Thursday, May 17, 2007

President Ravalomanana’s Diagnosis of Africa’s Poverty and Prescriptions for Transforming the Continent...Commends Bank Work

The President of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomana, on Tuesday in Shanghai, gave a clinical diagnosis of the enormous development challenges facing Africa and emphasized the need for talented leadership and support from partners in transforming the continent from its poverty situation to that of  development and growth.

“If we want Africa to transform, each African country must aim high. Donors and foreign governments must help African countries to achieve a quantum leap and succeed,”  he said.

Mr. Ravalomanana was speaking at the first of a series of high level ministerial round table discussions and seminars of the 2007 Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group which began in  China’s business capital on Tuesday.

The Malagasy President noted that poverty in a world of abundance was totally unacceptable. He cited the lack of talented and visionary leadership, and unprogressive traditions as well as the legacy of colonialism and imperialism as the three major causes of Africa’s predicament.

There are actually many talented men and women in Africa who can provide leadership, but they are blocked. They are blocked by men who want power, status and control.  They are blocked by men who want to be the 'big chief',” he said, adding that Africa does not need 'big chiefs' but reformers and leaders who can get results.

Traditional practices such as the decimation of people’s material wealth when they die and excessively large families due to the rejection of family planning tend to create and sustain poverty.  

“The third reason why we are poor is because we live with the legacy of colonialism and imperialism in Africa. This legacy is like a weight tied to our legs. We want to run fast but the weight slows us down,” he said, noting however, that people should look to the future.

The private sector, he said, remains critical to Africa’s development, explaining that a strong and competitive private sector was the engine of economic growth in the most successful countries across the world.

Mr. Ravalomanana commended the Bank for its work in African countries. “The African Development Bank is making a very good effort in helping us build our infrastructure,” he said.

Opening the gathering earlier, the AfDB Group President, Mr. Donald Kaberuka, thanked Messrs. Ravalomanana and his Cape Verdean counterpart, Pedro Pires, for honoring the invitation to participate in the discussions pointing out that both countries were models of good economic and political governance from which others could learn.

He commended the Malagasy government’s efforts to build a strong private sector, citing the approval of US$ 150 million private sector loan by the Bank to help finance the country’s Ambatovy nickel project in recognition of the important role the sector plays in the country.

Mr. Kaberuka praised Cape Verde, another resource-poor country where the Bank Group is playing a major role, for sustaining democracy and building an enabling environment for business to thrive.

For his part, the Cape Verdean leader highlighted the challenges that the country faced from independence; emphasizing the need for the country to open up to the outside world considering the critical role its Diaspora is playing in sustaining the economy.

The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Mr. Abdulie Janneh, emphasized the strong relationship between African and Asia, saying the holding of the meeting in Shanghai would further strengthen these relations.

The ministers of finance of Algeria, Gabon, Kenya and the governor of the People’s Bank of China, Mr. Zhou Xiaochuan, were among the key speakers at the seminar on ‘Africa and Asia: Partnership in Development’, the first of a series being attended by over 2000 top government officials, business leaders, representatives of NGOs, civil society, members of the academic community and the media, ahead of the two-day Annual Meetings of the Bank Group which opens on Wednesday.

Link to ADB Press Story