Driving Africa’s Transformation Forward


NcubeMthuli Ncube, chief economist and  vice president of the African Development Bank, AfDB, in an interview with Maureen Chigbo, editor,  Realnews, at the recent annual meeting of the Bank in Marrakech, Morocco, speaks about what the bank is doing to curb youth unemployment and empower women entrepreneurs in Africa. He also talked about the fund Nigeria established in the bank to help poorer countries in Africa. Excerpts:

Realnews: How do you assess the AfDB annual meetings with so many seminars taking place almost at the same time?
Ncube: The role of an annual meeting is two-fold. One is statutory, for the shareholders whom we called the governors to meet to deal with the business of the bank, pass resolutions and all those things that shareholders do. The other is knowledge promotion, knowledge dissemination. The seminar we have is about knowledge. And of course, we picked on Africa’s transformation. It is something that we have to drive forward. And I think that the discussions have been very successful. It really came up with the message around transforming the African continent through leadership, through stopping illicit funds, through using the revenues from the natural resources sector carefully, through stopping illegal trade of wildlife, through financial inclusion. I could go on and on. So, in my view, the meeting is successful. The seminars are really shining the touch on the right issues that is all about Africa is rising. But how do we make sure it stays afloat and continues to rise further. All of the things we have discussed here are, in my view, heading to that positive story. We will keep the momentum on this positive story.

Realnews: Youth unemployment is exploding in the continent. As the chief economist of the bank, what do you suggest could be done to check youth unemployment?
NcubeNcube: We are all shining the touch on this issue of youth unemployment. It is not easy. And course, it requires both supply and demand interventions. On the supply side, is training. One of the pillars or focus areas of our 10-year strategy is dealing with employability,  vocational education technology. We are investing in vocational training institutions to improve the employability of the youth as they come out and this is going to be the new slant in the way we are looking at things in terms of education pillar. But also on the demand side we are investing , supporting companies who can create jobs for the youths. We are just one agent. There are several other agents. But my view is that at the end of the day, it is the private sector that creates jobs. So, anything we can do to improve the investment climate, support  the private sector, everyone doing his bit, that is the way to go.

Realnews: We are talking about inclusive growth, how are women being included in this 10-year strategy of the Bank?
Ncube: Our strategy is premised on inclusive growth. So the issue of youth employment is the core of inclusion to ensure that this growth is creating jobs. Whatever we do at the bank is to ensure that it is creating jobs for the youths, for women and for everyone. It is the core of inclusion. Of course, inclusion goes much broader.

Realnews: Agriculture sector employs 70 percent of African population and women are more than half of that population.
Ncube: Absolutely

Realnews: Is there anything the bank is doing to empower, most of them who are not empowered and do not have access to finance?
NcubeNcube: We are doing a lot with our financial inclusion programme. We now subject all our private sector projects to strict characteristics to include jobs for women, SMEs for women, supporting women entrepreneurs. I can point to a lot of very successful women entrepreneur that have been empowered across Africa. Even one of them based in South Africa is the manganese producer in the world now. We supported her along with our partners and she is changing the local economy entirely by that mining operation. We are doing a lot I can assure you. I want to say this to our shareholders. We are trying to replenish  the African Development Fund, which is a soft window for helping poorer countries. It needs to be replenished by year end. We Also hope African countries can step out and put money into it. We also have this idea of Africa 50 fund, the infrastructure fund which is promoted by President Kaberuka. He needs support from African Central Banks. It is about Africans themselves investing in Africa.

Realnews:  Nigeria has a fund within the African Development Fund to help poorer countries in Africa. How is the fund doing?
Ncube:  We are very grateful to Nigeria for having provided that fund. It is a key pillar of the source of funding in the bank. It has funded a lot of projects – capacity building projects, I mean, a lot of projects.  This is something that is positive that Nigeria has done as a gift to the whole of Africa.

— Jul. 8, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

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