Africa: No to AfDB Neoliberalism

Forum on the African Development Bank

14 May 2009


press release

As the African Development Bank (AfDB) holds its 44th annual assembly, African civil society groups met at a forum in Dakar to express their deep dissatisfaction with the bank’s policies. Forum participants allege that the bank does not fully understand the implications of the global financial crisis for Africa and that it has done nothing more than peddle the neoliberal line of institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). They also say that it has failed to come up with a single initiative of its own to tackle the African debt crisis. The forum stressed the need for the AfDB to be an institution committed first and foremost to the welfare of the African people if it is to promote sustainable development and food sovereignty successfully.

We the representatives of various African civil society groups, and our partners from the North, met in Dakar from the 10 to 12 May 2009 on the occasion of the 44th annual assembly of the African Development Bank (AfDB). At this meeting, we assessed the performance of the AfDB in a number of countries and the role that the bank has played thus far in mobilising resources for development on the continent. We analysed the multifaceted international crisis that has severely impacted the African continent, and the bank’s role in mitigating the effects thereof. We also looked at the bank’s relationship with African civil society, as well as its relationship with African and international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

In the course of our in-depth discussions, it emerged that the AfDB has drifted away from its original mission of promoting the welfare of the African people and the development of the continent. In our view, the AfDB has become nothing more than a clone of the IFIs. Profitability has replaced meeting the basic needs of the population as the main criterion for project selection. The bank has submitted to the neoliberal agenda by subscribing to the tenets of market fundamentalism. The AfDB has further served to promote the very liberalisation and privatisation policies that have exacerbated the economic and social crisis on the continent. The bank has not come up with a single noteworthy initiative of its own to resolve the African debt crisis and has instead merely adopted the proposals put forward by the World Bank and the IMF.

In spite of the current negative sentiment towards neoliberalism occasioned by the current financial crisis, the AfDB continues to promote policies that have been jettisoned by other regions, including parts of the developed world. We are of the opinion that the bank does not fully understand the current crisis, or its implications for the continent.

The bank’s mission is linked to its incorporation of non-African countries. These new players have a level of influence that is not commensurate with their investment in the bank, to the extent that they have a virtual veto power over the orientation and the policies of the AfDB.

Declarations and good intentions notwithstanding, the AfDB does not engage in true dialogue with civil society, preferring to engage in fuzzy policies that avoid any critique by the African citizenry.

In light of these findings, We the participants of the Dakar Forum, declare that radical change is necessary if the AfDB is to fulfil its original mission. To achieve this, the AfDB must cease to emulate the World Bank and the IMF. It must maintain its autonomy from these two institutions, both in terms of research and the formulation of economic policy.

In the same vein, the AfDB must distance itself from the current climate where failure is a given and the disastrous fate of the continent is sealed.

The bank must therefore take a lucid and courageous look at what truly underpins the failure of the neoliberal system and challenge its suitability for the African continent.

The bank must encourage policies that promote food sovereignty and agro-ecological approaches, rather than investment in agro-fuels.

The bank must spearhead the elaboration of a new autonomous development paradigm for Africa, bringing together African researchers and civil society groups. Formalising the participation by civil society in the bank’s activities would contribute to achieving the desired change.

The bank is a public African institution that manages the monetary contributions of its African members. Consequently, it is accountable to the African people. We, the participants of the Dakar Forum, demand our right to participate in the process of project identification, follow-up and monitoring.

The participants demand:

– The establishment of a information-sharing policy

– The re-establishment of an independent environmental assessment mechanism

– The consideration of the long-term finance needs of African countries, within the context of sustainable development.

Yes to a bank dedicated to the development and welfare of the African people! No to a clone of the World Bank and the IMF!

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