AfDB Group Annual Meetings in Shanghai
Calls for Wider Sino-African Cooperation
Shanghai, China, 15 May 2007 – The 42nd Annual Meetings of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the 33rd Annual Meetings of the Board of Governors of the African Development Fund (ADF), opened on Wednesday in Shanghai, China, with calls for wider and mutually beneficial cooperation between Africa and China on the one hand and Africa and Asia on the other hand.
Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao presided over the opening session attended by Presidents Pedro Pires of Cape Verde, Marc Ravalomanana of Madagascar and Paul Kagame of Rwanda, alongside with the Chair of the Board of Governors, Zhou Xiaochuan and Bank Group President Donald Kaberuka.
Mr. Wen reviewed the long-standing relationship between China and Africa, noting that the annual meetings would surely boost relations between Africa and Asia as well as increase the Bank Group’s global influence and its capacity to leverage partnerships for the development of Africa.
He underscored challenges Africa was facing as a result of globalization and assured that the Chinese government and people were committed to helping African countries tackle some of the challenges.
He said that China had funded 900 infrastructure and public works projects in Africa since it established diplomatic relations with African countries in the 1950s. The Asian giant has also cancelled debts owed to her by African countries to the tune of 109 billion Yuan and that it would provide debt relief of the same amount in the near future.
He said the country applied zero-tariff regime to exports of some least developed African countries to China and provided greater market access to African products. The Premier said his country would further expand market access in line with agreements reached by both sides during the Beijing Summit on China-Africa Cooperation in November last year.
"China will fully deliver on the commitments and is working with the African countries to implement the measures," he said, calling for the expansion of cooperation between the two sides for their mutual benefit.
China, he said, attached high importance to its cooperation with the AfDB and sub-regional development organizations in Africa, adding that the Chinese government was most willing to strengthen cooperation with other countries and international financial institutions.
Earlier, Bank Group President Donald Kaberuka disclosed that all three windows of the institution reported a combined income of US$ 372.5 million, with the AfDB window accounting for a gross income of US 291 million in fiscal 2006, "I am pleased to report that the financial position of the Bank remains strong and the medium-term outlook robust. The key financial ratios of the Bank have strengthened further and compare favourably with those of other multilateral development banks. The Bank continues to enjoy the highest possible ratings from all the rating agencies who reaffirmed triple AAA and AA+ rating for the Bank’s senior and subordinated debt respectively, with stable outlook," he said.
The Bank’s strong financial position, Mr. Kaberuka said, was a reflection of prudent financial and operational management that have enabled it, not only consolidate its reserves but also to contribute to other development initiatives.
On Africa’s economic situation, the President said the continent had never been so poised for economic prosperity and better governance than it has been for decades, pointing out that the last six years represented the longest period of strong economic growth on the continent even for countries that were not endowed with natural resources.
Across the continent, economies are growing on average at 5.5 percent, driven by peace and stability, better terms of trade, economic governance, business climate, lower debt ratios and in some cases, higher official development assistance inflows or positive neighborhood effects and remittances which, in certain cases dwarf aid inflows and export earnings, he said.
He said the outlook for Africa remained positive with 31 countries growing at a rate above that of population increase , half of them above 5% while nine others were growing above 7% . Post-conflict countries like Liberia, Central African Republic, DRC and Burundi, were slowly getting back on their feet. "Perhaps even more significantly, the five countries with the largest populations in which nearly half of Africans live, are registering growth above 5% thereby providing a strong chance of faster reduction in the number of people living in absolute poverty", he said, forecasting growth of up to 6.5% in 2007.
Nonetheless, in spite of the progress registered in some of the countries, millions of Africans still live in countries that are either stagnating, contracting or barely keeping up with population growth; for a number of reasons including fragility, conflict, or policy setbacks.
The scenario is one in which even countries that are supposed to be doing well are still vulnerable to internal and external factors, such that even the 5.5% real GDP growth does not bring the continent anyway near winning the campaign to reduce poverty.
Mr. Kaberuka underscored the staging of the Annual Meetings in Asia whose longstanding link with Africa has increased dramatically in the last five years, adding that Asia’s emergence as the world’s fastest growing market presents opportunities and some inspiration and challenges for Africa. "This annual meeting is an opportunity to exchange experiences and enhance that partnership," he said noting that "The future for Africa’s economies, like Asia before it, will be private sector-driven".
Also speaking at the session, the governor of the People's (Central) Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan, described the gathering as "a fresh starting point for all parties to intensify cooperation and promote development in both Asia and Africa.".
Two members of the Bank Group’s high level panel, former President Joachim Chissano of Mozambique and former Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin also attended the meetings along with four former Bank Group Presidents – Messrs. Omar Kabbaj, Babacar Ndiaye, Wila Mung’Omba and Kwame Fordwor.
* US$ 1 = Yuan 7,68