President Obasanjo Opens ADB 2005 Annual Meetings: Emphasizes need to harness Africa’s potentials for development
"As you deliberate on your plans for the years ahead, consider also the need for us to harness Africa’s potentials to create wealth and improve the quality of life of our people, to make abject poverty a thing of the past,"Obasanjo told delegates at the opening of the 2005 Annual meetings of the Bank at the Abuja International Conference Centre on Wednesday.
Mr. Obasanjo said Africans must be ready to engage opportunities, challenges and pressures from globalisation through well thought-out internal policies and programmes that empower people, create wealth, enhance creativity and innovation, and strengthen the socio-cultural foundations of communities and the people.
One way of achieving this, he said, "is to work together, trade amongst ourselves, pull resources together for expensive capital projects, exchange information and experiences, and collectively stand against conflicts, corruption, and any form of undemocratic political conduct."
President Obasanjo urged African countries to continue to focus on agriculture as the proven engine of growth that Africa needs to re-explore as it puts the right policies in place.
"The African continent can produce the raw materials for the manufacture of most items ever conceived or consumed by man. This is our heritage; it should also be to our advantage,"he said.
On Nigeria’s role in Africa, he restated a long-standing national doctrine according to which Nigeria considers Africa to be the centre-point of her foreign policy and her commitment to the peace, harmony and development of Africa.
"We believe that our present and future are tied to the fortunes and future of Africa. We are convinced that to the extent that any African and African nation is in trouble, we cannot rest or be happy,"Mr. Obasanjo said to a loud applause from the audience.
The Nigerian leader said he was gratified to know that the Nigerian Trust Fund (NTF), which he set up in the ADB while he was military head of state in 1976 with US$ 100 million, has now grown to become one of the three loan windows of the ADB group with a resource base of US$ 500 million.
"Let me assure you all that we are prepared to do much more within the limit of our resources and may I use this opportunity to call on other African states with adequate resources to initiate similar Funds to help our brothers and sisters,"President Obasanjo said.
He commended ADB President Omar Kabbaj, who is retiring after a 10-year tenure for his highly rated stewardship.
Earlier, Mr. Kabbaj said the ADB must position itself as the central development actor in Africa.
In the speech, which he said, was the last he would pronounce as President of the ADB, he presented a detailed analysis of the challenges facing the Bank in the coming years and made suggestions on how to tackle them.
In the first instance, he said, the Bank must capitalise on what has been achieved in the past ten years and should judiciously utilise the considerable funds at its disposal to finance new loans and grants.
He advised that the Bank continue to focus on poverty reduction. It should also try to maintain high professionalism and the mutual understanding, cooperation and respect that exist among its decision-making organs. The Bank should safeguard its solid financial base, sustain the respect and reputation it has won with development partners as well as implement its action plan effectively and prudently to consolidate and build on the gains of recent years, Mr. Kabbaj said.
In her speech, the chairperson of the Board of Governors, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, noted that her country was hosting the meeting for the third time and that this underscored its commitment to the ADB and to the African continent.