African Development Bank Group President Donald Kaberuka has been named 2013 African of the Year in recognition of his role in spearheading the Africa50 Fund to mobilize the financing of infrastructure projects on the continent.
The $50,000 award was announced Thursday evening in Addis Ababa during the African Media Leaders Forum. The prize is sponsored by Nigeria's Daily Trust newspaper.
"[This award] is for his bringing to fruition the idea of domestically financed development," Salim Ahmed Salim, Tanzania's erstwhile foreign minister and former Secretary-General of the Organization of African Unity (current African Union), said at the forum.
The Africa50 Fund seeks to leverage infrastructure financing for transformational development projects from African central bank reserves, pension and sovereign wealth funds; the African diaspora; and high net worth individuals on the continent.
The Fund was endorsed in May 2013 by African Finance Ministers during the Bank's Annual Meetings in Marrakech, where Kaberuka underscored the critical role of infrastructure in Africa's development.
"The one thing which can really slow down the recent performance in its tracks is infrastructure," he said. "No country in the world has been able to maintain 7% GPD growth and above (sustainably) unless the infrastructure bottleneck is overcome."
In July, African institutions including the African Union Commission, UN Economic Commission for Africa, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), regional Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency endorsed the Africa50 Fund as the continent's vehicle for facilitating large-scale mobilization of resources to unlock international private financing with a view to addressing Africa's $45-billion infrastructure gap, according to some estimates.
The African Development Bank will play a lead role in the Fund, said Kaberuka: "It will be a vehicle which can build on the AfDB track record and financial strength as investor, financial engineer, attract local and international pools of savings, utilize smart aid and leverage that to up our funding of infrastructure. It will be a strongly rated instrument able to issue a bond of significance - a bond attractive to investors."
The Africa50 Fund is a game-changer in the delivery of infrastructure, Salim said Thursday, adding that Africa must take ownership of its development.
"We are proud to honour an idea whose time has come. Dr. Kaberuka has shown what Africa should do," he said.
The award will be presented at a ceremony slated for January 15 in Abuja.
Last year's African of the Year award went to former South African president Thabo Mbeki.