(AfDB) - Governors representing the African Development Bank West Africa region held consultative meetings with the institution’s President and senior management in Abidjan on Monday, where they took stock of the Bank’s accelerated engagement in the region.
Three hundred and seventy transformative Bank projects valued at US $11.3 billion between 2010-2017 in the region, are changing lives and making a difference, the governors noted.
These are the second annual consultative meetings, aimed at sharing views with the governors, after the first ever meetings in the history of the Bank 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 in his opening remarks.
“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.
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 Bank, 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.” 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.
Ministers from Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Guinea Bissau called for increased support for institutional capacity building.
The economic growth trends show positive signals: GDP growth rate is projected at 4% this year and to rise to 4.1% in 2019. But this does not give the full picture: 45% of the countries will grow at above 5%. These figures on West Africa’s regional economic outlook, were shared by Celestin Monga, Vice President and Chief Economist in his presentation before the governors.
The governors, who are Finance or Economic Planning ministers in their respective countries, were taken through the Bank’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 & Chief Finance Officer.
2018 was a strong year for flagship projects and innovative financial instruments with 65 projects, in 15 countries, valued at US $ 2.8 billion, approved for the region.
The Senegambia Bridge, financed solely by the Bank 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 Bank 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.
The Desert to Power Initiative, which will develop 10,000 MW of solar zone all across the Sahel, will provide electricity for 250 million people, 90 million of them via off-grid solar systems. 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.