Report: AfDB should be Africa’s premier development institution

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Given the huge development challenges Africa faces, the continent, more than any other region, needs a premier continental development bank, an Independent High Level Panel on the African Development Bank Group says in a report released on Tuesday in Tunis. The report, “Investing in Africa’s Future: The AfDB in the 21st Century,” says while poverty reduction and promoting growth and economic integration will be the overarching objective of the Bank, it should foster economic integration and, particularly, undertake regional investments in which
returns are greater than those for any individual country and which may
otherwise not be financed.

A statement from the Bank received in Accra on Tuesday says the AfDB of the 21st Century should provide a range of regional public goods, particularly knowledge and advisory services, to transfer experience and best practice, and to be an African voice on development internationally.

The report says the Bank should also channel development capital efficiently to all African countries on reasonable and predictable terms.
The 13-member Panel on the Bank Group, co-chaired by former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano and former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin,
including the Nobel Laureate in economics, Joseph Stiglitz, was
established by AfDB President Donald Kaberuka as an independent advisory body to provide recommendations on the Bank’s strategic vision and the operational strategies needed in the medium to long term.

The report lists four interlocking priorities for the bank. These are
investing in infrastructure; building capable states; promoting the private
sector and promoting the public sector.

On investing in infrastructure, the report says Africa will never become
competitive, or realize its productive potential, without massive
improvements in infrastructure, with needs estimated at US$20–30 billion a year.

“Infrastructure is a precondition, and an enabler of growth for private
sector development.”

The report notes that the Bank already has solid experience in
infrastructure, saying that it has generally performed well on its mandate
from the African Union to implement the infrastructure component of the New
Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as well as lead several
multi-donor initiatives.

“The panel, however, believes that the Bank must be more proactive and take
more leadership in defining needs and priorities, designing strategies and
action plans, bringing stakeholders together, and coordinating and managing

“It should help Africa build infrastructure to effectively mitigate and
adapt to climate change through clean energies (hydro and wind power),
all-weather transport and irrigation projects. More of the resources
available for infrastructure should be channeled through the Bank.”

On building capable states, the report says effective and accountable
institutions are essential for sustained economic growth and social
progress, explaining that building capable states must be at the heart of
the Bank’s work just as engaging in fragile and post-conflict states is an
imperative rather than an option.

“The Bank should have a leading role in issues of governance but intervene
selectively, consistent with its other areas of focus.

“Its assistance must be flexible, fast, and consistent, well coordinated
with other players. Additional financial and human resources will have to be
directed accordingly.

The report asserts that that the private sector will drive growth in Africa
noting that the Bank should help it do so by promoting an enabling environment,
by facilitating investment and entrepreneurship.

“This means listening to the private sector, lending directly to private
interests, and helping governments reform their legal and regulatory
frameworks to strengthen governance and accountability.

“The (Bank) must better exploit the advantages of its integrated structure,
building up country and regional strategies that encompass both the private
and public sectors and foster the synergies between them, the report says,
noting that the Bank’s direct private sector operations tripled in the last
year and should grow further.”

On promoting the private sector, the advisory panel urged the Bank to help
Africa build the skills it needs to be competitive, noting that in 2030 half
of Africans will be under 25.

“The continent will have transitioned to a primarily urban population. Only
economic growth can provide Africans with opportunities. However, to grasp
these opportunities, they will need the right skills.”

The report says that given the heavy involvement of other donors in primary
and basic education, the Bank should concentrate on vocational training,
higher education, and science and technology.

The priorities should be building centers of excellence, providing the
necessary infrastructure for education, and developing mutually supportive
links with the private sector to promote the use of local skills, it adds.

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