In a historic first, East African Governors of the African Development Bank met with the President Akinwumi Adesina and Executives to discuss economic challenges, opportunities and successes in the continent’s fast-growing powerhouse region.
On the agenda: closing the $170 billion infrastructure gap across the continent, keeping pace with the region’s booming youth population, creating jobs and safeguarding peace and security.
President Adesina assured the gathering that the Bank intends to make the strategic regional consultations an annual event to allow for more open dialogue, constructive feedback and the acceleration of development reforms.
“We have 12 years left to the SDGs. It is an alarm bell because if Africa does not achieve the SDGs, the world won’t achieve them. The African Development Bank is accelerating development across Africa through the High 5s,” he stressed. “We are leveraging more resources for Africa’s development and the impact of our interventions is being felt.”
The Governors – chiefly Finance Ministers and Ministers of Economic Planning representing Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Tanzania – shared these sentiments.
“The High 5s are what Africa needs now,” said Henry Rotich, Kenyan Minister of Finance. “The Bank has financed one of our key interventions, the Last Mile Project, thanks to which 70 percent of Kenyans now have access to power in rural areas. You know what that means? It means more people can work, shop, study and create jobs. If we implement the High 5s successfully, we can address some of the key challenges we face. ”
Similarly, Tanzania’s Minister for Finance and Planning, Isdor Mpang, noted that his country has aligned its own development priorities with the High 5s of the Bank.
“We want to be a middle income country come 2015, ” he said. “How do you do that? These are exactly the five points that you need to work on.”
Somalia’s Finance Minister, Abdirahman Beileh, described the Bank’s unique role in his country’s transition.
“With the Bank’s support, Somalia has evolved from a failed to a fragile state,” he said. “The African Development Bank has been with us throughout.”
President Adesina highlighted some of the Bank’s achievements over the last seven years. Approximately 27 million Africans have benefitted from new electricity connections, while 49 million enjoyed improvements in agriculture. Some 35 million gained better access to water and sanitation, and nearly a million small businesses have been provided with financial services. Over the same period, 23 million women saw improvements in agriculture and 10 million were able to take advantage of investee projects.
Lending to low-income countries increased seventeenfold, from $434 million in 2010 to $7.5 billion in 2016. Lending to middle income countries doubled. The Bank’s active portfolio rose from $15 billion in 2010 to $30 billion in 2016.
President Adesina noted that the Bank leveraged $9.73 billion from the capital markets for African countries last year and achieved its highest annual disbursement ever in its history, at $7.67 billion.
Djibouti Finance Minister Hmadou Ibrahim asked the Bank to ensure that infrastructure projects being financed in neighbouring countries are extended to his country, emphasizing the importance of regional integration through rail and roads.
“For a country like mine, regional integration is a survival issue,” he said. “Without regional integration, Djibouti, this link between Africa and Asia, would not exist. As a result, all our investments bear the mark of regional integration to our environment.”
Hassatou N’Sele, the Bank’s Treasurer and acting Finance Vice President, highlighted the Bank’s outstanding private sector portfolio in low-income countries, with close to $2.4 billion funding in 2017. More than 458 companies have been financed by the Bank in these countries.
With a substantive capital increase, the African Development will be able to deliver on its robust pipeline of operations (15bn in 2018 alone). Prospects for 2018-2020 are bright, with 50.3 million people projected to benefit from improved access to transport as against 14 million in 2017. More than 35 million people stand to gain new or improved electricity connections, as against 4.4 million delivered in 2017.
Matia Kasaijja, Uganda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning and Governor for his country at the Bank, expressed strong support for a general capital increase to enable the Bank to accelerate Africa’s social and economic development. He noted that the Bank has retained its AAA rating during challenging economic headwinds when many institutions and countries have been downgraded.
Sudan Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mohammed Osman Al-Rikabi, said, “Most of our partners have focused on humanitarian support. But the African Development Bank has worked hand in hand with the Government to address macroeconomic issues and development projects. As we battle to recover our economy, the African Development Bank is providing support.”
President Adesina thanked the Governors for their acknowledgement of the Bank’s work in their respective countries.
“Your support and confidence in the Bank are uplifting; they mean a lot to us,” he told them. “You are the wind in our sails.”