25.05.2004 Business & Finance

Africa must lead reform programmes- Kabbaj

25.05.2004 LISTEN

(From: Gideon Sackitey, GNA Special Correspondent Kampala Uganda. By Courtesy of: GHACEM/Ministry of Finance)

Kampala (Uganda), GNA- Mr Omar Kabbaj, President of the African Development Bank (ADB) on Tuesday urged African countries to take the lead in drawing up and implementing their own reform programmes, while donor community on its own, step up the level of assistance to developing economies.

He said enhanced support is critical for Africa's success if it is to work in partnership with the objectives of the New Partnership of African Development (NEPAD Initiative in 2001.

Mr Kabbaj was speaking at the formal opening of the joint Meetings of the Bank Group organised in conjunction with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

He said in the last two years, there were signs that the donor countries have begun to honour their pledges to increase official development assistance (ODA) to Africa, adding, "but while all these developments and initiatives are welcome, we still must note that the volume of ODA to Africa is still considerably below the desired levels and below the capacity of most countries."

In respect of debt relief, Mr Kabbaj said much has been done under the HIPC Initiative to reduce the external debt of 23 African countries that have qualified.

"However, new approaches in respect to future assistance would be required to help these countries achieve long term debt sustainability and avoid falling into new debt problems", he said.

Mr Kabbaj called for HIPC relief to be extended to other nine African countries, adding that the ability of the 23 countries to shoulder loans even on concessionary terms should be re-examined since the whole proposal was being questioned.

"Concerted action by the international donor community, including arrears clearance schemes, will therefore be required to help these countries rehabilitate their economies and create conditions for economic growth," he said.

On gender equality, Mr Kabbaj, referred to the centrality of women to African development, noting that limited progress had been made in the region to achieve gender equality.

The failure to address the gender dimensions of regional development, he said, "remains a major obstacle to our countries achieving sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction." He also noted that women had made important gains in parliamentary elections in a number of African countries but said gender inequality continued in some critical areas, especially in access to and control of capital assets and resources.

The ADB President said the bank had adopted a policy that sought to provide a framework for action to achieve equal access by women to all Bank resources and opportunities created to develop interventions." President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda said men, women and children in Africa are living in poverty and called on the ADB as an ally to get it (Africa) out of it.

He asked the Bank to support construction of railways in Africa to ease movement and increase bonding of African people.

He also called for increased empowerment of women whom he said had been "discriminated against by nature".

In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of the ECA, Mr Kingsley Y. Amoako, highlighted the need to link micro-gender policies to the macro-level in a market economy.

"We urgently need to improve our data collection and analysis in order to better understand the linkages between gender, growth and development," he said.

Prominent African women, including Prime Minister Louisa Diogo of Mozambique, Nigerian Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-weala and the chairperson of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the Peer Review Mechanism, Marie-Angelique Savane, attended.

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