The 55th Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank opened in Abidjan on Wednesday with renewed commitment to economic resilience in Africa.
In his opening speech, the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, highlighted the unusual context of this year’s annual meetings, taking place against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also underscored the Bank’s critical support for his country and other regional members.
“This is an opportunity for me to acknowledge the African Development Bank, its President and Board of Directors, for the unwavering support expressed in these difficult times to African states. Indeed, the Bank’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Facility has made it possible to finance and support African countries in the fast implementation of plans to fight the pandemic.”
President Ouattara praised the “remarkable capacity to adapt that the Bank has shown by continuing its operations and functioning in virtual mode, since March 2020,” and the work accomplished by Bank President Akinwumi Adesina “who successfully lead the transformation of the African Development Bank and has given it great credibility and visibility, of which we are proud,” and wished Dr Adesina good luck in his re-election bid.
This year’s meetings are being held virtually due to restrictions occasioned by the COVID-19 health crisis. The highlights of the 2020 sessions are the election of the Bank Group’s president and the statutory meetings of its Governors, which are being held behind closed doors.
According to estimates by the African Development Bank, Africa could lose $173.1 billion in GDP in 2020 and $236.7 billion in 2021 because of the pandemic.
The restrictions and strict lockdown measures imposed at the start of the crisis, some of which are being gradually relaxed, have resulted in mass closures of businesses and millions of job losses. The aim is, therefore, to soften the impact of the anticipated recession.
Addressing the audience, Dr Adesina celebrated the excellent relationship between the institution and Côte d’Ivoire, which is home to the Bank’s headquarters.
He also paid tribute to the country’s steady economic progress.
“Never has the need to strengthen economic, social, climate and environmental resilience been more critical to support growth and development. Our Annual Meetings are an excellent opportunity to observe how our shareholders work with passion and commitment to advance the mission of the Bank, your Bank,” he added.
Back in April, the Bank reacted swiftly to the pandemic, with a series of bold measures to support its regional member states to help cushion them against the impacts of the outbreak.
One example is the launch of the COVID-19 Response Facility of up to $10 billion. The response, like the crisis, is now on a continental scale. From the north to the south of the continent, the Bank has provided massive support to strengthen the resilience of regional member states.
The Bank has provided support worth $22 million to regional bodies such as ECOWAS in West Africa, to strengthen the health systems of low-income countries, and to CEMAC in central Africa.
It also assisted the G5 countries in the Sahel to the tune of $20 million.
During the meetings, Governors from the Bank’s 54 regional member states in Africa and 27 non-regional member states, will also evaluate the response to the pandemic, which will help to build a truly resilient post-COVID-19 Africa.
Nialé Kaba, Ivorian Minister for Planning and Development in Côte d’Ivoire and president of the Bank’s Board of Governors, stressed that the pandemic was, in spite of all, an opportunity to “take up the challenge of the digitization of our economies”.
She encouraged the Bank’s management “to provide substantial support to African countries individually and collectively in order to strengthen national and regional digital infrastructure for greater connectivity.”
The African Development Bank’s Annual Meetings are attended by Ministers of Finance, central bank governors, political decision-makers, civil society organizations, heads of international organizations and key representatives of industry and the private sector.
The Governors will vote to elect the Bank’s president on Thursday, 27 August 2020.
Adesina, the first Nigerian to occupy the role, was elected by the Bank’s Board of Governors for a five-year term on 28 May 2015 at the 50th Annual Meetings, which took place in Abidjan.
In his speech, Adesina welcomed Ireland as the Bank Group’s 81st member.