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AfDB to play a greater role in issues of conflict and fragility on the continent, report recommends


Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, and Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, officially launched on Thursday, January 30 in Addis Ababa, the final report of the AfDB High Level Panel on Fragile States during a closed session at the 22nd African Union Summit. The report, titled “Ending conflict and building peace in Africa: A call to action”, is the result of year-long consultations, dialogue and debate on the question of “How can we truly build peace and set a course for prosperity in Africa’s fragile states?”

After consulting widely with African governments, civil society and citizens, the report found that fragility is the result of dramatic social, economic and environmental change, such as rapid urbanization, climate change, extreme inequality and social exclusion. And, in light of the African Development Bank’s unique position as a trusted African institution, the report calls for a greater leadership role for the Bank in issues of conflict and fragility on the continent.

“All nations have faced fragility,” said President Johnson Sirleaf, who chaired the High Level Panel. “It is not the category of one group of states. It’s due to the inability to manage internal or external pressures because of weak institutions, or weak political processes.”

Africa is rapidly changing and the AfDB High Level Panel report examines past causes of conflict and fragility, identifies new drivers, and looks to potential policy responses that might be required from the international community. To respond to special vulnerabilities in society, which could cause countries to slip into conflict, such as youth unemployment, Johnson Sirleaf underscored the importance of building resilience through strengthened institutions and pre-emptive intervention.

Conflict and fragility are major constraints to Africa’s development. While the African continent generally has enjoyed an economic growth rate of 5% over the last decade, post-conflict countries and those in conflict have not benefitted. Globally, GDP per capita is $945, but in fragile states, it hovers at only about a third of that, around $333. Addressing this challenge is a top priority for the African Development Bank. From 2009-2011, the African Development Bank approved $2.5 billion for fragile states and it is currently expanding its strategy for engagement in those countries. The Bank’s High Level Panel on Fragile States guides that work.

“The recent sad events in South Sudan and the Central African Republic remind us of the urgency to find enduring solutions in order to ensure that our continent achieves durable peace and sustainable development,” said President Kaberuka. “The African Development Bank’s mandate is to promote and finance the socio-economic development of Africa. We fully understand that post-conflict reconstruction is within our domain of responsibilities.”

Kaberuka indicated that President Johnson Sirleaf and the High Level Panel members had clearly shown the Bank that “every single country is vulnerable” to conflict because of tensions such as poverty, exclusion, disenfranchised youth, the extractive industry or the spillover effects of problems across borders.

“There is no one category of countries to which this type of fragility applies,” he said. “It is a potential risk for us all.”

To that end, the report calls for a greater role and more active engagement for the AfDB on issues of conflict and fragility. Among the recommendations, the report calls for the Bank to adopt strategies to tackle youth unemployment, facilitate private investment and help its members build resilience through partnerships at a regional level.

The report was presented to the African Heads of States at the 22nd African Union Summit and approximately 300 participants in the forum.

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