Official Opening Ceremony of 50th Annual Meetings pays tribute to outgoing Bank President Donald Kaberuka

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“It is not money that delivers development, it is the policies that do,’’ said African Development Bank Group (AfDB) President Donald Kaberuka. That powerful message came Tuesday during the opening ceremony of the Bank’s 2015 Annual Meetings. It is a milestone year for the Bank, its 50th anniversary, and Kaberuka’s words underscored the theme of the gathering, “Africa and the New Global Landscape.”

Cecilia Akintomide, AfDB Vice-President and Secretary General, moderated the event and was joined on stage by Presidents from countries including Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Ghana, Cape Verde, Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Gabon, as well as senior African Development Bank officials.

It was standing room only in the Palais des Congrès hall of the Sofitel Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan, where hundreds of people came to to listen to dignitaries reminisce about the Bank’s growth over the past 50 years, hear about Kaberuka’s achievements during his 10-year tenure, and find out what challenges the incoming Bank President might face.

The Chair of AfDB’s Board of Governors, Albert Mabri Toikeusse, extended gratitude to Tunisia’s President for hosting the Bank’s headquarters for over a decade in Tunis and facilitating its recent move back to Abidjan late last year. Toikeusse said it was the confidence inspired by the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Dramane Ouattara, which aided the smooth return of the Bank to its founding location, Abidjan. “On behalf of all of the Governors and the States that sent them,” Toikeusse said, “we thank you.” 

Welcoming the Bank’s return to Abidjan, President Ouattara hailed the strength and commitment of its approximately 1,600 staff members and called AfDB “a global institution with a solid financial record improving the lives of Africans.”

But getting to that point was a challenge and one that Kaberuka spoke about openly. “I concluded on arrival in office that five things were very urgent,” he said. “A big push on infrastructure, leading from the front on the private sector, economic integration, a focus on fragile states and leveraging power, knowledge and voice.”

To help minimize those factors, Kaberuka said over the last ten years the Bank has put $28 billion into infrastructure, of which $11 billion went into energy, as well as putting significant capital into transportation, water and information technology and communication. But, Kaberuka said, “in terms of what Africa needs, the gap remains very large.”

Looking ahead to the next 50 years of the Bank’s existence, the continent of Africa is still grappling with a number of challenges. Going forward, Kaberuka says constantly reviewing the business model, maintaining strong finances and recognizing institutional weakness are critical for future strategic success. 

On financial strength, he said, with a “portfolio that has doubled in the last ten years, a strong field presence is crucial.” The Bank currently operates in in 38 countries and 50 percent of its portfolio is managed from the field, he said. “Development by remote control is not simply possible.”

When it comes to recognizing weakness, Kaberuka said gender inclusion needed to improve so he made a change. “I decided to appoint a Special Envoy on Gender to champion the cause both in the Bank and across Africa,” Kaberuka said.

With 2015 being called a turning point in development, Kaberuka passes the baton to the next Bank President. To that person, he offers his “very best wishes.” He added that “ten years goes by very quickly. It is a complex and merciless job, but it is very exciting. It in fact is not a job but a mission which is very rewarding.”

In a speech that followed a standing ovation and recorded tributes, congratulations and thanks from heads of world financial institutions, Presidents and leaders in business, Kaberuka said, “To all your Excellencies, Governors, dear friends, for my part, from where ever I will be, count me in always as a foot soldier for the economic transformation of Africa.”