“Ebola is first and foremost our problem. Before relying on international aid, we must first encourage Africans to take action. I therefore call for African solidarity on this issue.” These were the words of Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank, during the Rebranding Africa Forum held in Brussels, Belgium, on Saturday, October 18. The event, which focused on the theme of “What price for Africa’s emergence?”, was organised by the pan-African magazine Notre Afrik.
The Ebola outbreak was naturally high on the agenda, dominating discussions throughout the Forum. The Bank President talked at length about the epidemic facing West Africa, and the topic also prevailed during plenary sessions and press conferences attended by representatives from international and African media, based in Europe and Africa.
Kaberuka stressed the importance of avoiding panic, assessing the situation with a cool head, and quashing unfounded rumours about the epidemic's supposed threat to everything that Africa has achieved in recent decades.
According to the President of the AfDB, the crisis has reached its current scale not only because of poor healthcare systems in the affected countries (following successive crises), but also because of the international community's failure to take swift action.
“Ebola has hit an already weakened region, and this is why the epidemic is on such a grand scale. For this very reason, I am disappointed by the response of the international community. To put it simply, the world failed to target enough resources when the outbreak was at an early stage," Kaberuka told the media.
Emergence will not happen on its own
“Having visited Sierra Leone and Liberia in person, I found countries that had been abandoned to fend for themselves, with closed borders and suspended air travel,” Kaberuka continued. "The poor state of the local health services and the disappointing response have exacerbated the situation. But now that this has become an international crisis, resources are starting to arrive. We know what we need to do, we have the resources to do it, and we know how to beat the Ebola epidemic,” he said, with a note of optimism.
Discussing the topic of Africa’s emergence during the closing session of the Forum, Kaberuka talked at length about the conditions required to achieve this goal. In his view, these include fighting inequality, promoting greater inclusion, and managing the challenges and contradictions inherent in the continent’s socio-economic development more intelligently. “These are the issues we need to tackle to encourage emergence. Growth is a means to an end, and a condition. It is not an end in itself. It must lead to economic transformation. This, in turn, will lead to emergence. Emergence will not happen on its own. It requires effort and determination,” Kaberuka continued.
The AfDB President listed several conditions required to encourage emergence, including the creation of stable institutions, the development of infrastructure, and the promotion of regional integration.