"We believe the ADB can, and must become the premier development institution in Africa, providing a strong voice for- and within- Africa, so that Africans can take their rightful place at the forefront of continental economic stewardship". This is the core message of the Report of a 13-member Independent High Level Panel on the Bank Group, co-chaired by former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano and former Canadian Prime Minister, Paul Martin, and including the Nobel Laureate in economics, Joseph Stiglitz. The report has been launched in Tunis by Messrs. Chissano and Martin on Tuesday 22 January 2008.
Africa is on the move. Policy changes and improved governance and management have led to the highest rates of sustained growth since the days of independence. The proportion of the population in extreme poverty is no longer increasing; democratic change is becoming the norm; African-led efforts have reduced conflict. The global context is also favorable, with the large emerging economies creating new opportunities for Africa. More African countries are credit-worthy, and investment has increased. All this gives cause for optimism. The High Level Panel believes that Africa has its best chance in a generation to make rapid progress—an opportunity that must be seized.
By 2030 Africa will be as populous as China and India today. It should be a stable, integrated, and more prosperous continent taking its proper place in the global community. But this outcome is not inevitable. To succeed, Africa will have to overcome poverty, disease, climate change, failing and fragile states, corruption, poor governance, and small, unproductive, uncompetitive economies. If the continent fails, another generation of Africans will be trapped in poverty with few opportunities to escape.
The High Level Panel’s position can be summarized as follows. To reduce poverty Africa needs sustained and shared growth, driven by the private sector, with a more equal distribution of opportunities. Operating as 53 fragmented economies, Africa will never be able to trade competitively—it needs to be more integrated, with larger economic spaces. Goods and services must move more easily; infrastructure must facilitate not frustrate trade; institutions must be supportive and effective. Without integration, the continent will remain disjointed, with many small, shallow markets that are uncompetitive on their own and unattractive to investors. Underpinning this integration are capable states, offering good and accountable governance. Progress, or the lack of it, will be closely related to success in rebuilding post-conflict states and managing fragile situations.
There is no single development model to apply. Uneven progress has made Africa more diverse, not less. There are more middle income countries (MICs) and more countries aspiring to MIC status. All, rightly, want to take responsibility for their destiny, to move away from dependence on aid. For this, Africa will need strong, committed leadership, unrelenting national and regional efforts, and sustained support from the international community. Commitments by African countries and by donors need to be translated into action.
Africa will also need appropriate continental institutions. The African Union is providing a political lead, but the continent needs an economic motor to facilitate implementation on the ground, to drive economic integration. The African Development Bank (ADB) must become that motor, as the premier development institution in Africa. It must be a voice for development in Africa and for Africa internationally. This is a message we heard loud and clear in our discussions with African stakeholders—and it is the bedrock for the rest of our report.
The Bank has a clear mission: poverty reduction and development through growth and economic integration. It has the right credentials: an elected African president, universal African membership, an exclusive focus on African development, and a strong presence on the continent, including its headquarters and growing network of country offices. And it can address the full range of Africa’s challenges by supporting public and private initiatives across the continent.