Africa: Launching the Babacar Ndiaye Lecture - To Carry on the Work of a Great Institution Builder

Afreximbank President Dr. Benedict Oramah delivering an opening address to launch the Babacar Ndiaye Lecture Series in Washington DC.
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Washington, DC — Welcome Address on the Occasion of the Maiden Edition of the The Babacar Ndiaye Annual Lecture Series

Our Guest Speaker, Dr Joseph Stiglitz, Professor of Economics, Columbia University;Honourable Ministers; Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Governors of Central Banks; Mr Charles Boamah, Senior Vice President, African Development Bank;Distinguished Representatives of Shareholders;
Members of the Board of Directors of the African Export-Import Bank;Dr Donald Kaberuka, Former President of the African Development Bank; Executive Vice Presidents, Management and Staff of Afreximbank;-Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press;  Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Board of Directors, Management and Staff of the African Export-Import Bank, it is an honor and privilege for me to welcome you all to the maiden edition of the African Export-Import Bank's Babacar Ndiaye Annual Lecture Series being officially launched today on the sidelines of the 2017 World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings to recognize and hopefully immortalize the exceptional contributions of Dr Babacar Ndiaye to Africa and indeed mankind. Dr Babacar Ndiaye was the fifth President of African Development Bank, during 1985 to 1995, who spearheaded the establishment of the African Export-Import Bank in 1993.

Presentation: Stiglitz Outlines Learning-Led Growth Strategy for Africa [pdf & ppt]

Dr Babacar Ndiaye was a visionary, consummate leader and a great institution-builder who served the continent of Africa in an exemplary way throughout his well-documented and celebrated career. The fact that so many of you have found the time to honor our invitation to this event is a testament to the caliber of leader we have assembled here to honor and celebrate. It shows how he is respected and loved even in death!

According to Frantz Fanon, author of The Wretched of the Earth, "Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity." This insightful quote epitomized the life and times of Dr Ndiaye. Early in his life, he discovered his mission and helped in steering his generation towards that mission. He did not only realized quite early that political independence was meaningless without economic power, he devoted his life to ensuring that Africa also gained economic independence. He used every opportunity of his leadership to serve Africa.

Born during the Colonial era in 1936 in Guinea Conakry, Babacar Ndiaye built a career in finance founded on his acclaimed superior intellect, hardwork and determination. He realized early in life that finance was key to economic progress so he chose to pursue a career in development finance and reached the pinnacle of that career when he became the President of AfDB in 1985. As President, he did not sit on his palm and watched time pass-by. Indeed, he sought to use that opportunity to make an impact.

Dr Ndiaye engineered a massive transformation of the AfDB and the financial landscape of the continent. He oversaw the quadrupling of the equity capital of AfDB to enhance its operations and development impact and secured a triple A rating for the Bank, the first ever for an African entity. He strategically used the African Development Bank's platform and convening power to address some of the key constraints to economic development facing the African continent, emerging as a prodigious builder of development finance institutions across the continent.

Most notably, to address the consequences of the global financial crisis of the 1980s on Africa, reduce Africa's dependence on commodities and improve the continent's trade competitiveness, the Visionary Babacar Ndiaye championed the establishment of the African Export-Import Bank in 1993, tactically mobilizing support from African governments and the private sector  as well as from several international financial institutions. President Ndiaye was also instrumental in the creation of Shelter Afrique and the African Business Roundtable, two important institutions that are positively impacting Africa today.

Dr Babacar Ndiaye worked tirelessly to construct Africa's financial architecture as we know it today. He did not only build multilateral financial institutions, he strongly supported the growth of the African private sector at a time when the African private sector was at best rudimentary. He engineered the creation of AfDB's private sector window, making it possible for the AfDB to start lending to the emergent private sector; he supported efforts made by Mr Sardanis to build a pan African commercial bank, the Méridien Bank; and made it possible for AfDB to create a programme of depositing part of its liquidity with African commercial banks. Some of these may sound ordinary today but in the 1980s, they were revolutionary. Dr Ndiaye created the new normal we all cherish today.

Of course, when we talk about Dr Babacar Ndiaye leading the establishment of these institutions, we do not fully capture the complexity and challenges associated with the delivery of such projects. For instance, it took more than six years from the time Dr Ndiaye conceived the idea of an African Export-Import Bank for it to become a reality. It took that long to overcome the strong opposition from a number of influential countries. An evidence of the fierce opposition he had to contend with is captured in a written memo to Dr Ndiaye by a powerful Director, representing one non-regional members on the Board of the African Development Bank, who wrote:  "We would not support the idea of an Afreximbank—even in principle!" Yet another powerful Director, still from a non-regional country told President Ndiaye even after the Bank had been set up that "the idea of establishing Afreximbank was a mistake."

The journey that Dr Ndiaye undertook to create the African Export-Import Bank, was no easy one; it tested his mental fortitude and physical capabilities and made him enemies. That he persevered, overcame and delivered a bank which today stands tall as major African multilateral, is a feat worth celebrating. His was an inspirational story which infuses courage in us as we tackle the challenges of our continent.

