4 takeaways from the African Development Bank annual meetings

A view of the special panel on “Accelerating Implementation of the Bank's Ten-Years Strategy with the High 5s Agenda.” Photo by: AfDB Group

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast — Expanding Indian-African relations was the leading priority of the 52nd annual meetings of the African Development Bank, with a specialized focus on examining what development lessons could be learned from India, the world’s seventh largest economy.

Following examples from Asia, Africa must know what it wants, establish a clear vision and train its people according to development needs, Ivory Coast Vice President Daniel Kablan Duncan told attendees during a televised debate. “What matters is our vision to drive the agenda,” he said.

The governors of the bank, each representing one of the 80 member countries, were pleased that the bank exceeded lending and disbursement targets for 2016 and encouraged reaching higher in the future, they said in a statement. The AfDB plans to invest $2.4 billion each year during the next decade on agricultural transformation efforts, including building irrigation infrastructure, storage facilities and feeder roads that will better connect villages to markets.

Overall bank spending is estimated to be about $30 billion in the next two-plus years, according to the bank’s 2017-2019 Work Program and Budget, released earlier this week.

Governors applauded the bank’s role in attracting youth-oriented projects and the implementation of the Feed Africa agenda. “We encourage the bank to continue to work with other donor agencies to crowd in financial resources, financial modalities and policy tools to unlock the potential of the sector and to fast-track the achievement of Africa’s agricultural sector,” the group wrote in a final press release.

As part of the nine-part India-Africa Cooperation series held during the meetings, leaders exchanged ideas on topics such as how to strengthen cancer research and signed numerous agreements – including Ghana, Somalia, and Ivory Coast joining the International Solar Alliance.

The annual meetings also sought to improve trade with India, which inspired conversations around the need for policy advancements that support those goals. AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina estimates that bilateral trade will reach $100 billion by next year. The African Economic Outlook, which was released during the meetings, encouraged more intra-continental trade and highlighted entrepreneurship as key to Africa’s industrialization.

In response to famine and near-famine conditions in Nigeria, South Sudan and Somalia and the growing drought-induced food instability in parts of Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya, Adesina announced the approval of a $1.1 billion famine fund. Though details of the fund have not yet been made public, one source tells Devex it will include “short-, medium-, and long-term projects to create resilience in communities facing starvation.”

Here are four takeaways from this year’s AfDB annual meetings:

1. African countries sign agriculture industrialization deals with India

Zambia, Ghana and Togo are among 13 countries that signed partnership agreements with India to enhance the supply of farm machinery and increase farmer competency in mechanized agricultural practices. During a high-level meeting, African agriculture ministers, private sector associations and industry members from India and Africa signed a series of agreements, including on credit advancements to farmers, cooperative use of machinery in the mining sector and scientific research. The Indian government is also preparing an “aide memoire” — an informal diplomatic communication —  which provides proposed negotiating texts on identified fields of agricultural cooperation, Gujarat State Minister of Agriculture Chimanbhai Dharamshibhai Shapariya said at the meetings. As part of the deal, the Indian government said it remains open to accept more imports of key cereals and grains from African producers and also look for opportunities to sell wheat to the continent.

2. Including youth is integral to the success of Africa’s future in agriculture

Africa has 420 million people between the ages of 18 and 35, the world’s youngest population, and the AfDB plans to target that African age cohort in its agricultural industrialization efforts. The bank hopes to popularize agribusiness among youth and convince young people that working in agriculture can be a profitable business with the adoption of technology and improved equipment and practices. The ENABLE Youth program has been the bank’s pilot initiative, through which more than $500 million in financing has been approved. Through informational forums and rural visits, countries aspire to develop a new wave of “agripreneurs”.  With at least nine more countries targeted for ENABLE Youth funding this year, governments are on board with the need to create young agribusiness owners in order to reduce the roughly $35 billion spent on Africa’s food imports each year, according to the bank.

3. AfDB and IFC sign memorandum to promote investments in women

During the annual meetings, the AfDB and the International Finance Corp. pledged support for a deeper investment in women with an emphasis on increasing their access to finance. A 2015 Gender Equality index written by the Bank’s former Special Envoy on Gender showed that the rate of female entrepreneurs in Africa was the highest in the world. In 2016, the AfDB launched the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa, or AFAWA program, which aims to provide accessible and affordable financial services to women in business through certain financial institutions. AFAWA will be supported by IFC’s Banking on Women Program which supports women-owned businesses in training, capacity development, and broadens access to finance and markets. “Agriculture and women entrepreneurship are two areas of expertise of the IFC and this [memorandum of understanding] is a unique opportunity to scale financing for women in agriculture,” IFC Vice President and Treasurer Jingdong Hua said. Once scaled, joint investment will empower women through reforms in the financial sector, updated policies, and clear legislation and regulations aimed at creating an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs.

4. Ethiopia signed $5.6 million agreement for drought-affected communities

The government of Ethiopia signed loan and grant agreements totaling $5.6 million for the expansion of the country’s One Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Program, which seeks to improve access to water supply and sanitation facilities in rural and pastoralist areas impacted by the drought in the horn of Africa. These funds are in addition to the initial funding of $91 million for the same project in 2014. This program, once implemented, is expected to improve the livelihoods of about 3 million people and will help increase resilience to climate change in affected communities. Nearly 8,000 water schemes will be constructed or rehabilitated across 177 districts where water shortages affect the health of the local population. This program aims to address both the lack of water and poor sanitation in parts of the country, but also minimize the cases of diseases caused by water shortages, including typhoid.

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About the author

  • Christin roby

    Christin Roby

    Christin Roby is the West Africa Correspondent for Devex. Based in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, she covers global development trends, health, technology, and policy. Before relocating to West Africa, Christin spent several years working in local newsrooms and earned her Master of Science in videography and global affairs reporting from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Her informed insight into the region stems from her diverse coverage of more than a dozen African nations.