By Naomi Uzor
The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Donald Kaberuka, has disclosed that the bank granted loans of over $8 billion which is almost the ceiling for the development institution.
Kaberuka told African Economic Conference on Friday in Addis Ababa that the bank had gone into new areas such as trade finance and â€œwe have significantly improved on our process and response time and reactive capacityâ€.
He noted that the bank created in the early 1960s was meant to operate in normal times, but that the global financial crisis had demonstrated the paucity of crisis response instruments which require remedial steps. He said that the bank was assisting African countries to mitigate the impact of the crisis through specific interventions, strategic orientation and advisory services.
According to Kaberuka, the crisis has once again exposed Africa â€™s â€œAchilles heelsâ€ â€“ perpetual dependence on commodity exports which has been the bane of its economies for several decades.
He underscored the need for diversification, noting that the bank would continue to focus on its areas of priority such as infrastructure, promoting private sector development, regional integration, governance, higher education and agriculture.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Mr Jean Ping, commended the efforts deployed by the AfDB and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) to help African countries cope with the crisis from inception, noting that the AEC was a veritable platform for generating strategies for re-launching sustainable growth in African countries.
â€œThe world is now conscious that it would be impossible to continue to ignore an entire continent which is home to one-seventh of world population with a market of 1.4 billion consumers by 2020/2025,â€ he said. The three-day conference jointly organised by the AfDB Group and the ECA, which has the theme â€œFostering Development in an Era of Financial Economic and crisesâ€, ended on Friday.
The conference is a think-tank designed to bring together Africa â€™s Central Bank Governors, Ministers of Finance, African researchers, policy makers and development agencies to brain-storm and come up with mechanisms for tackling the continentâ€™s development challenges.
The agenda of this yearâ€™s conference reflects challenges facing many African countries following the global financial and economic crisis. These include poverty and inequality, foreign investment, fiscal and monetary policy, regional integration, remittances, competitiveness of the financial services sector, banking sector performance and aid effectiveness.
Others are development finance, private sector development, health issues, agricultural growth strategies as well as growth and macroeconomic perspectives. The AEC, which has earned credibility as the premier high level forum for debate on African economic and development issues, was inaugurated in November 2006 by the AfDB. It has been jointly organised by the AfDB and the ECA since 2007.