There was no question that the 44th annual meeting of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Dakar, Senegal, last month was easily the most critical of this decade. The theme said it all: 'Africa and the financial crisis: An agenda for action'.
This time, no one can accuse Africa's foremost financial institution of being slow out of the blocks. Before the annual meeting, AfDB president Donald Kaberuka had lost no time in organising a series of meetings within and without Africa to assess the global crisis and find ways of mitigating it.
Dakar was thus a sober gathering of African and international public and private sector representatives, but, despite the seriousness of the global crisis facing the world, the mood at the conference was optimistic. There was a feeling that at least on this occasion, Africa would have been away on a long, sustained period of growth had it not been tripped up by irresponsible activity by other parties. But there were no lamentations. "I want to make it very clear to our international partners," Kaberuka told the record number of journalists who were covering the meeting, "that we are not here with a begging bowl. We were not part of the problem but now that we cannot escape the consequences of that problem, we want to be part of the solution."
The two-day meeting was officially opened by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who was in sparkling form. He said the crisis had opened the eyes of those who had thought the sun shone from the West. It had shown Africa that its emancipation did not depend on outside intervention but the determination of its own people to chart their own course. Also attending the meeting, which attracted a record number of delegates, were the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, Ghana's Vice President John Dramani Mahama, AU Commission chair Jean Ping and the UN Economic Commission for Africa Under Secretary-General Abdoulie Janneh. Kaberuka swiftly covered the evolution of the African economy over the past 40 years. He said the story had been marked by short periods of growth followed by long periods of stagnation largely as a result of internal factors related to poor governance and external shocks. The causes of the current financial crisis were exogenous but the consequences were much more serious. They were translating into huge job losses, closure of businesses, factories and mines, among other fallout.
"The aspirations of a continent which worked for decades, laboured...