AfDB and EU Commission reinforce partnership for Africa's transformation

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A joint commitment under the theme of “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace” was at the centre of the African and European leaders meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, April 2 and Thursday, April 3, 2014.

On Thursday, the African Development Bank Group and the European Commission reinforced their existing partnership by signing a new Cooperation Arrangement.  

The Arrangement – which builds on a 2005 Memorandum of Understanding between the Bank Group, the Commission and the European Investment Bank – aims to strengthen cooperation in development work, while pledging to make best possible use of finite development assistance funds by using innovative financial methods of leveraging existing resources, and unlocking new investments.

The Bank’s First Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer, Emmanuel Mbi, who signed the Arrangement on behalf of President Donald Kaberuka, stated that “the partnership between the African Development Bank and the European Commission is already well established.

“In 2012 alone, the partnership took practical form in some 775 million euros (some US $1 billion) of co-financing.

“Strategically, the Bank and the Commission have been closely aligned for some time. We see this not just in the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, but also in specific sector plans. The EU’s new Agenda for Change on fragile states, for instance, mirrors the Bank’s renewed framework for its support for fragile states: Ending conflict and building peace in Africa: A call to action.  

“Financially, we are closely aligned too, with the EU’s Multi-Year Financial Framework and the African Development Fund’s 13th replenishment now secured,” continued Mr Mbi.  

“So today’s milestone achieves its real significance in deepening our intellectual and practical collaboration. It ushers us into a new era where development assistance – faced with scarce concessional resources – has to work harder and smarter to achieve its aims.”

The EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, said: “Today’s signature shows the EU’s commitment to making sure that its aid has the greatest possible impact. This new Cooperation Arrangement will help us build on our existing relationship with the African Development Bank, to coordinate better our assistance, and to frame our collaboration going forward, so that it can only blossom further.” Commissioner Piebalgs added that the thrust of the cooperation will be ‘in the field’, and that it must communicate the results of its development assistance.

The Cooperation Arrangement will deepen the joint Bank/Commission activities in priority areas, including in strengthening Africa’s energy and other infrastructure, capacity building, work in fragile states, building climate resilience, strengthening the private sector, supporting public financial management and debt sustainability. It pledges to maximise the use of existing funding mechanisms – both European and African – and to create new ways of ‘blending’ concessional and non-concessional loans. The Arrangement also foresees greater sharing of information and analysis, and active collaboration in areas like monitoring.  

Cooperation on innovative financing is at the core of the Arrangement. While the Bank is participating in the EU Infrastructure Trust Fund, the Bank hopes that the European Commission will expand the scope of collaboration in other blending facilities, including the EU’s Neighbourhood Investment Facility for North Africa, and its Infrastructure Investment Programme for Southern Africa. Meanwhile the Bank has established new instruments under the 13th African Development Fund which are better tailored to countries’ needs. These include the Partial Credit Guarantee and the Private Sector Facility, which complement the existing Partial Risk Guarantee, and aim to attract and leverage more private sector financial resources for Africa’s development.

Mbi and Piebalgs also discussed EU support for pan-African initiatives, notably in the areas of producing continent-wide agricultural statistics, knowledge work through the African Economic Outlook, and helping Governments to negotiate natural resource management contracts through the African Legal Support Facility.

The Africa-EU Summit has been attended by some 80 EU and African Heads of State and Government. The themes highlighted in the conference have included: the importance of the benefits of strong African growth being properly shared among its poorest and most vulnerable people; the need to concentrate on the pockets of political and economic fragility which persist in Africa; the need for regional integration in Africa to create economies of scale and to promote trade; and the need for Africa to develop ‘niches of productivity’ within its economies.

Mbi observed that, “The EU and Africa are partners in a common pursuit. We have much to learn from each other, not least in empowering our young people and equipping them for the job market. A trading Africa will be able to ignite Africa’s transformation – the only sustainable path to prosperity.”

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