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The first President of the African Development Bank group to set foot on São Tomé and Príncipe, Akinwumi Adesina has arrived in the country for a five-day official visit to strengthen alliances between his institution and this lower middle-income island nation with a fragile economy.
He was welcomed by Américo dos Ramos, the Minister of Finance, Trade and Blue Economy, who is also the country’s Governor at the African Development Bank, and by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Urbino Botelho.
To help promote a competitive financial sector, the President of the African Development Bank launched the Payment System Infrastructure and Financial Inclusion Project (SPAUT) on Monday. The project – financed by a US $2.16-million loan from the African Development Fund, $299,000 from the World Bank and €345,600 from the Portuguese Trust Fund – aims to expand financial inclusion on the island.
“The payment system project launched today will have considerable development impact for São Tomé. An upgraded payment system infrastructure allows for and promotes interconnectivity with international credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard,” Adesina said.
“This, in turn, will help the country to position itself for what could be a genuine gold rush in the form of the tourist trade, as well as the longer term and more sustainable benefits of increasing regional and international trade, vital for island economies. It will also enhance private-sector growth through easier financial management conditions for enterprises, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.”
Américo Dos Ramos welcomed the completion of this long overdue project. “We must meet the demands of our dynamic and ever-growing economy and our transformation agenda requires improvement of our financial platform to facilitate national and international financial transactions,” he said.
Earlier, the African Development Bank President and his delegation held a meeting with the Prime Minister, Patrice Emery Trovoada, the Governor of the Central Bank of São Tomé, Hélio Silva Almeida, and the Ministers of Finance, Infrastructure, Agriculture and Education. A meeting with the Head of State of São Tomé, Evaristo Carvalho, is also planned.
“Despite the many achievements of the government, we continue to face challenges in this country,” the Prime Minister said. According to him, improvement of airport infrastructure, which has allowed for an increase in the number of tourists, and port management are the key pillars of economic development.
Adesina commended the Government for its continued commitment to the implementation of macroeconomic and structural reforms to ensure stability and growth. “This country is beautiful and blessed. There is no reason for poverty to persist here,” he declared. Priority areas are job creation, especially among young people and women for inclusive growth, he said. Adesina also expressed the Bank’s willingness to help São Tomé and Príncipe to develop a blue economy strategy.
“We believe in the economy and the future of this country,” he said.
During roundtables with donors, bankers and the private sector, the Bank President invited the various stakeholders to the Africa Investment Forum (AIF) to be held from November 7-9, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Adesina is expected to visit two sites financed by the African Development Bank that have made significant contributions to the development of the rural sector. They include the Agronomic and Technological Research Center (CIAT), responsible for the protection and control of food products and the conservation of seeds, and the agro-pastoral technical improvement centre (CATAP). Both centres have been rehabilitated and equipped by the Bank.
Adesina will also visit Agripalma, a concession covering almost 5,000 hectares, located south of the island and intended for industrial oil palm plantations. More than 2,200 hectares of palm groves have been planted. A factory – currently under construction – will produce its first yield in 2018.
On the last day of his official visit, Adesina will visit Príncipe Island and meet with the President of Regional Government, José Cassandra.
The Bank Group commenced lending operations in São Tomé and Príncipe in 1978. São Tomé and Príncipe hosted one of the Bank’s first National Program Offices opened in 1995. To date, the country has benefited from cumulative financing of US $195.20 million since 1978. Assistance has expanded to several key sectors of the economy, including agriculture, structural adjustment programs, energy, transport, roads, telecommunications, water and sanitation, governance, financial sector and private sector development.
There are six ongoing operations valued at US $35.38 million. Public-sector projects account for 100% of the total portfolio, as there are no private-sector operations or multinational projects. The share of the active portfolio by sector is as follows: agriculture, 57%; and multi-sector and finance, 37% and 6%, respectively.