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UK Urges International Community to Increase Aid to Africa
UK Minister for International Development, Shriti Vadera, on December 10, 2007, addressed the ADF-11 replenishment meeting in London. Following on from the UK decision to double its contribution to the ADF, Ms Vadera used the occasion to ask the donor community to similarly increase their commitments to development in Africa and to the AfDB in particular. Economic growth in Africa is presently averaging more than at any time since the 1970’s, however, as the speech outlined, there remain many challenges to sustain this level of growth and to utilize it effectively to significantly reduce poverty. The Minister therefore highlighted the urgency of increased development assistance in order to maximize the gains from this ongoing spurt in economic growth.
Ms Vadera also highlighted the fact that it is now half way to 2015, when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are expected to have been achieved. The MDGs were accepted as development targets by the entire UN General Assembly in 2000. However, to date progress towards achieving them in Africa has been checkered at best. With this in mind, Ms Vadera reminded bilateral donors of their commitment under the MDGs and other agreements to increase aid in order to assist Africa to meet these aims. According to the OECD, aid from the group of 22 richest nations, the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) actually fell in 2006 on the level the previous year.
The speech also highlighted the legitimacy of the AfDB as a conduit for this aid from the developed world. In contrast to the situation at the Bank 20 years ago, according to Ms Vadera the bank was now "leading from the front" in working towards the development of Africa and its president was successfully "demanding results". Alongside the recent increase in aid from the UK, this represents a vote of confidence in recent reforms of the Bank undertaken under the stewardship of current President, Donald Kaberuka. Ms Vadera even suggested that the African characteristics of the Bank make its success in facilitating growth in Africa a test of the sustainability and self-sufficiency of the development process on the continent.
The Minister also outlined how the Bank’s development strategy was in line with what she saw as being the key areas for African development. Within the private sector, for example, the Bank has rapidly expanded its private sector portfolio, helping to unleash Africa’s entrepreneurial energies. Likewise in the infrastructure sector, the Bank’s mandate from NEPAD to work within the sector, has put it in the ideal position to provide the energy and ideas needed to improve infrastructure and lower costs for business. The AfDB’s regional focus also impressed Ms Vadera. The speech therefore outlined how a large number of countries with a small population and low income mean that regional linkages are crucial to creating sustainable economic growth. Regional integration provides economies of scale and competition to local producers as well as more investment opportunities for foreign investors across the continent.
Ms Vadera also warned that there is much work to be done and many challenges ahead for Africa. For the Bank, Ms Vadera spoke of the need for managers in the Bank to maintain the same level of energy, commitment, and accountability that has been recently displayed. Furthermore, she outlined a need for a Board of Governors to remain impartial and untainted by national interest in order for the Bank to represent the whole continent and not a particular group. However, in order for the Bank to be able to overcome these challenges and work successfully to transform the African continent increased aid flows are needed from the developed world.