African Development Bank Group President, Donald Kaberuka, on Thursday, January 9, 2014, in Tunis, held talks with the diplomatic community accredited to Tunisia, to look forward to the prospects the new year might hold for the continent. The meeting came during the Bank's annual luncheon with diplomats accredited to its host country and mobilized senior Bank management as well as local and international media.
Kaberuka expressed gratitude to the Government and the people of Tunisia for hosting the Bank for the past 10 years.
The Bank President observed that demography in the continent has increased, with higher rates of schooling and lower mortality rates, also noting that export performance, domestic demand and investments have remained strong. "A third of the 49 countries will register 6.5 per cent growth this year," he said, emphasizing that "the African Development Bank is absolutely engaged in these issues, within the remit of its mandate, from fragile states and post-conflict countries to integration and infrastructure." The Bank strides each and every day to keep a balance in macroeconomic indicators, President Kaberuka underscored.
Furthermore, he revealed that 85 per cent of Africans live in countries that are relatively stable, while almost 94 per cent of Africa's GDP is generated in these countries. He also observed that 45 countries are stable or with pockets of instability, and nine countries have a peacekeeping presence. Kaberuka expressed optimism over ongoing pockets of violence in some parts of the region, and saluted efforts to find a peaceful resolution of such crises and their spillovers. "Our optimism is built on the fact that, despite such pockets of violence and suffering, much of Africa is at peace," he said.
For AfDB's President, security, peace and stability as well as job creation should be the continent's priorities for 2014. "We need, in particular, to have robust early warning mechanisms to be able to proactively manage those conflicts new and old," Kaberuka said.
He stressed that inclusive growth, economic transformation and job creation underpin the work of the African Development Bank and are the core objectives of the Bank's Ten Year Strategy, launched last April. "Exclusion is a barrier to economic transformation. Our goal is to enter the regional and global value chains," Kaberuka said.
Speaking specifically about North Africa, Kaberuka observed that nearly half of the Bank's lending portfolio is concentrated in North Africa - Morocco, Egypt, Mauritania and Tunisia. "The North African region is the largest client to the Bank, with $9 billion commitments," he stated, noting that the complex nature of the political transition in this area, as well as the needs thereby generated, require the Bank's stronger - not reduced - presence.
To this effect, the Bank President expressed confidence that North Africa would steadily overcome its current challenges. "Luckily, as a result of good rains in many North African countries, agricultural production has continued to be strong."
On Sub-Saharan Africa, Kaberuka said steady progress has been made, with dynamics of the last decade maintained, in spite of pockets of instability. He also underscored that when one compares the social and political situation in Sub-Saharan Africa today with two decades ago, significant progress has been made in anchoring economic growth and stability.
Kaberuka also thanked those countries that contributed to the African Development Fund, the Bank Group's concessional window: "Despite tough budget consolidation in the donor countries, I am pleased to report that we were able to work together successfully to replenish the ADF in September 2013."
During the meeting, Norway's Ambassador to Tunisia, Arild Retvedt Oyen, welcomed the Bank's achievements, as well as its initiative regarding the Africa50 Fund. He expressed his country's support to this African initiative for Africa. However, he reiterated his country's effort to help fight the transfer of illicit funds, with the goal to keep all funds for the continent.
Tunisia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Othman Jerandi, also expressed gratitude to the Bank for its role on the continent and for contributing to sustainably boosting Tunisia's economy. "With the Bank, Africa has the chance to make great strides and become a real continent of hope," he said.
AfDB's Corporate Vice-President, Sue Wardell, for her part, explained the main priorities for the Bank's return to its official headquarters, and thanked the governments of Côte d'Ivoire and Tunisia for their cooperation. "The Bank wants to move in the most responsible way and we are grateful to the two governments for the facilities made available to us," she said.