Past Presidents task AfDB with facilitating integration at 50th Anniversary Forum
Some of the most distinguished actors in the 50 years of the African Development Bank’s existence reflected on the past, took stock of the present and made tentative projections for the future during a session to mark the organisation’s Golden Jubilee on Tuesday, May 26 in Abidjan.
Past Presidents of the AfDB – led by their dean, Kwame Donkor Fordwor – marked the institution’s 50th Anniversary. Fordwor (Ghana), who served as AfDB President from May 1976 to July 1979, traced the Bank’s journey from the challenges of its formative years to becoming the continent’s only triple-A rated institution.
The AfDB now invests up to US $8 billion per year, a huge increase from the US $500 million it provided in 1979, he said.
Fordwor called upon the Bank to enhance its support to regional integration, as promised in its Ten Year Strategy 2013-2022, by focusing on private sector-led development.
Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who said she attended her first AfDB Annual Meetings in 1972, told how the late Liberian Banker Romeo Horton reconciled the feuding Casablanca and Monrovia Groups and paved the way for the establishment of the AfDB in 1964.
President Sirleaf recalled the long hours spent debating on whether the Bank’s capital should be opened to non-African countries. She added: “Today, with a capital of US $100 billion, we made the right decision to bring in the non-regionals.”
She praised a range of Bank achievements, including grooming hundreds of African professionals in a multicultural environment, entrenching creative thinking and innovation in development, and establishing many pan-African institutions. President Sirleaf also applauded the way the Bank conducts the election of its President, which allows the smallest countries to be heard.
Sirleaf commended AfDB President Donald Kaberuka for championing the diversification of African economies, and thanked him for his support to Liberia, especially during the Ebola crisis.
For his part, Babacar Ndiaye (Senegal), who served as AfDB President from May 1985 to August 1995, is best remembered for taking the Bank to the financial markets, and securing its triple-A ratings.
He commended President Kaberuka for his sterling performance, noting that he will be remembered for “taking the Bank to the big league.”
Other participants at the forum – the former South African Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel; Zambian Finance Minister, Alexander Chikwanda; and Kiyoshi Kodera, a former AfDB Executive Director for Japan – advised the Bank’s incoming leadership to build on the achievements of the current administration while constantly adjusting to new development dynamics.