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Sustainable economic growth and peaceful elections should be Africa’s focus in 2015


African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka on Friday, January 16 expressed optimism that 2015 holds an opportunity for the African continent to achieve progress in economic growth depending on the political will of African Governments. “It will depend on the policy stance of the countries, and the choices that they make or do not make,” he said.

The President was addressing diplomats accredited to the Bank’s host country, Côte d’Ivoire, the Bank’s senior management staff, and local and international media at an annual luncheon in Abidjan.

Kaberuka said although 2014 presented many challenges, including headwinds in the global economy, slowdown in the large emerging markets, and sharp declines in commodity prices, Africa remained resilient, maintaining its dynamism, at 5.5 percent growth.

“We know that given our demographics, 5 percent growth is strong but not stellar. It is 7 percent we must target,” he emphasised.

He said the outlook would even be better if faster progress was made in the areas of integration, especially removal of non-tariff barriers, and infrastructure development. “Those parts of the continent making faster progress on both areas are able to see higher growth, even when commodity prices are weakening,” he added, citing lack of jobs, inclusion, and effective safety nets as the giants holding back Africa’s full potential.

The challenge for 2015, he said, was not only in ensuring economic growth, but securing growth that is strong, sustainable, creates jobs, and one that benefits the broad categories of the population, not just few elites. Of the Bank’s importance is the ability of Africa to rebuild shock absorbers in the light of global uncertainties like commodity price volatility and altered conditions in the capital markets.

President Kaberuka reiterated the need for a global epidemic management system, pointing to the Ebola crisis, which had exposed the cracks in Africa’s primary health care systems. Even though disease or epidemic management is not a core business of the Bank, Kaberuka said the Ebola outbreak necessitated the institution to mobilise every resource to counter the problem.

Up to now, the Bank has committed close to US $220 million including budget support to the three affected countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. The outbreak interfered with businesses. “At the beginning of the outbreak, regional solidarity was put to test as neighbours closed borders and supply chains were disrupted. Yet it was clear that more needed to be done,” he observed, prompting African countries to strengthen their disaster preparedness.

2015 is significant as at least 15 African countries will hold legislative or presidential elections. Kaberuka’s concern is for these countries to retain or at least not undermine investor confidence “by ensuring elections are not times of shedding blood or generating instability.”

The AfDB President regretted the instability caused jihadists, presenting a new challenge on the continent. He cited recent attacks by Boko Haram in Northeastern Nigeria, where hundreds were killed, and Al-Shabaab attacks on a shopping mall in Kenya in which about 70 people died in 2013.

Kaberuka underlined that these were attacks on the whole of Africa, and they greatly undermined development.

“The risks posed by these outlaws and their backers are a major issue for Africa’s development prospects, perception, risk profile, investment climate and the Africa brand.” He noted: “Fighting these jihadists diverts our resources, which could be used otherwise to build infrastructure.” He called on the nations of the world to come together and battle against jihadists and their offshoots everywhere.

During the luncheon, Kaberuka lauded the Bank’s growth from US $3.6 billion 11 years ago to now about US $8 billion, a growth he describes as in line with the expectations of an emerging Africa. The Bank recently moved back to its headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, after 11 years of relocation to Tunisia.

Albert Toikeusse Mabri, Côte d'Ivoire’s Minister for Planning and Development, expressed confidence in the Bank’s activities, welcoming its relocation back to Abidjan. “We are proud to have the Bank back. We are proud of the Bank’s services to the continent of Africa,” he said.

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