From Gideon Sackitey, GNA Special Correspondent Abuja, Nigeria.
Abuja, May 19, GNA - President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria has called on rich member states of the African Development Bank to increase their support for the bank to make it more viable and stronger. This is to enable it offer the required financial support to poorer members.
Speaking at the opening of the 40th Meeting of the African Development Bank and 31st Meeting of the African Development Fund in the Nigerian capital, President Obasanjo said it was important for African countries to take their destiny into their own hands instead of constantly relying on outsiders to help them.
''Africa is powerfully endowed and capable of meeting her mounting challenges if rich countries are able and ready to help the weak and poor ones.''
President Obasanjo urged the ADB members and their leaders to subscribe fully to the tenets of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), especially the African Peer Review Mechanism, which is a way of ensuring that governance, economic and democratic practices are adhered to, to meet the economic and social needs of their people. President Obasanjo promised that Nigeria would continue to support the ADB as it has done in the past when it invested 100 million dollars in the Nigerian Trust Fund, the Technical Co-operation arm of the bank's lending window.
The yield on the initial amount is currently estimated at 500 million dollars.
The Nigerian leader called for increased trading among African countries, exchange of information and experiences, saying it was possible to build a better continent "this way."
He urged his colleagues to eschew conflict and regressive policies and laws that only hinder development and increase poverty. "We must halt this trend and ensure that Africa once again rises to fulfil its huge reputation and potential."
President Obasanjo appealed to African leaders to build capacities in their various countries in order to fully utilise the advantages of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) of the US. President Obasanjo paid glowing tribute to the immense transformation that Mr Kabbaj has brought to the Bank Group, "my own experience within the NEPAD framework and the AU system has shown that he is a man of great abilities and it is what has led to the new strength currently being enjoyed by the bank."
Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria's Minister of Finance and Chairperson of the ADB Board of Governors, described the ADB as a strong force to reckon.
She said Nigeria, like other countries, was determined to make strong advances towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) and urged development partners to carry through their promises.
Mrs Okonjo-Iweala admitted that there were constraints facing Nigeria and other African economies, but noted that the ADB as a strong partner was capable of helping the countries turn their economies around.
Outlining the operations of the Bank Group in the year under review, Mr Kabbaj said the ADB continued to respond to the emerging challenges facing its regional members and played a leading role by launching four major initiatives to alleviate their plight.
"First was the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative, then the establishment of the Bank's Post Conflict Countries Facility which allocated approximately 150 million dollars over three years from the net income of the Bank and an additional 150 million dollars from the African Development Fund.
Thirdly, is the initiative for the Bank's Operations in Middle Income Countries and the initiative for Promoting the Private Sector." Mr Kabbaj said the bank group adopted a three-year Action Plan to improve its operations and had also undertaken additional measures to strengthen its organizational structure. He said along side the extensive reform the Bank Group was able to undertake a successful programme of resource mobilization totalling 25 billion dollars over the last decade. 19 May 05