Sometimes we wonder what would have been the course of Africa today if Afreximbank was not created! Which international bank would have been there to support the continent in the past two years of severe commodity crisis if Afreximbank were not there to disburse over 9 billion US dollars to certain banks and central banks?; which international bank would have ignored high compliance cost to be there for African economies that have lost correspondent banking relationships?; how would Africa today be dreaming of expanding intra-African trade and export manufacturing without an Afreximbank? There was a vision realized; Babacar's vision of an Afreximbank was that vision.

More than the Trade Finance Bank for Africa, the African Export-Import Bank, in the spirit of the man we are honoring, has become a vehicle for trade expansion and export diversification across Africa. I wonder what those gentlemen who opposed the Afreximbank at inception would say today, aware of Afreximbank's other contributions to Africa's trade and economic development. For instance, Cote d'Ivoire has become the world's largest processor of cocoa thanks to about 200,000 tonnes processing capacity Afreximbank helped create; Egypt has expanded its exports of manufactured goods to the rest of Africa buoyed by about 2 billion US dollars of financing supports to Egyptian companies; and Kenya Airways recent 1.9 billion US dollars fleet expansion would probably not have been possible had Afreximbank not led the effort. In addition, since inception, the Bank has:

•    Disbursed an amount of about 50 billion US dollars in support of African trade;
•    attracted about 60 billion US dollars into strategic sectors of the African economy using various instruments;
•    Expanded the continent's industrial capacities through the financing of value addition across several industries, including cocoa, coffee, cotton and tea as well as a number of metals and minerals;
•    Facilitated the development of critical trade and industrial infrastructure through:
o    The addition of a minimum of 3000 MW of energy to the continent's energy generation;
o    Facilitated the expansion of ports infrastructure, among others.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, President Ndiaye was not only an institution builder but was someone who inspired confidence and energized young African leaders to selflessly work for economic freedom and transformation.
The institution-builder did not only help shape Africa's financial architecture as we know it today; as a courageous man, he contributed in bringing down the apartheid regime in South Africa by cutting their access to the global bonds markets; as a true African, he always put Africa first in anything he did.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Dr Ndiaye, whom we celebrate today, was a great man; Dr Ndiaye was a loving father and family man.  Dr Ndiaye, was very religious and God fearing.

The Afreximbank Babacar Ndiaye Lecture Series, which is planned as an annual event, is expected to provide us with the platform to honour the memory and to continuously reflect on his exceptional contributions to Africa and mankind. The Lecture Series will make it possible to sustain Dr Ndiaye's values and vision over time and in the process help us build the next generation of leaders of even greater courage, vision and perseverance.

We have also structured the Babacar Ndiaye lecture series so that it can become an important platform for
•    advocating African perspectives on global issues as they relate to trade, trade finance and economic development.
•    mobilizing strategic partnerships for realisation of the goals of Africa's economic growth and transformation; and
•    discussing some of the innovative initiatives Afreximbank may be contemplating, taking advantage of in-depth knowledge and expertise of participants and speakers.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the theme for today's lecture "From Manufacturing Led Growth to a 21st Century Inclusive Growth Strategy for Africa" aptly reflects the vision Dr Babacar Ndiaye had for the continent. In a historical address delivered during the first General Meeting of Shareholders of Afreximbank in Abuja in 1993, Dr Ndiaye said and I quote: "The Bank would be expected to boost intra-African trade, especially in non-traditional and manufactured products … Above all, Afreximbank's support for intra-African trade will play a crucial role in the promotion of African regional integration."

We couldn't have found a better speaker to deliver this maiden lecture than Professor Joseph Stiglitz, a renowned economist, a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2001 and the John Bates Clark Medal in 1979. Prof Stiglitz, a good friend of the Bank, is someone who, in many ways, shares the vision and aspiration of Babacar Ndiaye, for Africa and developing economies as a whole.

He is among the very few renowned economists who have been leading the thinking and reflection on the issue of a more inclusive approach to globalization. His best-selling book titled "Globalization and its Discontents" refined the debate on that very important matter. The book drew heavily on Prof Stiglitz's personal experience as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Bill Clinton and chief economist at the World Bank. He has openly criticized policy prescriptions of the IMF, particularly their policies for high interest rates regimes, trade liberalization, and the liberalization of capital markets and insistence on the privatization of state assets.
More recently Professor Stiglitz has been articulating policies to reverse the process of deindustrialization of African economies which started with the implementation of World Bank-IMF-led structural adjustment programmes in the 1980s. In 2015 he co-edited a manuscript titled: "Industrial Policy and Economic Transformation in Africa", which touched on that very important matter.

In a way, Professor Stiglitz' humanism and globally inclusive approach to industrialization is one that he shares with Dr. Babacar Ndiaye whose lifetime motivation and drive was been to enhance the integration of Africa into the global economy as a competitive player.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we are very grateful to Prof Stiglitz for being the voice of the voiceless and for championing the cause of developing countries, including Africa and for doing so consistently over the years. Prof Stiglitz, we are pleased to have you as the keynote speaker of the maiden edition of what is indeed a history-making event.

We are also pleased distinguished ladies and gentlemen, to have with us today, Dr Donald Kaberuka, former President of AfDB. He will be commenting on Professor Stiglitz's presentation and in the process hopefully add his own insight on the very important subject of industrialization in Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, please join me in welcoming Professor Joseph Stiglitz.  Thank you all for your attention.

Dr Benedict Oramah is President And Chairman Of The Board Of Directors Of The African Export-Import Bank

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