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African Development Bank (AfDB) Group President, Donald Kaberuka, ended on Monday, March 3, 2008, in Cotonou, his two-day official visit to Benin. The visit was his first since assuming office as the institution’s President. While in Cotonou, the nation’s capital, Mr. Kaberuka was received by the Beninois President, Yayi Boni. Discussions between the two men focused on the presentation of a growth strategy designed to help reduce poverty. The strategy is in line with Bank-funded projects and their performance in the country. The Bank delegation led by Mr. Kaberuka also met with ambassadors and development partners over lunch. He held working sessions with senior government officials such as the country’s Development Minister, Pascal Koupaki, who is also AfDB Governor for Benin. Mr. Kaberuka used the occasion to meet with development partners and visited Bank-funded projects in the country, especially in the health and agriculture sectors. The visit was also an opportunity for the Bank Group boss to renew the institution’s support for the country’s efforts aimed at consolidating democracy and reinforcing governance, as well as commend the country on the progress made with regard to elections since 2006. Benin is the first French-speaking West African country to have accepted a peer review of the country. The Bank Group has been supporting the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) set up by the African Union to help promote good political and economic governance on the continent. Since starting operations in the country in 1972, the Bank Group has, up to December 2007, approved 79 operations accounting for a total net commitment of about CFAF 356 billion.
Before proceeding to Cotonou, Benin, Mr. Kaberuka, visited Togo from February 29-March 1, 2008. He was received in audience by Togo’s President, Faure Gnassingbe. He later met with the country’s Prime Minister, Komlan Mally, and had a working session with the Togolese finance minister, and AfDB governor for Togo, Ayassor Adji Otèth. Mr. Kaberuka used the occasion to discuss with many development partners and visit some major infrastructure projects the Bank Group is funding in the country. The visit was an opportunity for Mr. Kaberuka to reaffirm the Bank’s commitment to help Togo in its efforts to normalize its socio-political and economic situation since the signing of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in August 2006.
Mr. Kaberuka, had earlier met with Ivorian President, Laurent Gbagbo, in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, where he started his three-country official visit. Both men used the occasion to discuss matters of common interest. Mr. Kaberuka’s visit was marked by the signing of a grant agreement of CFAF 14 billion. Speaking about his visit, Mr. Kaberuka said he had come to "congratulate and encourage Ivorian authorities in the peace process" and to bring the Bank Group’s concrete support to its host country through the signing of a grant agreement to finance a multi-sectoral institutional support project aimed at helping the country out of its crisis. The signing ceremony took place on February 28, 2008, in the presence of Ivorian Prime Minister, Guillaume Soro, and Foreign Affairs Minister, Youssouf Bakayoko. The agreement was signed on behalf of the Ivorian government by Ivorian Finance Minister, Charles Diby Koffi.
Speaking on the occasion, President Kaberuka expressed satisfaction with the country’s "efforts to reconnect with donors," adding that "I encourage you to continue with these efforts in order to normalize relations which are indispensable to sustainable economic recovery." He said he was "confident about the capacity of all Ivorian players to implement necessary actions that could help Côte d’Ivoire take its place within the sub-region and the African community."
Prime Minister Soro, for his part, said Mr. Kaberuka’s visit "was a strong message of solidarity and fraternity." He hailed the grant provided by the Bank Group, qualifying it as "a contribution of a highly symbolic nature because it translates into action the Bank Group’s effective reengagement with Côte d’Ivoire after five years of financial cooperation." Mr. Kaberuka also met with the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Côte d’Ivoire, Young-Jin Choi.