The African Development Bank (AfDB) has called for speed in the delivery of international assistance to Tunisia as the country goes through political and economic change. AfDB President Donald Kaberuka made the call at the first meeting of the European Union/Tunisia Task Force in Tunis on Wednesday, 28 September.
The EU/Tunisia Task Force was established to coordinate European and international support to allow for quicker and more effective assistance to Tunisia, following the country's ground-breaking revolution earlier this year, which engendered a wave of political change across the region.
The AfDB, whose temporary headquarters are located in Tunisia, has been fully engaged with the government and people of Tunisia since the revolution. The AfDB has played a central and active role in creating the Deauville Partnership of financial institutions and currently chairs the rotating Coordination Platform during its first year of operation. The partnership was set up at the G8 meeting in the French seaside town in May 2011 with the aim of supporting political and economic transformation in Tunisia and other countries of North Africa and the Middle East.
Tunisian Prime Minister M. Beji Caid Essebsi said the Deauville meeting had been a marked success for his country, as it had brought about a convergence of views by G8 leaders among G8 leaders on the needs expressed by his government.
As the first meeting of the EU/Tunisia Task Force got underway, Donald Kaberuka said: "I cannot emphasize enough the need for speed. Revolutions by nature raise huge expectations for improved conditions. Yet they do so at a time when the economies are experiencing temporary dislocations and when markets and investors reassess the risk profile and adopt a wait-and-see attitude. That is exactly the time we are needed and are called to act with dispatch. The people of Tunisia and the region at large are anxious to see us translating promises and good intentions into visible and concrete actions."
The AfDB President said that what is needed is innovative assistance that would not make Tunisia and other countries of North Africa aid dependent. He said the people of Tunisia were interested in multi-form partnerships on trade and investment. Europe in particular, he added, should expedite the process geared at trading opportunities.
Equally emphasised was the need to let countries determine their priorities. "Everything we do must be demand-driven, stressed Kaberuka. "We must avoid temptations to be prescriptive, and let the countries and their people decide and chart their path, while we rally behind them. In this way our actions will be complementary to the domestic efforts and sustainable."
The AfDB President's fourth and final point centred on the need for development partners to engage with Tunisia and other North African countries for the long-term. The challenges of the region, he explained, are to promote inclusive economic growth that creates jobs, which by nature, takes time.
Lady Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission, dwelt on some of these same messages. Lady Ashton also called for speed in delivery. "I'm pleased to say that the first meeting of the EU/Tunisia Task Force was a great success. Yet I know that Tunisians want even faster changes, particularly in their economy. While this must of course be a Tunisian-led process, the EU is committed to doing all it can to help. But it is important that investment returns."