Baobab Forum: Strong institutions needed for Africa’s growth

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Building strong institutions is key to achieving Africa’s development. This was underscored by opinion leaders attending African Development Bank’s first Baobab Forum at its headquarters in Abidjan.

The forum is a new initiative bringing together a number of distinctive African opinion leaders, thinkers and innovators to share their experiences and lessons learnt with the aim of promoting fresh and inspiring ideas to address Africa’s development challenges.

The Bank’s outgoing President, Donald Kaberuka, emphasised the importance of having strong institutions that would spearhead growth on the continent. He was optimistic that he was leaving behind a solid bank. “It is important that we have an institution that is solid, which Africans expect to solve its issues,” he said.

Kaberuka has over the years been praised for having presided over a major redirection in the Bank’s strategy for development and poverty reduction in Africa. In his 10 years of service, he focused on private sector, and the importance of infrastructure development, and its role in promoting regional integration on the continent.

“The continent is changing. Nothing is pre-ordained. It depends on what we do and what our leaders do. We need to ask ourselves: What is it that we should do today to make Africa what it should be?” he said.

Similarly, Nigeria’s former Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, emphasized, “Building institutions that can accelerate growth is the bedrock of making this continent work.” She made reference to her efforts to create a mortgage market that would enable young people in her country to own homes, saying, “There is a strong consensus that the development of the housing sector is important not only for stimulating economic growth, but also job creation in any economy. Indeed, housing construction is one of the key factors in determining the economic situation in most developed countries,” she observed.

The mortgage refinance scheme, which has private-sector involvement, is expected to address the huge housing gap as well as create employment to millions of Nigerians. “Africans have to be tough and embark on new solutions. No one will do it for your country,” she cautioned.

Pedro Pires, former President of Cape Verde, acknowledged the need to invest in “our institutions”, being wise in the use of available resources so as to achieve transformation. “It is possible in spite of difficulty to make progress using our resources and transform our situations,” he said, drawing from his 10-year term as leader of the archipelago nation.

During his tenure, he among other things capitalized on tourism, prompting a steady growth of the economy. It was officially considered a country of average development, emerging the second country to have achieved such transition after Botswana. It was classified by the UN as a middle-income country.