Show Without Depth

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President Kagame

Despite all the tough talks at the just-ended five-day annual meeting of African Development Bank in Marrakesh, Morocco, it is very doubtful whether African leaders will match their words with actions

|  By Maureen Chigbo, just Back from Marrakesh, Morocco  |  Jun. 17, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

DELEGATES, observers, investors and journalists from different countries might have bid goodbye to one another as the 2013 annual meeting of the African Development Bank, AfDB, ended May 31. But there is no doubt that the fallouts of the meeting – the 15-point communiqué from the AfDB board of governors meeting, the new business relationships and deals struck and networks formed in Marrakesh, Morocco, will continue to reverberate around the world for a long time even as the 2,732 participants, including 305 members of the media, who attended this year’s meetings settle back in their different countries.

Many participants who came to the meeting had a list of things they wanted to achieve. Some, indeed, achieved their aims for attending the five-day annual meetings of the AfDB but some left disappointed that the whole affair was another show without depth from Africa despite all the skillful discussions and high level seminars that took place.

Joshua Massarenti, an Italian journalist, based in Germany, who covered the meeting, felt that despite all the tough talks from the leaders of Africa on their determination to move the continent forward through the 10-year transformation agenda of the AfDB, they are not serious. He is afraid that Africa will repeat the mistakes of the past and still wallow in poverty despite all the new wealth and natural resources abundant in the continent.

But Okwu Joseph Nnanna, alternate executive director, Africa Group 1 constituency  at the International Monetary Fund, is impressed with the level of discussions at the meeting. For Nnanna, the consistent economic growth which African economy has recorded in the last 10 years is real. What is remaining, according to him, is for the leaders to take it to the next level by pursuing inclusive growth to ensure that youth unemployment is reduced and women included in the development calculations. He is also of the view that the manufacturing sector has to be made more competitive through more investment in infrastructure especially power to reduce the cost of production.

Paul Kegame, the Rwandan president, agrees with Nnanna on the need to strengthen the manufacturing sector and put the problem squarely on bad leadership. He also agrees that the sector has not contributed much in the economic growth of the continent. According to Kegama, African leaders know what the problem is. “Why is it that we know the problem? We know what is to be done but we find that we are not getting there because we are not doing what is to be done. Why is it that we are not delivering the expectations the people have for us? It is the biggest challenge we have to address in this meeting,” Kegame said.

For him, “We talk about the right things. Asking questions have become an end instead of the means to an end. We are so much in the area of articulating what needs to be done instead of bringing results, bringing concrete actions and plans to measure actions you have to achieve.”

He is of the view that confidence will not come to the manufacturing sector, because people are not doing what has to be done. “Manufacturing is part of what has to be done to make a difference in the transformation of people’s lives. Making the right investment happen is what is going to change people’s lives”, he said.

Perhaps, Kegame’s position influenced the outcome of the communiqué from the annual meeting of the African Development Bank Group which, among other things, acknowledged that inadequate infrastructure remains a serious constraint to Africa’s development. This, the board of governors believed, requires urgent national and regional solutions. In this regard, the communiqué welcomed the proposed Africa 50Fund as an innovative funding solution to the infrastructural challenge and NEPAD’s infrastructural development goals. However, the governors urged more inputs into the Fund’s financing mechanism ahead of its approval and implementation.

Nnanna
Nnanna

The communiqué read at the end of the meeting, expressed the need and urgency of Africa’s structural transformation and urged for a long-term commitment to the subject by African countries. “This is critical to develop timely solutions to the challenges of job creation, the equitable allocation of the benefits of growth and the continent’s natural resources, as well as effectively harnessing the ‘demographic dividend’ of Africa’s young population.”

After five days of intense brainstorming on current African development issues, participants at the meeting welcomed the Bank’s 10-Year Strategy focused on inclusive and green growth. They urged the institution to continue its operational focus on infrastructure, regional economic integration, private sector development, governance and accountability, skills and technology, as well as the three cross-cutting areas of fragile states, gender, agriculture and food security. “We call upon the Bank to implement the strategy fully across country, regional and sector operations, in budgeting and programming,” the communiqué said.

The meeting also approved the Group’s 2012 Annual Report and audited accounts as well as its operations programmes. The governors, usually finance ministers and Central Bank governors representing the 77 member countries of the Group also adopted a number of resolutions on five key issues: implementations of the 10-year strategy, sustaining the gains made by African countries in recent years, infrastructure financing, the 13th replenishment of the African Development Fund, ADF, and the institution’s return to its Côte d’Ivoire headquarters. According to them, the Bank’s financial and operational performance continues to be commendable, under the leadership of President Donald Kaberuka, with the collaboration of the board of directors and the dedication of the bank’s management and staff.

They expressed satisfaction with the Bank’s continued financial and operational performance and commended its work in all its member-states, especially the fragile states as well as its commitment in support of Somali and Mali. On the need for greater support to the African Development Fund, ADF, which is due for the 13th replenishment in June, the board underscored the importance of its work in fragile states in particular. “We call on donors to increase their support to the fund,” it said, urging other African countries to join.

Apart from its deliberations, new governors and executive directors were elected to replace those whose terms expired at the end of June, while the board of governors also reconstituted its Bureau and Joint Steering Committees to manage the Board’s affairs up to 2016.

The next annual meetings of the AfDB which will hold in Kigali, Rwanda, from May 19 to 23, 2014, followed by that of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire between May 25 and 29, 2015 and Lusaka, Zambia, from May 23 to 27, 2016, will provide another opportunity to judge how far the transformation agenda has gone in changing the face of Africa. And maybe by then, African leaders would have done what needed to be done to convince those who left the 2013 annual meeting disappointed that the annual ritual is not just a forum for tough talks, but that Africa is matching tough talks with concrete actions to speed up development and inclusive economic growth in the continent.

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