Mr. Enzo Quattrociocche, Secretary General, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), discusses the potential for collaboration between the EBRD and the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) during a day of meetings between the two multilateral development banks. The AfDB Board of Directors hosted the EBRD Board and the Secretary General on Friday, November 30, 2012 in Tunis.
AfDB President Donald Kaberuka opened the meetings and the full-day session was chaired by the Dean of the Board of Directors, Executive Director Mohamed Mahroug, representing Morocco, Togo and Tunisia.
In light of these meetings, what are the lessons the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the African Development Bank can share or learn from one another?
This is very interesting meeting. It’s a big delegation, it’s one third of our Board of Directors here. We are very eager to learn a bit more about what the African Development Bank does in the region. As you know, we have just started operations in three North African countries – Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt – and Jordan. We have our first projects in September-October. What is emerging from this meeting is that there is large room for complementary efforts for the two institutions. The mandate and the financing instruments of the two institutions are different. The EBRD business model is more focused on the development of the private sector, using tools and instruments of a private investment bank practice. The African Development Bank does something a bit different, but certainly there are complementarities in the way we work, and we are exploring these possibilities.
In terms of monitoring and evaluation, I understand your development bank is very advanced in this regard. Is there something the two Banks can share?
We are now in the process of reviewing our results management and results impact of our operations. We have a quite sophisticated system trying to track our impact on the transition of our countries, but certainly we want to do more in terms of ex-post evaluation, which I understand is an issue here as well. What the African Development Bank does so far is ex-ante evaluation and there’s a need for ex-post evaluation as well. So we’ll exchange notes on that and see.
So far, are there some key projects that the two development banks are working on together?
We have already a track record of cooperation with the African Development Bank in terms of the exchange of information and the exchange of know-how. Certainly now it’s the first time we can work together. We have a Memorandum of Understanding with the African Development Bank and we are planning to do projects together. We have invested together with TunInvest, which is a private equity investment fund, and there are more opportunities going forward.
Is it a moment now, in terms of the economy, to look at this continent as fertile ground?
For us, we are now active in a limited number of countries, so the opportunities for cooperation are in three of the member countries of the African Development Bank. This is a very interesting, difficult moment, but at the same time, as you know, difficulty is also opportunity. And after the Arab Spring, these countries are undergoing huge transformation. It will take time. It’s not easy to operate in these countries because of the informality of the economy and because of the basic needs of mainly small and medium-sized enterprises, which are the backbone of these economies. There’s financial illiteracy, there’s barriers to access to credit and all sorts of obstacles need to be overcome. But we’re confident that we can do something positive.
Is there a reason why you chose the North African countries, is it the proximity to Europe?
After the Arab Spring, our shareholders and the international community at large asked us start operations in these countries because we have accumulated 20 years of expertise in Central and Eastern Europe and because our business model is very suited to address the needs of these countries. This was not our region at all, but the Arab Spring was such a huge event that it warranted action mainly in terms of its business model. Because in terms of funding, there are other institutions – the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, there are several – that are already working in those countries. We work as a private investment bank; we do certain things that others don’t. So we shall never be a big player in terms of volumes. We do something that other institutions don’t in terms of private sector assistance and financing.
Are there any projects relating to youth and employment?
Certainly. That’s one of our major concerns and one of the major issues in these countries. The first things that are needed is a well-functioning financial sector and support for SMEs again to bring them into the formal sector. For instance, our Board has already approved of projects in one of the countries whereby we extend a line of credit to a local bank and, as one of the conditionalities, the Bank, while lending to SMEs, has committed to holding training sessions for the end beneficiaries, a one-day training just to teach the basic financial skills: how to draft a business plan, credit skills and these things. We try to have an impact by way of added value. It’s not only finance. We have to make sure that the beneficiaries are able to make the most of these finances.