The 2008 Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group opened on Wednesday in Maputo, Mozambique, with more than 1,000 participants, including Presidents Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo and Armando Emilio Guebuza of Mozambique, attending. This year’s Annual Meetings are being held on the theme: Fostering Shared Growth: Urbanization, Inequality and Poverty.
Opening the event, President Guebuza said that development on the continent depended on strong sustainable public and private investments in critical areas such as agriculture and rural development, social and economic infrastructure as well as education, health and water supply. By integrating these areas in its programmes, Mr. Guebuza said, the AfDB had revealed itself as a major partner to the Mozambican government. He urged the Bank Group to continue working in these areas as they contribute to the creation of the necessary conditions for the promotion of his country’s well-being.
Speaking on the occasion, Bank Group President, Donald Kaberuka, said this year has been a very good year for the Bank Group. "Despite the turbulence in the financial world, the finances of the institution remain very good. Our risk bearing capacity remains robust. We have retained the highest ratings and all the windows of the Bank have reported strong results. Net income is up 66%, and so are our operational commitments by 20%. We are beginning to see encouraging results in the quality of our portfolio such as the level of disbursements and a decline in aging or problem operations. We are making headway in becoming more focused and selective."
He added that "we have maintained momentum on reforming our operational business and budget processes to ensure greater accountability, quality and responsiveness. Only last week, our procurement rules were extensively revamped; the first such exercise in many years which now puts us at par, in terms of responsiveness, with similar international organizations."
He commended the African Development Fund (ADF) donors for their generous donation and record increase which has tremendously improved the Bank’s soft window capability.
"This was truly an achievement for the Bank and its members and a demonstration by donors of their commitments to Gleneagles. I am particularly pleased about the agreement to allocate a significant part, seventeen and a half per cent, of all the resources, at promoting regional infrastructure and other regional public goods which support Africa’s economic integration. A regional member country, the Republic of South Africa, doubled its contribution to the fund and I applaud them. I look forward to other African countries in a position to do so, exploring possibilities of such a contribution in the future. In this same vein, I sincerely thank Nigerian authorities for the agreement to extend the Nigeria Trust Fund," he said.
Regarding the private sector, Mr. Kaberuka said that private sector activities at the Bank Group continue to expand. "We will continue to be rigorous in project selection, credit review, choice of partners and our internal capacity because our overall strategy is to maintain an average low to moderate risk profile. A large part of our operations, 61% are in the middle income countries, but we have also expanded in low income countries," he said.
With regard to the global food crisis that has brought a lot of pain and suffering to many people across the continent, Mr. Kaberuka commended the swift international response that has resulted in the provision of food supplies to protect the poor and the vulnerable. This response, he said, was welcome, but was not adequate and the risks remained acute. He called on donors to be generous and provide specialized agencies with additional resources.
"Certainly, the world has the means to prevent starvation in the 21st Century. The most vulnerable categories are known, they include the urban poor, rural families who purchase food and people in fragile states where markets do not function well," he said, adding that "we will be alongside other international financial institutions providing this kind of support where feasible. Preserving the achievements of reforms of the past years is vital."
He called on the discouragement of the multiplication of export bans, quotas, and export taxes which are exacerbating the problem. There is no better way to worsen the situation than to interfere with the supply chains at a delicate stage such as this. Food security is impossible anywhere without a smooth trading system: local, national, regional and global, and I hope after the initial action taken by some countries, the barriers can be reduced or removed altogether.
Mr. Kaberuka called for the issue of food security to be addressed in the long term, adding that "the adage that feed a hungry person and he or she will be hungry tomorrow" was still as valid as ever. "We are not dealing with a short term problem; the long term solution can only mean a different way of managing our agriculture. What is to be done about African agriculture is known; it is spelt out in numerous policy statements, including NEPAD’s comprehensive agricultural policy for Africa."