The Eminent Speakers Series has opened a new chapter in the Bank’s endeavor to become a knowledge center, with the capacity to propose solutions to Africa’s problems, based, inter alia, on documented experiences of those who know the continent and believe that its development is possible and achievable sooner rather than later.
The program is a part of a newly designed framework to enhance the Bank’s visibility as a knowledge institution. It is designed as a platform on which African leaders and world renowned persons – Africans and non-Africans – can share their views on daunting development challenges facing the continent. While providing opportunities for Bank staff to interact with distinguished thought leaders and exchange ideas on how the continent’s development agenda can be achieved in the near term, eminent personalities can set out, through the program, their visions for posterity; visions that may inspire current and future African leaders.
The first under the Eminent Speakers Program, the publication was launched in Tunis on December 4, 2008 by Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank Group, and festus Mogae, former President of Botswana, who was giving a conference on "Extractive Industries and Africa’s Development: Lessons from Botswana".
The Eminent Speakers Series 2006-2007 includes the following papers:
- "HIV/AIDS Pandemic in Africa: My Fears and my Hopes" by Kenneth Kaunda, former President of Zambia
- "Reinventing Growth: Technological Innovation and Economic Revival in Africa" by Calestous Juma, Director of the Science, Technology and Globalization Project at Harvard University
- "Improving Access for African Rural Areas to Water and Sanitation" by Michel Camdessus, former IMF Managing Director
- "Meeting Global Challenges: International Cooperation in the National Interest", by Kingsley Amoako, the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa’s (UNECA) former Executive Secretary
- "Governance and Investment in Africa: Experience after Forty Years" by Benjamin Mkapa, Tanzania’s former President
- "Post-Conflict Recovery: How Should AfDB Strategies be Distinctive" by Paul Collier, Professor at Oxford University
- "Improving Africa’s Perspective in a Globalized World: The Role of Regional Integration" by Abdou Diouf, Senegal’s former president
Highlights of the conferences
Mr. Kenneth David Kaunda, Zambia’s former president, gave two addresses to the Board of Directors and Bank Group staff, respectively, on the theme: "HIV/AIDS Pandemic in Africa. My Fears and Hopes". He reported how HIV/AIDS had been claiming hundreds of thousands of lives of trained human resources in many African countries, thereby stalling development in virtually all sectors of the continent’s economy. He noted that the crisis had been worsened by many factors notably, social stigma, discrimination, brain drain of medical staff and civil conflict. He described the pandemic as a ‘crisis of frightening proportions’, which is reinforced by the incidence of poverty, hunger, ignorance and general underdevelopment prevalent among the majority of those affected.
As part of the solutions, he enjoined African leaders, role models and corporate bodies to support awareness campaigns against the disease. He advised the African Development Bank and other regional organizations to classify the disease as a special case requiring urgent attention and extra-ordinary measures, calling on them to lead efforts at mobilizing resources for research that could result in a vaccine and a cure.
Mr. Calestous Juma, Director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project at Harvard University, presented a highly interactive seminar on the theme: "Reinventing Growth: Technological Innovation and Economic Revival in Africa". The professor perceived an opportunity for Africa’s sustainable development through a new conceptual framework, which defines the region as more of a learning entity, and less of a desperate emergency case requiring dole-outs and other temporary relief measures. He based his position on the contemporary history of new emerging economies whose development successes are explained by national emphasis on scientific knowledge, and their ability to improve on socio-economic development performances through technological innovations and adaptation.
He demonstrated that the further a country is from the frontier of research, the larger the legacy of inheritable knowledge. A good understanding of factors helping the domestication of available scientific knowledge is critical to the continent’s development progress. For most African countries, the challenge therefore is to recast their existing policies which seek to catch up technologically with advanced economies. He emphasized that they should rather perceive technology in acquisitive and adaptive terms.
He underscored that for Africa to achieve sustainable economic revival and strengthen its development performance, considerable investment in the continent’s capacity to harness, utilize and generate useable scientific and technological knowledge was an urgent imperative. He urged governments to muster the political will to put in place reliable policies that are capable of strengthening technology and science institutions, as well as promoting professional engineering practice and expertise in local repairs and maintenance.
