THE just ended AfDB Annual Meetings represents a missed opportunity for the Bank to show leadership in responding to the super-El Niño events ravaging East and Southern Africa.
The Bank has committed a $549 million relief package in support of 14 countries affected by the El Niño-induced drought in East and Southern Africa; one of the worst crises to hit the continent in recent times. However, the meetings in Lusaka did not emphasise the urgency of the ongoing crisis or provide clarity on how quickly the package announced by the AfDB will be deployed to meet the multi- dimensions of the ongoing crisis.
The AfDB announced several financing initiatives during the annual meetings including: a pledge to commit $12 billion over the next five years to invest in energy (particularly renewable energy), and access to electricity for all Africans by 2025, as part of the Bank’s High 5s agenda. The targets include expanding grid-power; connecting millions people to national grids and off-grid sources; and ensuring that millions of households have access to clean cooking energy.
The bank says that $315 to $400 billion is needed to transform the agricultural sector in Africa over the next decade. It intends to “crowd-in” private and institutional funding sources to meet this huge gap. Africa’s most vulnerable populations will receive annual disaster coverage through a S$2 billion programme funded by the Africa Risk Capacity, the AfDB and the Conférence Inter-Africainedes Marchés d’Assurance, CIMA.
Sipho Mthathi, executive director of Oxfam South Africa, said: “While these funding pledges are welcome, they should translate into real and immediate action. Extreme weather events and the collapse in global commodity prices have exposed structural weaknesses in Africa’s economies. It is therefore imperative to mainstream resilience building into the Bank’s programmes and operations.”
“There was a lot of talk about prioritising women in the Bank’s plan to transform agriculture. This is welcome and urgent. The Bank now needs to walk that talk. Despite 60 percent of working women across the continent depending on agriculture, women smallholder farmers, have been marginalised for too long. They are last in line for investment, government support, and access to land. They have the potential to drive agricultural transformation, and are at the front line of dealing with climate change, but are being held back.”
Given that civil society space to influence the Bank has steadily shrunk over time, it is encouraging that the Bank has recognised that it needs to engage civil society more effectively. In his response to a civil society statement made at the annual CSO Forum, the Bank President, Dr. Adesina, committed to strengthening Bank-civil society engagement.
“We welcome the recognition of the role of civil society as a credible partner in the delivery of the AfDB’s mandate. Again, this public declaration should be matched with specific reforms in the structure, nature and programmatic focus of the Bank’s relationship with African civil society.”
Giving an overall verdict of the annual meetings, Mthathi said: “The Annual Meetings have tended to privilege the voices of state and corporate interests. The meetings should be open and representative. The AfDB is too important to be left to a few powerful interests.”
— May 30, 2016 @ 15:50 GMT