The World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings: Much happens in the margins

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Discussing donor concerns, aligning with other multilateral development banks and international organisations, building support for the AfDB’s ‘High 5’ priorities and the current Replenishment of the African Development Fund (ADF): Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, continued to work in the margins of the World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings in Washington, from Friday, April 15 to Monday, April 18. 

After a full opening day on Thursday, April 14, he began Friday, April 15 with further media interviews before meeting Rachel Kyte, CEO of the Sustainable Energy 4 All Initiative. The two discussed the Bank’s New Deal on Energy for Africa, and the fast-growing Transformative Partnership that will deliver it.

Adesina then met Alain Ebobissé, the incoming CEO of Africa50, the semi-independent body set up by the Bank to prepare bankable infrastructure projects in Africa and unlock new sources of funding for them.

While Bank colleagues attended an IMF panel event on “Sub-Saharan Africa – just a rough patch?”, Adesina met the UK Secretary for International Development, Justine Greening. The UK, through its Department for International Development, is the largest contributor to the current ADF cycle, with a pledge of some GBP 603 million. Adesina encouraged the UK to step up its use of the various Bank Group channels to address its priority areas such as climate change, support for fragile states, private sector development and gender equality. The UK is the first G7 country to meet the United Nations’ target of spending 0.7% of gross national income on aid every year.  

During the day, Adesina also met the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen, and the Head of Economic Cooperation and Development at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs in Switzerland, Raymund Furrer.

Early evening, Adesina attended a reception given by the Initiative for Global Development (IGD) and the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa. The event featured congressional leaders, officials from the US Treasury, financial institutions and the private sector, civil society and the press. It provided an opportunity for Adesina to discuss the Bank’s strategic priorities, outlining his vision for the Bank and the continent. It also offered a chance to connect with potential partners in the USA. “We are here to support your agenda, Mr. President, and to work with you to encourage US and others’ investment in an Africa of opportunity”, said IGD CEO Mima Nedelcovych.

Early on Saturday, April 16, Adesina met Naoko Ishii, the President and CEO of the Global Environment Facility.

He was then a panel member at the first ever Global Infrastructure Forum, which assembled all the heads of the Multilateral Development Banks. The event was introduced by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and saw Adesina sit alongside Philippe H. Le Houérou, Executive Vice President and CEO, International Finance Corporation; Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group; Kundapur Kamath, President, New Development Bank; Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al Madani, President, Islamic Development Bank; Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank; Werner Hoyer, President, European Investment Bank; Zeinab Basdawi, moderator; Suma Chakrabarti, President, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development; Jin Liqun, President, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank; Takehiko Nakao, President, Asian Development Bank; Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank Group; Mauricio Cárdenas, Minister of Finance and Public Credit, Republic of Colombia. His message was clear: ‘The future of Africa lies inside Africa’.

During the afternoon, Adesina met with Thomas Silberhorn, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development in Germany. Germany has been a key supporter of the Making Finance Work for Africa Secretariat, providing EUR 1.9 million since 2008. This ‘MFW4A’ partnership is an initiative to support the development of African financial sectors, and has resulted in the creation of the Bank’s financial sector development department.

Adesina also met Tunisia’s Minister of Development, Investment and International Cooperation, Yassine Brahim. The two discussed the country’s security and social situation, as well as the launch of its 2016-2021 Development Strategic Plan. The Bank’s portfolio in Tunisia comprises 45 operations amounting to USD 1.69 billion. They include 18 investment and 27 technical assistance projects.

Meeting Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Claver Gatete, Adesina commended the Government of Rwanda for its prudent macroeconomic policies and encouraged it to sustain reforms aimed at ensuring high GDP growth, promoting private investment and diversifying exports. The Bank’s portfolio in Rwanda comprises 22 operations with total commitments amounting to about USD 580 million.

He then met the Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Angel Gurria. The OECD is a key partner, with whom the Bank will launch its African Economic Outlook at its 2016 Annual Meetings in Lusaka. 

He also met the Chairman of BNP Paribas, Jean Lemierre. BNP manages AfDB bond issues, private placement opportunities, foreign exchange services and derivatives products. The total volume of capital market transactions including foreign exchange, derivatives and bonds (sales and purchases) traded for both the AfDB and the African Development Fund was USD 6 billion in 2014 and USD 9.3 billion in 2015.

The day ended with a meeting with the British-born African-Asian entrepreneur Ashish Thakkar, founder of the Mara Group, with whom Adesina discussed the Jobs for African Youth Initiative, which will be unveiled at the Bank’s Annual Meetings in May. 

On Sunday, April 17, Adesina met with Kundapur Vaman Kamath, President of the New Development Bank. The NDB, which began operations in early 2016, was established by the BRICS states – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – with a subscribed capital of some USD 50 billion. Adesina invited the NDB to be a key AfDB partner in Africa. The NDB is expected to approve about 10 to 15 projects, mostly green energy ventures, in April 2016. The two leaders discussed possibilities for potential collaboration in infrastructure, renewable energy and sustainable development. The NDB plans to open its first regional centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, soon.

Later on Sunday morning, Adesina joined the heads of all MDBs in closed session on the twelfth floor of the World Bank’s Main Complex, MC, building. He then addressed the Global Nutrition Forum organised by the Gates Foundation, linking the fight against malnutrition with nurturing the brainpower that will deliver economic growth in Africa.

Monday, April 18 saw final meetings with the US Government, in the form of Marisa Lago, Assistant Secretary for International Markets and Development at the US Treasury, and Catherine Novelli, the US Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. Adesina thanked the US for its work to help promote food security, public health, access to electricity, and job creation for Africa’s next generation. Opportunities for greater collaboration include the Power Africa Initiative launched by the US President in 2013 to double access to electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Additionally, the US has recently expressed increased interest in collaborating with the Bank through the Multi-Donor Trust Funds.

The mission to Washington, DC ended, appropriately enough, with an appearance on the Straight Talk Africa show on Voice of America (TV, radio, internet). Adesina was interviewed by a household name in American coverage of Africa, Ugandan-born Shaka Ssali.