“We have solutions to many of Africa’s problems”

La Tribune Afrique – What should we remember from the last annual AfDB meetings in Accra?

Bajabulile Swaziland Thabalala, Senior Vice President, AfDB – I think this meeting was remembered. I hope that those who took part in it were able to come up with material for the near and distant future. The African Development Bank is very committed to addressing Africa’s development challenges, because we understand their nature and have solutions to many of these challenges. We are working hard to mobilize resources to enable us to implement these solutions.

The vulnerability of African economies to shocks is no longer provable, especially after the Covid-19 crisis and the war in Ukraine. AfDB, for its part, contributes to economic stability. In your opinion, is the situation on the continent alarming?

The 2020 pandemic was a shocking event, perhaps the most shocking in 100 years, completely unexpected. Given the potential for truly devastating consequences for the continent, we are slowly beginning to emerge.

As for the threat of the food crisis that will result from the war in Ukraine, I think, as President Akinvumi Adesina said, there will be no food crisis, because we are taking the necessary measures and remember that we have the “five” pillars of our global strategy, one of which is “Feed Africa”. Therefore, we have done a lot of work on agriculture in many African countries. We have just approved a package for an emergency facility, which aims to help countries get the necessary raw materials (fertilizers, seeds) for abundant sowing, because there is nothing left of Ukraine.

Fortunately, we have systems and mechanisms, because we have done a lot of work in agriculture over the last six years. We actually have a partnership ready. You know, President Adeshin is an authority on agriculture, and when he says there will be no food crisis, he knows there won’t be, because we are much better prepared than when the pandemic came. However, this is not the last time we face a crisis. And I think that in addition to the Bank’s actions, our governments need to be better prepared in the event of a new health crisis. We need to invest in health infrastructure, including drainage, which is very important. And, of course, we need to solve the debt problem, which is critical for several countries on the continent. Because the ability to manage a crisis requires that the financial situation be strong enough.

Is it possible in the current context of a partnership between the strongest and most vulnerable countries in order to create the overall stability of the continent?

All 54 countries on the continent are members and shareholders of AfDB. Thus, they provide the Bank’s capital. Of course, richer large countries provide more resources than low-income countries. Therefore, we can assume in some way that there is already a partnership that works well within ADB, including the African Development Fund (ADF), which is supported by some African countries, including Egypt, South Africa and Angola. They are investing in ADFs to help poor countries. We must not forget the Nigeria Trust Fund, in which the State of Nigeria invests in helping small and poor countries.

Is it not necessary to strengthen this partnership in the current crisis?

Absolutely! I believe this is what we do. We are negotiating with ADF delegates on the sixteenth replenishment of the Fund. We want to change the situation so that we have much more resources to help small countries develop, fight instability and improve their economies.

This is also the reason why we are talking about exiting the financial market with ADF to reap the benefits equity. First, it is because we need more resources to help small countries. Therefore, this is the focus of attention, and AfDB is fighting to ensure that no one is left behind. And I think that’s at the heart of what we’re doing. It is also at the heart of the 2063 African Union Agenda, which wants no one left behind.

African countries need $ 4.6 trillion to fight climate change. The AfDB pointed to the fact that the best prepared countries are the ones that receive the most global funding to the detriment of the most vulnerable countries. How can this trend be reversed and how does the AfBR intend to attract the voice of less resilient countries?

This is an important issue. Indeed, the countries most vulnerable to climate change are also the poorest on the continent. Some of them face the realities that come from their geographical location, like islands. The risks for the latter are even greater, indeed due to climate change. And we must not forget that this type of country exists.

What we are again trying to do with our replenishment approach is offer a wide range of assets that will focus on the poorest countries to help them cope with climate change. We are really focused on adaptation, because these countries are not polluters. Therefore, mitigation is not a problem for them. In fact, these countries still need to develop and grow, but in a green way. And this is what we offer them through the ADF, which is the Bank’s window for the poorest and weakest countries.

Is the real problem of these countries not in the absence of strategy?

This is one of the things we are working on, and these reserves that we are asking for will help these countries make their nationally determined contribution. [NDC, ndlr], under the Paris Agreement and develop its long-term strategy. Only a limited number of African countries have a nationally defined contribution as part of a long-term strategy. We want to create an NDC center in AfDB. It would be great if we could get to COP 27 – it will be the African COP in Egypt – when most of our countries have reached their NDC.

We have heard a lot lately, especially during ADB meetings, that Africa needs money, money … These calls for international funding are often interpreted by some as contrary to the will of African institutions, including ADB, to break with the idea of ​​”development assistance”. What do you think?

We, as the African Development Bank, have a mandate appointed by our shareholders, a mandate that also stems from the ambitions of the African Union through Agenda 2063, which has been adhered to by all countries on the continent.

We are rich in natural resources on our continent, but without roads, without electricity, it is impossible to use these natural resources efficiently, because our money is underground. Therefore, we need to have the financial means to build the infrastructure that will facilitate the exploitation of these resources, we need the financial resources to be able to involve the private sector to reduce the risks associated with the exploitation of these resources. Because if private investors are interested in the project, but consider the risk too high, they probably will not come.

The contributions we receive from donors are very important for risk management to attract capital from the international private sector to develop a sustainable economy.

Women are increasingly recognized for their contribution to the development of our society and our economy. This is noticeable even in the bank’s management as an example. In your opinion, what role should a woman play in this crucial stage in the development of our continent?

The fact is that there are demographically more women than men in Africa. Therefore, development is simply impossible if women are not included. It’s that simple!

President Adezin often says that no bird can fly with one wing, it takes two. At the Bank level, we are an example where management involves women at the highest level. Therefore, when we tell countries to take the need for women’s development seriously, we can be an example. And our goal at AfDB is to go further and have absolute parity, 50/50 leadership for women and men.

Look at the universal society, the responsibility for caring for the family, raising children to become responsible adults, contributing to the development and growth of nations, often rests heavily on women. If we want to find the best in young people, we must ensure that women are involved and fully supported so that they can do the work needed to truly make these young people the future of Africa.

Interview in Accra by Ristela Chunanda.