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Donald Kaberuka urges African countries to tap into women’s tremendous potential as economic forces

On his visit to Zambia, President Donald Kaberuka visited Kariba Dam to inspect the water corrosion to the dam. Opened in 1959, the dam is a significant generator of hydroelectric power. Both Zimbabwe and Zambia are seeking funding from the AfDB, World Bank and European Union to start major repairs to the Dam. "Having seen the significant damage, for myself, I feel repairs must start as soon as possible. The Bank will play its part and I urge other agencies to do the same, to consider this matter urgent," Kaberuka said.

During the official opening of the 3rd African Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit on Friday, July 25 in Lusaka, Zambia, the President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, said countries can only develop if they involve women in their development agendas.

Reflecting on the theme of this year’s summit, “African Women, Realising Africa’s Economic Potential”, Kaberuka said the AfDB intends to intensify gender mainstreaming in the Bank’s operations and in its regional economic and sector work. “We are working to establish targets that include gender in analysis, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of all Bank-funded projects,” Kaberuka said.

Kaberuka pointed out that last year the AfDB approved the US $125-million Africa Small and Medium Enterprise Programme to support SMEs in Africa. Through the its Private Sector Department (OPSM), Kaberuka stated that the Bank is expanding its investment services, including risk-sharing facilities, credit lines, loans, equity – products that can improve women’s access to finance.

“In Zambia, the AfDB developed the Zambia Small and Medium Enterprise Support Programme, which includes targeting women-owned SMEs as a priority. Through this programme, the Bank has supported two commercial banks in Zambia through lines of credit to provide financing to over 70 SMEs, along with training in financial and business skills,” Kaberuka said.

Kaberuka praised Zambia for its macro-economic stability and the progress it continues to make in various economic sectors. He further commended Zambia for making significant progress on the macro-economic front, diversification, and for being an inclusive economy.

While in Zambia, Kaberuka visited the Kariba Dam and other Bank-financed projects. The African Development Bank currently finances various projects in Zambia worth about US $850 million, including the development of the Kazungula Bridge, Nacala Corridor, Nkana Water Supply and Sanitation Project, climate resilience programmes, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, and skills development, among others.

On Wednesday morning, Kaberuka met with Zambia’s Minister of Finance, Alexander Chikwanda, and praised the Zambian Government for its progress in the areas of gender, empowerment as well as financial inclusion.

For his part, Chikwanda said the AfDB was instrumental in helping Zambia to fulfill the Government’s development agenda. The Minister praised the Bank for supporting the Government’s development programmes. “The African Development Bank is very supportive to Zambia in very different ways and is also key to financing regional projects not only limited to Kazungula Bridge. It also extends to Mpulungu Harbour,” he said.

The Bank’s engagement in Zambia covers a wide range of sectors, including infrastructure, energy, agriculture, and education, which Chikwanda said are key in delivering the much-needed skills to fulfill Government’s development agenda.

“There is need for us to empower our women by ensuring that we achieve more equality, more opportunities, more sustainable access to finance and resources and more gender balanced policies. Women are the drivers of economies at the household level,” the Zambian Minister of Finance said.

Chikwanda also commended the founder of New Faces, New Voices, Graça Machel, for being courageous and demonstrating what women are capable of, calling her “an ardent pioneer for African women”.

At the African Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit, Machel called on African women to form strong and strategic networks to enable them to influence change among policy-makers: “We can positively improve the quality of the lives of our villages, communities and the rest of society when we have access to the right knowledge and support. Scaling up is now a reality,” she said.

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