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The 2015 Annual Meetings – ‘the Bank’s window on the world’

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“For one intense week every year, the Bank’s Annual Meetings are what its website is for 52 weeks in the year: its window on the world”, says Joel Kibazo, Director of Communications and External Relations at the African Development Bank. Kibazo was speaking to journalists on the eve of the 2015 Annual Meetings taking place in Abidjan from May 25-29

He spoke about the theme of the meetings, Africa’s performance in 2014-15, the Bank’s work in the same period as well as its work over the 50 years of its existence, and the record of President Kaberuka as his second term in office comes to an end.

Theme of the meetings

“The theme of ‘Africa and the new global landscape’ is well chosen. Africa is a key part of the global landscape, and in 2015, it presents to the world both opportunity and challenge. The opportunity is clear: the continent’s growth story continued in 2015, in spite of global economic uncertainty. This year we estimate that FDI is projected to increase by nearly 12% to $55 billion. 

“But so is the challenge. Three global conferences will be held this year, and the decisions they make will have far-reaching consequences for Africa and other developing regions, not to mention important implications for the global economy. Here in Abidjan, I can assure you that Africa will continue to develop its positions for the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in June, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal Conference in New York in September, and the COP21 Climate Change Conference in Paris, December. 

“We feel that all three of those events are strongly about Africa – but they’re also by Africa. The message for Addis and New York is that Africa is managing and increasingly funding its own development destiny; and the message for Paris is that the resources available to address climate change are still insignificant, and Africa receives just under 5% of these.  

Africa’s performance in 2014-15

“Africa saw continued growth and continued challenge in 2014-2015.  At 3.9%, its GDP growth was ahead of the global average at 3.5%.  East Africa led the charge at 7.1%, and West Africa defied Ebola to grow by 6.0%.

“But we know the challenges, and here in the Bank the one that exercises us most is the continent’s continuing lack of infrastructure. We wince at the raw facts: only a quarter of Africans have access to electricity; two-thirds have no access to sanitation; a third have no access to improved water. Couple that with the spread of terrorism, and the fact that the current EU migrant crisis in the Mediterranean reveals the extent of instability in African countries from which citizens seek escape, and we know the obstacles to progress.

The Bank’s work in the same period

“We stress that the Bank makes a difference: it impacts people’s lives; it’s Africa’s premier development finance institution, and at 50 years old it’s fit for purpose and – from 2014 – it’s now ‘back home’. We launched 232 operations totalling $7.59 billion in 2014. In fact we managed to exceed our targets, even in a year when we moved offices from one country to another, taking 1,000 people and their families from Tunis to Abidjan.

“Everyone in this Bank cites their favourite project examples. Mine is close to home here in Côte d’Ivoire, where the $380 million Henri Konan Bedié Bridge over the lagoon in Abidjan carries 70,000 vehicles a day, and massively facilitates movement in this city. The Bank’s contribution was $80 million. We tell the same story of transformative projects across the continent.

“We quantify the impact on people’s lives.  In the last two years, 4 million Africans have benefitted from the Bank’s water and sanitation projects, 10 million Africans have benefitted in agriculture, 11 million in energy, 19 million in transport, 49 million in health.

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara and AfDB President Donald Kaberuka at the inauguration of the Henri Konan Bedié Bridge.

The Bank’s work over the 50 years of its existence

“Of course it’s harder to compute the hundreds of millions of lives we have touched in our 50 year existence – half a century in which we have grown to become the premier development finance institution on the continent, and the partner of choice not only for member governments but also for the private sector, and for other development agencies.

“From 26 members in 1964 to 80 (54 regional) in 2014 … from 10 staff in 1964 to 2000 in 2015 … from our first pioneering projects in 1967 to a cumulative 4,200 worth $103 billion by the end of 2014 …  The growth has been exponential. 

“I would say that the growth has also been a facet of evolving to meet changing needs. The 1970s: giving concessional loans to its poorer members. The 1980s: taking on non-regional members. The 1990s: starting to address the challenges of fragile states. The 2000s: beginning to partner with the private sector. The 2010s: addressing a new ‘inclusive’ and ‘green’ agenda. These and more are the highlights of each decade.

“The challenges going forward will test our mettle for further evolution. We still have to find new financing mechanisms and new funding partners to meet ongoing (especially infrastructure) needs in Africa. We have to strengthen the still-weak hardware and software of regional economic integration in Africa, and the governance which is the best means of underpinning economic development in Africa.

The record of President Kaberuka

“The eyes of Africa and the world will also be on the Annual Meetings for another reason: our Board of Governors will elect a new President. It’s also a time to look back on Donald Kaberuka’s achievements as his second five-year term comes to an end. It has been a decade of strengthening the foundations of the Bank, meeting Africa’s immediate needs, and pushing new boundaries.

“I suppose that some will remember Kaberuka for his crisis response. He galvanised a collective African and global response to the 2008 financial crisis, and lending doubled in 2009. Likewise for the 2011 Arab Spring, where we gave special support for grassroots initiatives for women and young people in our-then host country Tunisia). And again in 2014 in the face of the Ebola crisis, where we provided high-speed funding for the WHO and for our partner countries.

“Not all of his successes needed to make the headlines. The Bank kept its AAA credit rating status, and managed a record General Capital Increase in 2008, and three strong replenishments of the African Development Fund. Its private sector lending grew ten-fold in a decade to $2 billion a year. He also brought in new focus on fragile states and gender equality, and a new strategic direction with inclusive and green growth as the cornerstones of the 2013-2022 Bank strategy.

“It’s generally seen that he also recognised how the Bank needed to unlock new funds and develop a new business model. We estimate that it unlocks three public sector dollars and six private sector dollars for every dollar it invests. The last decade has seen it launch new risk guaranty products, new financial products like Green bonds, and partnerships with new funders, like global Foundations. And Kaberuka’s impact was just as marked outside Africa.  He opened a new regional Asian office in Tokyo; he pushed for enhanced partnership with India and China; he established the Bank as a global player and advocate for Africa. 

“And that really brings me back to where I began, and the 2015 Annual Meetings theme of ‘Africa and the new global landscape’. You should come and join us in Abidjan, or follow us on the Bank website. Within the site, see the website specifically dedicated to the Meetings. Follow our hashtag too, #afdbam2015.”

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