Pooling a bit of our economic sovereignty for collective good is what will define our ability to make progress, African Development Bank (AfDB) President Donald Kaberuka told African leaders and delegates attending the Bank’s annual meetings here Thursday.
Observing massive shifts in economic power around the world, Kaberuka said at the formal opening of the meetings that the task of policy makers now was to “ensure Africa is part of that process”.
Since pools of savings were not insignificant on the continent, Kaberuka suggested that the willingness to pool should apply not only to financial power, but other sources and capabilities such as natural resources utilisation.
“The founding fathers of the Bank gave us a principal mission: Africa’s single market, where there is free movement of people, merchandise and capital. That is how we will be part of the ongoing global democratisation of wealth,” PANA quoted him as saying.
Maintaining that the Africa that Africans want today was in reality no different from what the continent’s founding fathers defined at independence, Kaberuka explained that the difference was that in the last 50 years the world has undergone “tectonic” shifts.
On the theme of the AfDB meetings for this year, ‘The Africa We Want’, Kaberuka said the African Union’s Agenda 2063 already provided a clear vision.
In his opinion, the AfDB must now adapt to the challenges of Africa in the 21st century, remembering that the number one mission the bank had at the time of its creation in 1964 remains valid today.
By insisting on being a focused institution, he said the AfDB resisted mission creep, a temptation to be everything for everyone.
“We narrowed on a few areas of comparative strength: Infrastructure, Economic integration, Private sector, and Governance and support to countries in transition,” Kaberuka elaborated.
Despite its in-built resilience, the bank faced three challenges, which according to Kaberuka, tested its mettle in the last decade.
The first challenge was the prolonged operation out of the bank’s headquarters in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. Initially, the relocation to Tunis, Tunisia, was expected to be a brief interlude but it has ended up as a 10-year sojourn.
Kaberuka mentioned the impact of the global financial crisis, which erupted in the third year of his tenure (2008), as the second challenge.
In confronting the crisis, he said, the first task concerned minimising the impact of the crisis on the Bank’s own financial health, at a time when banks and non-bank financial institutions the world over were under threat.
The second task was to find ways to ensure that African countries do not suffer lasting damage. AfDB achieved that by stepping up counter-cyclical lending.
Kaberuka said that the third challenge was the Bank’s continued operation right in the middle of the revolution in Tunisia and the subsequent impact of the Arab Spring.
“These were challenging moments for the Bank, which could have had an impact on weaker institutions. Yet, at no time was the Bank’s operational capacity or its finances weakened, or our ability to serve our clients lowered in quality.
“To the contrary, business continued to grow in size, in scope, in complexity, as the demand on the Bank’s products was on the increase in the aftermath of the financial crisis.
“I do not know of any institution of this size and complexity which had been through this trauma, yet emerged fully intact,” Kaberuka said, praising the commitment of the AfDB’s staff to deliver on their mandate.