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Tunisia, Egypt - a wake up call for Africa?

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Tunisia, Egypt - a wake up call for Africa?

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Many think this could be Africa’s century. The continent weathered the global recession relatively well and the IMF predicts faster growth than in South America.

Donald Kaberuka, the Rwandan President of the African Development Bank, is one of an elite group of African decision-makers working hard to change Africa’s image from one of poverty and conflict towards a new, resourceful continent.

Annibale Fracasso, euronews’ business editor, spoke to him at the bank’s annual gathering, in Lisbon, Portugal.

Annibale Fracasso, euronews:

“Rising oil and food prices threaten to derail the African Development Bank’s efforts to push ahead with Africa’s recovery from the economic crisis. What can the African Development Bank do to reduce the effects of the crisis?”

Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank:

“The increase in food prices and energy prices is an additional area of vulnerability. But we have built enough of a cushion to be able to withstand the shock. And I’m hoping that the international global situation remains benign and I’m confident that we can keep making progress.”

euronews:

“The African Development Bank’s headquarters is in Tunis, Tunisia where the Jasmin Revolution started. What direct impact do you expect these Arab revolutions to have on Africa?”

Donald Kaberuka:

“First of all it is a positive effect. In the sense that the governance issues, and inclusion issues have to be addressed. Because if they are not, then you don’t have a sustainable economic resilience. Number two, if you take the role of Africa as a whole, including North Africa, the revolution would have cost us about two percent of GDP. That is to say, if you take the whole of Africa minus North Africa, you have a growth rate of about six percent. But if you include North Africa the growth rate comes to about four percent. But I think it’s a temporary phenomenon, a temporary loss of output in the aftermath of winning the revolution but I remain confident that we shall overcome this short term issue.”

euronews:

“Muammar Gaddafi always presented himself as the man to give Africa a leading role in the world. When he became president of the African Union he spent heavily on Africa’s economic development. Now he is killing his own people. What lesson should Africa’s dictators take from that?”

Donald Kaberuka:

“First of all, I don’t know whether Muammar Gaddafi was speaking for Africa: only he can say that. And I’m not sure that what you say is right, that he was spending a lot of money on African development. I think that has been grossly exaggerated. And I think what is important is that we get a solution quickly for Libya. Because the Libyan people deserve this solution and it is only fair to say that as soon as this solution is found so that the Libyan people can reconstruct their country, this is the most important. Now what are the lessons for the leaders? You can see that now in the world of the internet and Twitter, people know what is happening in other parts of the world. And maintaining an all-powerful regime is more and more difficult.”

euronews:

“Leaders of the G8 nations have pledged 20 billion dollars to support democratic reform in Tunisia and Egypt. Most of it will be paid as incentives and debt reduction. But won’t it take real money to sustain democracies?

Donald Kaberuka:

“We have to look at a combination of things we have to do for North Africa. The people of North Africa are not looking for aid on a permanent basis. They are looking for credit opportunities, support of the private sector, assistance on debt, and of course some support with budgets, which we are doing now. So my reading of the outcome of the G8 Deauville Summit is a combination of all those instruments. What is important for me is that we should all work together, behind the common vision of supporting the transition in North Africa. It is good for Africa, good for the Arab world and good for the north and south of the Mediterranean.”

euronews:

“Barack Obama, the President of United States would like to launch an “African Marshall Plan”. What future role will the US have in financing programmes for Africa?”

Donald Kaberuka:

“The USA is one of the major traditional partners in Africa. It’s the largest non-African shareholder in the African Development Bank, the World Bank and many other institutions. Of course we’re not unaware of the challenges faced by economies like the US and others in the euro area.”

euronews:

“What is China’s economic role in Africa?”

Donald Kaberuka:

“My view of Chinese investment in Africa is very positive. But again as I said, traditional partners remind the new partners that they count for over 70 percent of trade with Africa and over 80 percent of aid to Africa. So the partnership we are looking for is partnership with our traditional friends, partnership with emerging friends, and also partnership within Africa itself. And the three working together is what we want to encourage.”

euronews:

“Do you believe it’s time for a new African strategy towards the European Union?”

Donald Kaberuka:

“When I was in Lisbon for the EU/African summit some time back, and I think the outcome was quite satisfactory. But as an African, what interests me is a new dynamic in our relationship with Europe, because Africa is Europe’s nearest neighbour and they have a long history, but we are looking for a shift in the relationship – which looks at how we can have a win-win situation, like with China and others. How could European enterprises look at Africa as an opportunity? How can we work together to unlock the potential of the continent? This would be good for Europe – especially at this time. Just think of the effect on Portugal, Spain and Italy and countries on the Mediterranean coast, if the south of the Mediterranean was a prosperous zone.”

euronews:

“But before committing to joint development projects, the EU wants political reform in Africa…”

Donald Kaberuka:

“It is not for Europeans to carry out political reforms in Africa, as it is not for Africans to carry out political reforms in Europe. But there are European countries where political reforms might be needed. What I’m saying is that Africans themselves are looking for political reform. The revolution in Tunisia didn’t happen because Europeans asked them to do it. It was made by the Tunisians, some of whom have told me that Europeans were not very helpful in that process. So I don’t think it is now an issue of an externally driven agenda for change. It is how you react to internal demands for change, and how you do no harm when such a change is underway.”