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AfDB @50…

Finance Minister urges increased shareholdership

By Alusine Sesay

The African Development Bank (AfDB) has survived fifty years of turbulence and political upheaval in Africa from 1964 to 2014, yet operating and contributing immensely to the development of the entire African Continent and beyond.

The Bank’s country office in Sierra Leone yesterday at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown, launched its 50th anniversary celebrations, an occasion that is expected to run throughout 2014, in reflection of the bank’s achievements, introspecting and looking forward to arrest future challenges of the African economy.

While delivering the keynote address at the event, attended by dignitaries from the financial sector, policy makers, donor partners and civil society organisations, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr. Kaifala Marah said Sierra Leone has less than 2% shares at the Bank and that there was need to review the country’s relationship with the financial institution, especially considering increment in the shareholder base.

He said the bank’s 5oth anniversary celebration presents a crucial moment for the entire African continent to reflect on how far the bank has come in contributing to the development of Africa, and think of the way forward and the challenges ahead.

Dr. Marah said that the government of Sierra Leone appreciated the good work of the bank to contributing immensely to the development aspirations of the country.

“The people and the government of Sierra Leone are of the view that the bank has been very much responsive to the development aspirations of the country. The bank has a remarkable history to the development of the country in areas like infrastructure, economic governance and natural resource governance,” he said.

On the whole, he said, the bank’s portfolio has been effective with no project at risk and that they are committed to working with the bank for the betterment of all.

The bank’s Country Representative in Sierra Leone, Dr. Yero Baldeh, in his speech noted that “Fifty years is a major milestone for an institution, as it is for an individual. The occasion of the Bank’s 50th anniversary is indeed a crucial moment for the institution to reflect on how it has come since it was formed half a century ago; as it positions itself for the 50th years ahead. Therefore, this is not a period of festivities but rather a period of reflection, stock taking and strategic repositioning.”

He said since its establishment in 1964, the bank has been transformed into a key development institution and major knowledge broker in Africa and that the bank has been able to be a partner of choice for its borrowing member countries, especially in difficult times.

“The Bank has remained solid and it appropriately responded to the expectations of its member countries, which helped it to consolidate its position as the continent’s first development financial institution,” he said, adding “It has transformed from a process-driven to a result-driven organization while ensuring financial soundness at all times, even in the most turbulent of environment.”

The Bank, he said, has positioned itself closer to its client by decentralising to 34 field offices including 11 in fragile states and two regional resource centres across Africa, and that it is traditionally recognised as Africa’s leading development financial institution.

“In recent years, this role has been complemented by its knowledge management activities which have been very much instrumental in promoting African voices in international discourse,” he said.

Partnership with other development organisations, he added, is critical to the Bank’s operations, and ultimately for successful results, and that partnership for development must embrace the experience and voices of civil society and private sector.

“To this end, the Bank will continue its dialogue with civil society and prioritized public private partnerships in its effort to contribute to a growth model that is both sustainable and representative of the broader spectrum of society,” he noted.

The Country Representative continued that the Bank would focus on two pillars, including enhancing economic governance and transparent management of natural resources revenue and supporting transformational and sustainable infrastructure development.

In his brief statement, Governor of the Central Bank of Sierra Leone, Sheku S. Sesay said the celebration denoted time for reflection, introspection and prospection on the future challenges as well as time to rededicate the vision of the bank to reduce poverty in the entire African continent.