Mr. Michel Camdessus, the International Monetary Fund’s former Managing Director, focused on: "Improving Access for African Rural Areas to Water and Sanitation". He reflected on various efforts made to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing, by half, the over two billion people who lack access to safe drinking water and sanitation.
He perceived MDG challenges and water provision as intertwined, arguing that since water-related issues account for a third of the MDGs, the latter would have greater prospects of being achieved if water and sanitation objectives were fulfilled.
He maintained that the age-old vision of water provision for all Africans could be realized if current centralized water management systems were reversed. He pointed out that in order to address the challenge of making water available to those who need it, it was necessary to have an optimally decentralized distribution.
He proposed financial management mechanisms which could reconcile the need for water supply decentralization with efficiency in tariff charges and cost recovery.
Mr. K. Y. Amoako, the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa’s (UNECA) former Executive Secretary and a member of the International Task Force on Global Public Goods, presented the Task Force’s report entitled, "Meeting Global Challenges: International Cooperation in the National Interest". He focused on six categories of public goods which are urgently needed by the international community.
Citing tendencies of reluctance by nation states to initiate moves aimed at solving global problems, he explained the risk of inadequate global provision, if countries are left on their own to contribute to the global supply of public goods. He noted that in providing global public goods, the most enduring challenges are at the international level because, unlike the local and national levels, there is no real authority to regulate and ensure compliance with rules.
At the international level, actions by states are voluntary. Rooting his position on history, he called on developed countries to step up to the plate and provide the initial leadership required to supply global public goods, given that they have benefited the most from the rules-based multilateral system.
Mr. Benjamin William Mkapa, Tanzania’s former president, addressed a seminar on the theme: "Governance and Investment in Africa. Experience after Forty Years". Mr. Mkapa defined good governance as the exercise of power in a democratic polity that balances the interests of all citizens, separates legislative and judiciary powers from executive power, and provides the requisite framework for investment and satisfactory socio-economic development. He noted that few constitutions at the time African countries gained independence met these criteria. The critical challenge of governance and investment in Africa after the global financial crises of the late 1970s was, therefore, the establishment of building blocks for governance reforms and market-oriented environments. The results began to manifest themselves in the mid-90s, and this explained the significant increase in economic growth witnessed since the late 1990s.
He said that there was unwavering commitment in many African countries to improve the investment climate. Open political processes, civil society mobilization and policies which guarantee the rule of law, security and stability were other governance measures being taken in many African countries to foster improved enabling environments. He argued that for these efforts to propel satisfactory growth rates, investment focus, in the short and medium term, should be on infrastructure development, small and medium enterprises as well as agriculture.
Mr. Paul Collier of Oxford University presented a paper entitled: "Post Conflict Recovery: How Should AfDB Strategies Be Distinctive" in which he said that post-conflict countries in Africa constituted a unique group deserving special policies and assistance from aid donors, given that there was a high risk of these countries reverting to conflict.
He also pointed out that civil conflicts could create opportunities that could be peculiarly distinctive, and that might be harnessed for long-term positive impact on national development processes. Mr. Collier also pointed out that reduced military spending, growth-inducing policies leading to youth employment, were very important in reducing the risk of conflict. He observed that democracy, including holding of elections, tended to aggravate rather than alleviate the risk. He underscored the role the African Development Bank could play in reducing the risk, especially in the provision of policy advice, finance and advocacy. The Bank’s distinctive roles in this regard must also be adequate and generous.
Mr. Abdou Diouf, Senegal’s former president, made a presentation on "Improving Africa’s Perspectives in a Globalized World: the Role of Regional Integration" in which he drew attention to the fact that, despite Africa’s abundant resources as well as efforts at regional integration, the continent had remained on the sidelines of globalization. The continent, he said, had, over the last three decades, even witnessed a decline in its level of participation in global trade.
Mr. Diouf extolled the potential benefits of globalization and South- South cooperation, and challenged African leaders to intensify their support for integration efforts, emphasizing that increased support could help optimize the benefit their countries would derive from globalization. He perceived a united Africa as a reality if the states, the majority of which are consequences of colonial circumstances, were prepared to delegate their sovereignties.
He proposed that to help the cause of regional integration on the continent, African countries should accept the concept of delegation of sovereignty, whereby national authorities would allow the continent’s supranational institutions to take over some national sovereign matters.