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Highlights: Day 1 of the African Development Bank’s 2020 Annual Meeting

The opening day of the African Development Bank’s 2020 55th Annual meeting showcased the strong relationship between Africa’s pre-eminent financial institution and its host country, Côte d’Ivoire. The meeting, held virtually for the first time to comply with COVID-19 pandemic social-distancing guidelines, caps a productive but ultimately challenging year for the institution and the countries it serves.   

“This is an opportunity for me to salute the African Development Bank, its president and its board of Directors for the unwavering support expressed at these difficult times to African states. Indeed, the Bank’s COVID-19 response has made it possible to finance and support African countries in the rapid implementation of plans to fight the pandemic, ” said the President of Cote d’Ivoire Alassane Ouattara.

The ongoing pandemic and its twin health and economic challenges form a prominent backdrop to the meetings, which include a Governors’ Dialogue and the election of the Bank’s president for the next five years.  

The Chairman of the Bank’s Board of Governors, Niale Kaba, Ivorian minister for Planning and Development acknowledged the exceptional circumstances in her opening statement.  “I would like to commend the flexibility of the AfDB Board of Governors, which has exceptionally authorized the holding of these Annual Meetings via videoconferencing.”

During Kaba’s tenure as Chairperson of the Board of governors, which began at the 2019 Annual Meetings, the Bank notched some key successes. In October 2019, the Board approved a seventh general capital increase that increased the Bank’s capital base to $208 billion and which Kaba noted,  “not only allows the Bank to maintain its excellent AAA rating, but also to further support the development efforts of African countries.”

In his own remarks, President Adesina issued a call to seize the opportunity presented by the crisis to build back smartly and boldly. In doing so, he said, the Bank will lean heavily on its stakeholders. “Africa needs a strong and stable African Development Bank to support it through this pandemic and help its economies rebound for better, healthier lives and livelihoods for its people. And the African Development Bank needs you — our shareholders — as you always have been: united and strong.”

Adesina was candid in acknowledging the enormity of the challenge ahead even as he laid out how the Bank had demonstrated its responsiveness. “The Bank launched a $10 billion COVID-19 Response Facility (CRF) to support African countries. We launched a $3 billion social bond on the global market – the largest US dollar denominated social bond ever in world history. These actions reflect our ambition, our unshaken commitment and unyielding responsibility to support, stabilize and strengthen African economies.” 

Adesina, the first Nigerian to hold the post of Bank president, is up for reelection. “At this Annual Meetings, I offer myself to you, our Governors, for your consideration for election for a second term, as President. I do so, with humility. I do so with a strong sense of duty and commitment and a call to serve Africa and our Bank, selflessly, to the very best of my God-given abilities.” 

The president expressed his readiness for the vital work ahead.  “We will have no rest. The price of good work is more work. We have our work cut out for us —now more than ever — to help Africa rebound; and to get back on a stronger pathway of economic growth and resilience.”  

President Ouattara offered parting advice for the governors as they prepare to discuss general capital increase commitments.  “I encourage you to be both ambitious and realistic. Ambitious, for the continent, because African populations have high expectations for projects and programs that are often in search of financing. Realistic, to take into account the specificities of our Member States, so that no country wishing to participate in this increase is left out.”

Day two of the meeting, on Aug 27, will include the election of the president as well as closed discussion among the Board of governors.   

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