The African Development Bank Group is committed to partnering with Africa’s regional and continental institutions to address the continent’s biggest development challenges. This was the key message when Bank President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, met with the heads of intergovernmental organisations and African development finance institutions on 25 May in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
The meeting, titled “Mobilising capital for smart infrastructure and deeper integration”, was the second of its kind organised by the Bank on the sidelines of its Annual Meetings and offered participants an opportunity to share their main concerns and discuss opportunities for cooperation.
Mr Adesina reminded the meeting of the vital role African regional institutions play in promoting Africa’s political, economic, and social development and stressed that the continent needs to achieve double digit annual economic growth to eradicate poverty. “We must ensure that Africa is at the heart of debates worldwide. Africa must have its rightful place in leading international bodies. But in addition to having a place, we also need resources,” he said.
The bank and regional and continental institutions must act together to achieve this. In particular, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), a market of 1.4 billion consumers with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion, should be put to work in creating value chains to change Africa’s role as a provider of raw materials for other countries’ development. The Bank chief called on African regional organisations to work with individual countries to ensure that Africa benefits from the vast potential market for electric cars (estimated at $34 trillion) for example. Adesina pointed out it would cost less to produce lithium-ion batteries in Africa than in the United States or China.
Infrastructure, peace, and security for better integration
Regional institutions, and especially regional economic communities and regional banks have welcomed the Bank’s investments and are calling for more inclusive projects in the near term. The Abidjan-Lagos Corridor Highway Development Project, the railway linking Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Kinshasa-Brazzaville Road-Rail Bridge Project are just a few examples of projects the Bank is financing.
Albert M. Muchanga, African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, outlined the Union’s expectations for funding, including for its specialised institutions. “We are in the process of mobilising the private sector. We are working to set up the Association of African Stock Exchanges and, together with the African Development Bank we have launched a study of Africa’s development drivers, which will identify key actions needed to achieve economic growth of 7-10% by 2063,” he said.
Arab Maghreb Union Secretary-General Taïeb Baccouche called for greater emphasis on young people to save them from the mirage of emigration. An agropastoral project is now being rolled out to create more jobs for young people in the Maghreb. Mr Baccouche said that abolishing visas would be a step forward for the proper functioning of the AfCFTA.
Elias M. Magosi, Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said that infrastructure is a major concern for the SADC and in particular, energy infrastructure.
Peter Mathuki, Secretary-General of the East African Community, stressed the need to develop integrated railway networks and to strengthen public-private partnerships. Ms Ngakono Marie Thérèse Chantal Mfoula, Commissioner for Infrastructure at the Economic Community of Central African States , pointed out that the region had made progress toward integration.
Omar Alieu Touray, President of the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) underscored the region’s fears over peace and security issues. He applauded the African Development Bank for supporting operationalisation of a regional early warning mechanism. With a cumulative GDP of $662 billion, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which includes both SADC and EAC countries, has identified more than 69 banking and multilateral institutions that are ready to invest in projects that will deepen integration, according to its Secretary-General Chileshe Kapwepwe.
Mobilising the private sector for infrastructure integration
Other themes discussed at the meeting included peace and regional security, health, food security and the debt burden that is an obstacle to Africa’s development.
The Bank is promoting the establishment of an African Stability Mechanism to help the continent build a “cushion” of resources to counter external shocks. It will also continue to work through the Africa Investment Forum to mobilise the private sector in Africa and elsewhere in support of large-scale projects.
The Africa Investment Forum will hold its next Market Days in Marrakech, Morocco, in November. Dr. Adesina concluded by saying that the private sector, the African diaspora, and African development finance institutions should assist in making the African Union financially autonomous. He promised Bank support for this aim.
“The hand that gives is greater than the hand that receives, and we need to work on mobilising individual savings in order to finance development,” said Serge Ékué, President of the West African Development Bank.
Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, the bank’s vice president for Regional Development, Integration and Service Delivery, expressed satisfaction with the discussions. “The meeting is a unique platform that gives us the opportunity to cooperate, exchange and explore ways to effectively channel resources, share best practices and coordinate our policies and advocacy in favour of Africa’s development and regional integration,” she said.
Other participants included Hanan Morsy, Deputy Executive Secretary for the UN Economic Commission for Africa; Nardos Bekele-Thomas, CEO of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD); Alain Ebobissé, CEO of Africa50; Boitumelo Mosako, CEO of the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA); Admassu Tadesse, president emeritus and group managing director of the Trade and Development Bank Group (TDB).