At the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB), its President, Donald Kaberuka, formally signed the agreement for US$ 500 million for budget support to Tunisia on 10 June 2011, together with Mr, Tunisia’s Secretary of State to the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Abdelhamid Triki.
Mr Kaberuka also announced that there was a further US$ 500 million “in the pipeline” that he hoped would be in place by the end of 2011.
The announcements took place at an Annual Meeting session presenting the 2011 edition of The AfDB in North Africa Report.
Following a period of momentous change in the region, the report covers the very pertinent underlying issues that drove a largely unexpected and unprecedented wave of political reform in North Africa.
These issues were very high youth unemployment, entrenched poverty levels and the disparity of income distribution within the countries of the region, and the challenges related to voice, accountability and transparency.
These dimensions of social and economic inclusion are all part of North Africa’s unfinished agenda, and they form the over-riding theme of this year’s Annual Report for North Africa.
At the forum, Dr Gouda Abdel-Haled, Egypt’s Minister of Solidarity and Social Justice and a former opposition politician, affirmed that the demonstrations were not just about jobs and food prices, but also about human dignity and inclusion. “The key slogan shouted on the streets”, he said, “was ‘Bread, Freedom, Social Justice’”, he said.
In effect, the government had not noticed the major changes in the mood of the people, thinking economic growth was enough, but that growth had not translated into jobs. People were dissatisfied. Society was like ‘a mountain of dry wood just waiting for a spark to light it up”.
Asked why Morocco had not witnessed such tremendous events, the country’s Minister at the High Commission for Planning, said the government had already begun to make reforms and was continuing to do so. “There is a consultation process that is under way, and we are moving to greater regionalization. A new constitution is being prepared and it will go to a referendum”, he said.
Beyond the key challenges facing North Africa, the report presents regional integration as a means of overcoming difficulties relating to competitiveness.
Regional integration offers North Africa an opportunity to achieve economies of scale, while strengthening its competitiveness through targeted physical and economic infrastructure development and reforms to facilitate cross-border trade, investments and financial flows, knowledge-sharing and migration.
In addition, the report also looks at how new economic players such as Brazil, Russia, India and China—the so-called BRIC economies—are providing renewed opportunities and potential for growth in North Africa. As the BRICs have become an indisputable force in the global economy, their impact and involvement in Africa has become equally important.
In a continental context, North Africa stands out for its wealth in natural resources and a fast-growing, emerging consumer market.
The appeal of these North African dimensions to the BRICs and the potentially game-changing impact of this fast-evolving relationship are also discussed in the report. After presenting the socio-economic context of the region, the report then delves into the AfDB’s engagement with the region.
The overview of the AfDB’s activities in North Africa provides an insight into the evolution of a major development institution and its partnership with this strategic region of the world.