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Dakar, Senegal, 13 May 2009 – The 44th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the 35th Board of Governors meeting of the African Development Fund (ADF) got underway on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 in Dakar, Senegal, with the impact of the global financial crisis on Africa dominating speeches at the opening ceremony.
Organized on the theme: Africa and the Financial Crisis: An Agenda for Action", the two-day event was formally declared open by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade in the presence of his Burkinabe counterpart, Blaise Compaore, Ghana’s Vice President John Dramani Mahama, African Union Commission Chair, Jean Ping, African Development Bank (AfDB) President Donald Kaberuka and the UN Economic Commission for Africa Executive Secretary (UNECA), Abdoulie Janneh.
President Kaberuka set the ball rolling in a wide-ranging speech in which he narrated the evolution of Africa’s economic situation in the last 40 years, marked by cyclical short periods of growth followed by years of stagnation, largely as a result of internal factors mostly related to poor economic governance and external shocks.
Unlike previous difficulties the continent has had to encounter, the causes of the current financial crisis were exogenous and much more serious with more devastating consequences on African economies that have translated to huge job losses, closure of business, factories and mines, among others.
“The aspirations of a continent which worked for decades, laboured hard on economic reforms to turn real per capita GDP growth from negative to 7%; only to see that wiped out, in six months. What took Africa a decade to build is rolled back in such a short period of time; and in all probabilities, whenever the global economy recovers, Africa’s turn around will be much slower,” the AfDB President noted.
In spite of this situation, there is optimism that the long-term prospects for Africa were still very bright if efforts were made to limit the damage and prepare for a resumption of growth, given that all countries are affected and the fact that the world has come together in search for solutions. Africa, therefore, wants to be part of a coordinated global response to a crisis which is none of its creation, yet for which it is a vital part of the response.
President Kaberuka related efforts made by the institution to enable its member countries cope with the crisis right from inception, such as the setting up of a Bank-wide committee to monitor its evolution, convening of a ministerial conference to examine the issues in Tunis and the establishment of the committee of 10 which made inputs in the last G20 summit in London decisions.
He cited this week’s initiative by the AfDB and six other IFIs to provide US$15 billion to promote trade and strengthen the African financial sector, as an example of the type of initiatives that need to be taken to help the continent cope with the financial crisis. The Bank has also leveraged operations in infrastructure, the private sector, fragile states, middle and low-income countries in line with its 2008-2012 Medium-Term Strategy.
He welcomed the G20 decision, which spelt the need to review the capital requirements of the African Development Bank and other regional banks to enable them to better respond. There would also be a need to begin to consider options for the replenishment of the African Development Fund, he said.
Noting that Africa still had bright future prospects, Mr. Kaberuka stressed: “Our task is to help that happen, by protecting achievements, limiting the damage and as we respond – striking a balance between short term crisis response and staying the course on long term goals of economic transformation. That is what the African Development Bank – with your support is determined to do,” he said.
For his part, host President Abdoulaye Wade said Africa can only solve its perennial problems by integrating its economies to provide the basis for self-reliance and sustainable development.
“Africa should not give up. Its youth should never lower its guard, but should continue to work and look to the future with confidence and hope,” he said.
President wade also commended Bank Group President Kaberuka “to the new impetus and dynamism he has instilled in the banks activities”
In his intervention, AU Commission Chair Jean Pin said Africa was presently facing unprecedented historical challenges. He narrated the efforts deployed by the continental body in collaboration with the AfDB and the UNECA tackle the challenges posed by the financial crisis, and urged Africa’s partners to fulfil their commitments in support of Africa’s development.
More than 2,000 people including Governors (finance and/or economy ministers) representing 78 member countries of the Bank Groups as well as heads of multilateral development agencies, civil society groups, NGOs and business people are participating in the meetings, the most important annual gathering of the world of corporate finance in Africa.