Participants in the opening ceremony of the African Development Bank Group’s annual meetings on Wednesday issued forceful calls for action to secure access to Covid-19 vaccines and tackle mounting debt – two challenges that stand in the way of Africa’s recovery from the pandemic.
Covid-19 provided a pressing backdrop to the meetings, which were held virtually for the second consecutive year. Noting the meetings’ theme, Ghanaian president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo said: “Today’s annual meetings have an appropriate focus, ‘building resilient economies in post Covid-19 Africa’, which is an unavoidable imperative if our continent is to recover from the effects of the pandemic.”
President Akufo-Addo recounted the pandemic’s toll in human lives, as well as in economic damage – massive loss of jobs and revenue, economic contraction, and rising deficits.
He urged continued concerted action, saying the surest path towards stability is to abandon half-hearted partnerships and develop new approaches that support self-sustaining economic growth and development. He praised the Bank’s rapid response to the pandemic and called for more support for the continent’s foremost development institution. “We need to resource the African Development Bank and position it as the catalyst for our economic advancement,” he said.
Other participants in the African Development Bank Group annual meetings opening ceremony also said the Bank would be critical to build back more resilient economies in the post-pandemic period.
The Chairman of the Bank’s Board of Governors, Ghana’s finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta, referred to an African financial stability mechanism – recently proposed by the African Development Bank president – modeled on a European one, and an African liquidity and sustainability mechanism. “The African stability mechanism will be a permanent firewall for Africa to provide instant emergency access to financial assistance to countries in difficulty, he said.
Citing a Ghanaian proverb, Ofori-Atta underscored the need for action: “This has to be said, who will say it? The work has to be done, who will do it?”
Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat commended the African Development Bank as a partner and lauded its support to the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Today, more than ever before, Africa needs to build up its health infrastructure and the manufacture of vaccines,” Faki said.
“Africa is starting to move forward, again, said African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina.” Vaccines are becoming available gradually. Businesses are reopening.”
The Bank, he said, was taking steps to tackle the most pressing issues. “We have launched a Debt Action Plan and a new Strategy for Economic Governance in Africa. Both will support countries to tackle debt, and to embark on bolder economic governance reforms to forestall a debt crisis.”
Adesina cited the Bank’s commitment to domestic manufacture of medicines across Africa. He said the African Development Bank will support Africa to produce vaccines, as part of the Vaccines Plan of the African Union.
The opening ceremony of the meetings also included a statement by the African Development Bank’s Secretary-General Vincent Nhemielle, and informational videos of Bank flagship initiatives and projects.
The meetings will provide a platform for its governors to share their countries’ experience in addressing the pandemic and the policy measures they are employing to rebuild economies and livelihoods.
The 2021 annual meetings will run through June 25.