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Visiting Swiss delegation underscores African Development Bank’s crucial role in Africa’s development
The tranquillity usually felt in Abidjan’s business district on the weekend was broken on the morning of Saturday, March 24, 2018 by a frenzy of activity around the headquarters of the African Development Bank.
A convoy of cars and minibuses pulled up outside the Bank’s main entrance. A 50-member economic and scientific delegation made up of parliamentarians, ministry officials, managers of leading Swiss companies and heads of academic institutions, led by
Johann Schneider-Ammann, Federal Councillor, Minister of Economic Affairs, Education and Research, and former President of the Swiss Confederation, made an official visit to the Bank.
The Bank’s Senior Vice-President, Charles Boamah, and Catherine Cudré-Mauroux, Executive Director for Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal, welcomed the guests at the steps to the main entrance. They were joined by Pierre Guislain, Vice-President for Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialisation, and Jennifer Blanke, Vice-President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development. The Bank’s team also included Stella Kilonzo, Senior Director of the Bank’s new landmark investment marketplace, the Africa Investment Forum – the first edition of which will be held in Johannesburg in November 2018 – Désiré Vencatachellum, Director of Resource Mobilisation and Partnerships; Abdu Mukhtar, Director of Industrial and Trade Development; Oley Dibba-Wadda, Director of Human Capital, Youth and Skills Development; Éric Jean Yoboué, Principal Specialist in Acquisition Policies; and Hervé Neffo, Principal Officer in Resource Mobilisation and Partnerships.
The boardroom, decorated with flags of the 54 regional and 26 non-regional members of the Bank, served as the venue of the meeting with the Swiss delegates, who took their places around the large table, where the most important decisions are made.
“I’m delighted to be with you”
After signing the visitors’ book, Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann opened the meeting, saying that it was a pleasure to be in Abidjan, the “fascinating capital of Côte d’Ivoire”, and to visit the African Development Bank, whose “essential role for Africa’s development is recognised by Switzerland” and whose “commitment is appreciated.”
Welcoming the visitors, Senior Vice-President Charles Boamah gave an overview of the Bank Group: the three institutions that make up its structure (the African Development Fund, the Nigeria Trust Fund and the African Development Bank itself), its mandate exclusively for Africa, its capital and member states – regional and non-regional like Switzerland – as well as the High 5 priorities established by President Akinwumi Adesina. “Africa’s needs are varied and we are here to meet them; not only in terms of loans, but also knowledge and expertise,” said Boamah, citing, for example, the lack of infrastructure (which reduces the continent’s GDP by 2%), youth unemployment and limited access to financing (only 23% of Africans have access to formal banking services). He also stressed the importance of partnerships with both governments and the private sector as well as research institutions to tackle the widespread challenges faced by Africa.
To illustrate the scale of these challenges and the Bank’s achievements, a video, which presented Africa’s development needs through the High 5s was shown on large screens.
Two other Vice-Presidents then provided further details about the Bank’s operations across the continent, each in their area of expertise and mandate: Pierre Guislain for the private sector, infrastructure and industrialisation, and Jennifer Blanke for agriculture and human capital development in Africa. The Directors completed the picture by presenting the results of several projects implemented by the Bank (the Noor solar plant in Ouarzazate, Morocco; cement works in Ethiopia, among others), and some of its major initiatives – the New Deal on Energy for Africa, Jobs for Youth in Africa, the Africa STI Forum to boost science, technology and innovation.
The Bank and Switzerland working together on Africa’s development priorities
“What I have seen during my visit to Africa is truly remarkable,” Federal Councillor Schneider-Amman, said, noting that his delegation had previously visited Nigeria, “the birthplace of President Adesina.” He then touched on all the “African Development Bank’s priority themes that make up its expertise”: youth and Africa’s huge workforce, creating the enabling environment to attract private investments, measures to accompany rapid urbanisation, as well as needs around regional integration emphasising both the benefits and challenges they represent. “As a Federal Councillor, I know that we must not forget rural areas and agriculture,” he added, before asking the question: “How can we make the most of this potential so that it becomes a reality?” He concluded his remarks by expressing his concern about the growing number of African countries with crippling debt or on the verge of over-indebtedness, which today stands at 14.
The meeting ended with a question-and-answer session involving the large number of representatives from the Swiss private sector, moderated by Catherine Cudré-Mauroux, who expertly and cheerfully performed her role throughout the meeting.
De-risking instruments, guarantees, co-financing, procurements, knowledge-sharing are all ways for private entities to form partnerships with the Bank. The flood of questions was an indication of the high level of interest among private-sector representatives in the delegation.
The visit ended with a group photograph on the steps in front of the main entrance to the Bank’s headquarters.