Governors representing the African Development Bank (AfDB) West Africa region held consultative meetings with the institution’s President and senior management in Abidjan on Monday.
Taking stock of the AfDB’s accelerated engagement in the region, the governors said the bank’s 370 projects valued at USD 11.3 billion between 2010-2017 in the region are changing lives and making a difference.
These are the second annual consultative meetings, aimed at sharing views with the governors after the first-ever meetings in the history of the AfDB were initiated by President Akinwumi Adesina in 2018.
“Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the Governors are much closer to the Bank and that you are integrally involved in the wider vision and direction, particularly as it pertains to the challenges and needs of your respective regions,” Adesina said.
“Today, I am filled with hope. Hope because Africa is changing. Hope because across the continent, despite challenges, you can see a rising determination to turn things around,” he further noted.
Greater focus on women to close gender gap
During the consultations, the Ministers urged for greater focus on women to close the gender gap, address climate change, and increase attention to development in fragile states.
Calling the AfDB, the economic arm of the African Union, governors also highlighted the need for it to be involved in global issues in order to influence and help shape the conversations around foreign investments.
Governors also focused on institutional capacity building, nutrition, data collection as well as regional integration and digital connectivity.
Sierra Leone Minister of Finance Jacob Jusu Saffa, highlighted the need “to mobilise domestic funds and use our pension funds more efficiently.”
One government data platform
These comments were echoed by Nigeria’s Finance Minister Mahmoud Isa-Dutse.
“Infrastructure is very critical. We hope the bank will continue to support and add value to our one government data platform, Liberia’s Minister of Agriculture Mogana Flomo said.
West Africa’s economic growth trends
The economic growth trends show positive signals: GDP growth rate is projected at 4 per cent this year and to rise to 4.1 per cent in 2019.
But this does not give the full picture since 45 per cent of the countries will grow at above 5 per cent.
The figures on West Africa’s regional economic outlook were shared by Celestin Monga, Vice President and Chief Economist.
AfDB’s interventions and lendings over the past year
The governors, who are Finance or Economic Planning ministers in their respective countries, were taken through the AfDB’s interventions and lendings over the past year in presentations by senior management.
They included Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, Director General, West Africa Regional Development and Business Delivery Office; Stella Kilonzo, Senior Director of the Africa Investment Forum; Timothy Turner, Group Chief Risk Office and Swazi B. Tshabalala, Vice President and Chief Finance Officer.
2018 was a strong year for flagship projects and innovative financial instruments with 65 projects, in 15 countries, valued at USD 2.8 billion, approved for the region.
The first speed train in West Africa
The Senegambia Bridge, financed solely by the AfDB was inaugurated in January – a historic development and a dream come true for both countries.
The Regional Express Train, the first speed train in West Africa, financed by the AfDB was inaugurated in Dakar, Senegal.
The bank also financed the construction of a modern international airport in Ghana. Ghana’s national Cocoa Board received a financing plan of $600 million to enable measures to improve productivity and build warehouses.
Desert to Power Initiative in Burkina Faso
The project has already started in Burkina Faso, with the Yelen solar project.
“But the needs in Africa are high and we still have a long way to go,” Adesina said, before recalling the Bank’s Board of Directors’ authorization to engage in discussions with its shareholders for a General Capital Increase.
“Let’s think how much development we want to have in Africa and how much we are willing to pay for it… Not be too focused on how much it would cost. Let’s think how much development we want to have in Africa and how much we are willing to pay for it. It is not so much what we can afford: it is what Africa deserves. Under-development is more expensive,” he said.
Many of the Governors expressed support for a General Capital Increase.
Ghanaian Finance Minister Kenneth Ofori Atta, acknowledged the bank’s comparative advantage, saying it was about trust: “Africa trusts the Bank,” he said.
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