ABidjan, Côte d’Ivoire – President Ellen Johnson has extended a depth of gratitude to the outgoing President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Donald Kaberuka for the dynamism, efficiency and commitment which he brought to the task as President of the Bank, building on the efforts of his predecessors.
She indicated that Dr. Kaberuka encouraged efforts to tackle the long standing structural deficiencies in the economies of the continent, and emphasized infrastructure as a means of expanding diversity and promoting regional integration.
“You have supported the development of the young population of Africa through programs of skills training and employment. You specifically stood with Liberia in visits, financial and technical support during the difficult days of the fight against the deadly Ebola virus disease. The Bank has also been innovative and progressive in new endeavors including the Fragile States facility and the Infrastructure Consortium of Africa. You developed the private sector window in practical support of the belief that the private sector is the catalyst for development,” President Sirleaf catalogued.
According to Dispatch from the Ivorian capital, Abidjan, the Liberian leader was speaking Tuesday, May 26, when she delivered one of two keynote addresses at a Special 50th Anniversary Presidential Forum titled: “Our Bank at 50”.
The forum was part of major events marking the celebration of the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the existence of the AfDB currently taking place in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire where the Liberian President commended the outgoing President of the Bank for his innovative and progressive leadership that has made the Bank stand the test of time and earned its reputation.
She said the Bank has brought together African professionals of the highest caliber, working in a multi-cultural environment with an African accent and with the supreme interest of Africa; noting further that the Bank has stood the test of time and has truly earned its reputation as the premier development finance institution on the African continent.
President Sirleaf observed that from time to time, the Bank has been called to important national duties, including in political, economic and the financial sectors. “Dr. Kaberuka, you recall my visit to you and your deputies in Tunis in 2012, to discuss the Fragile States Facility. I was asked why the African Development Bank should be the one to champion this initiative. My answer was simple – because we trust you,” she reminded Dr. Kaberuka.
She said the Bank under Dr. Kaberuka’s leadership has been strong in building trust and confidence in the institution, thus inspiring African leaders to pursue their national and continental vision, and giving the young generation hope in the future.
The Liberian leader recalled that as one of those who attended the First Annual Meetings of the AfDB in 1972, as a junior government official, she remembered the long hours at subsequent meetings debating passionately and sometimes angrily on opening the Bank’s capital to non-regionals. She said for some, the Bank required more capital than US$200 million at that time, while others sought to protect what was considered African character of the Bank.
She also recounted the shuttle diplomacy by Dr. Romeo Horton, a Liberian, in bringing together the Casablanca and Monrovia groups, the architects of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity to work Africa economically. “We are glad after all to see the extent of progress that has been made by our premier Bank.
“We hope that the Bank will support a common vision through a harmonized development agenda, improve inter-connectivity, establish goals for transformation, support infrastructure and agriculture and focus on Africa’s young population which is the real threat to reaching our full potential. The Bank must work to support women’s leadership across the continent,” President Sirleaf urged.
The 3rd President of the Bank, Kwame Donkor Fordwor, a Ghanaian, also delivered a keynote address in which he acknowledged that the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the AfDB is a sacred duty and function of all Africans and that taking a meaningful part was divine.
He emphasized that the invitation extended him gives consolation that his influence while serving as President of the Bank was not negative and felt appreciated considering the events of his departure.
Mr. Fordwor, who served as AfDB President from May 1976 to July 1979, traced the Bank’s journey from the challenges of its formative years to becoming the continent’s only triple-A rated institution.
Speaking on the theme “The Origin and Early History of the AfDB,” he reflected on a long historical analysis of the existence and operations of the Bank over the past 50 years. He recounted that when the Bank was established, except for Liberia, Ethiopia, Egypt and one or two other countries, majority of the countries on the continent had not gained their independence, leading to strong colonial influence and division along the Casablanca, Monrovia and Arab blocks of the continent.
He expressed joy that the Bank now invests up to US$8 billion per year, a huge increase from the US$500 million it provided in 1979 with Dr. Kaberuka’s leadership playing a prime and progressive role. He thanked Dr. Kaberuka for his excellent leadership at the Bank for the last 10 years.
Also making remarks, the outgoing President of the AfDB, Dr. Kaberuka reflected on his stewardship for the past 10 years and thanked the leaders of the continent and the non-regionals for the support which enabled his team to pursue transformation at the Bank during his tenure.
He pointed out that there was a big push for infrastructural development and economic integration with over US$28 billion being expended.
Dr. Kaberuka reported that per capital growth was good, achievement in health sector support was commendable considering that instability was prominent on the continent and that the real transformation of the continent has just begun.
He thanked President Sirleaf for accepting to chair the High-Level Panel on Fragile States which has gained enough results in policies which can advance progress. He also expressed best wishes for his successor to be elected on Thursday, adding that they have prepared the grounds for smooth landing to hit the ground running.
A forum followed which included Dr. Kaberuka’s predecessor, Babacar Ndiaye of Senegal; former South African Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel; Zambian Finance Minister, Alexander Chikwanda; and former AfDB Executive Director for Japan, Kiyoshi Kodera. They advised the Bank’s incoming leadership to build on the achievements of the current administration while constantly adjusting to new development dynamics.
President Sirleaf later joined her colleagues, Presidents Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire, Boni Yaya of Benin, Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique,Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger and Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon at the opening ceremony of the 50th anniversary celebrations of the AfDB with the leaders expressing satisfaction over the current status of the Bank and commending outgoing President Kaberuka and his team for an excellent job. They pledged their continuous support and cooperation with the Bank and expressed the hope the Kaberuka’s successor will continue the good work of the last 10 years.