It is happening at a crucial time when the African continent needs to think carefully about achievements to date and make decisions about its rapid transformation. “The outcomes of the Forum must assist African countries in dealing more effectively with the challenges of an Africa in the process of emerging,” commented the Moroccan Prime Minister, stressing the need for intra-African dynamism.

The Prime Minister was particularly delighted by the establishment of the Africa50 Fund by the AfDB, “which will give the continent an innovative mechanism, enabling it to increase resource mobilisation on a large scale.”

“We are delighted that the AfDB has established the Africa50 Fund. It will enable the continent to attract private funding for development and financing for infrastructure projects in Africa,” he claimed, hailing the achievements of the AfDB in the country.

Successive heads of state and government, and other leaders, spoke at length on the economic situation of a continent that “is successful and making progress, but that must change the paradigms, given that the traditional solutions are not longer in step with the realities.”

The challenge is knowing how to support the profound transformation that is taking place with adequate and innovative financing.

“If we wish to move forward, we must provide ourselves with the means to change the paradigms,” said the Senegalese President Macky Sall. He called on financial institutions to improve conditions for emerging countries to have access to funds. This call received the backing of President Ouattara, to loud applause.

President Ouattara himself highlighted a number of ways forward, including accelerated development of financial markets, with a view to initiating the transformation of economies.

“We must create innovative financial products, at the same time as providing ourselves with strong institutions and effective national and regional financial infrastructures, with particular emphasis on developing SMEs,” said Ouattara. He explained that the movement of those SMEs from the informal to the formal sector “is one of the conditions necessary for them to be eligible for this type of funding.”

However, the Ivorian President noted the weak mobilisation of local savings due to the very low levels of bank account use in our region. According to Ouattara, it is no more than 12 per cent in Côte d’Ivoire. As a result, according to his analysis, far too many financial transactions are still occurring outside the financial sector. “This situation creates unfair competition between the informal sector, which is growing steadily, and the formal sector. Resources not held in banks or savings do not contribute to the economic development of our countries. They prevent the mobilisation of savings,” he said.

For the President of Côte d’Ivoire, in order to achieve emergence, it is necessary to give South-South cooperation a significant role. He also stressed the need to make use of the international capital markets, in the form of issuing eurobonds, as well as strengthening public-private partnerships (PPP).

The President of Côte d’Ivoire expressed his great optimism and his faith in Africa and its future, saying: “Africa is a continent full of promise that will surprise the world. I am convinced that the exchanges taking place during this forum will enable our countries to integrate more effectively in the world economy.”

Speaking of the experience of island nations, the Prime Minister of Cape Verde, Pereira Neves, said the such economies were largely based on tourism and fishing. For the Prime Minister, the subject is highly relevant for these countries. “Our countries are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Drought and desertification particularly affect Cape Verde,” he explained.

In his speech, the Executive Secretary of UNECA, Carlos Lopes, stressed the need for African countries to accelerate mobilisation of private investments and of domestic and financial resources, as well as the need to improve the governance of such revenues. In his opinion, most definitely the biggest challenge for Africa is food security. However, financing for the fight against climate change must be strengthened, along with infrastructures, in order to reposition Africa.

The Forum has mobilised over 800 participants including high level government officials, representatives of the public and private sectors, and NGOs. Strong participation of national and international media was also apparent.