AfDB not limited to West Africa - Schlettwein

Minister of Finance Calle Schlettwein said the election of another West African as head of the African Development Bank (AfDB) will not have any impact on Namibia’s borrowing trends with the bank.
Speaking on the election of Nigeria’s Akinwumi Adesina into the bank’s presidency after the meeting that he and other finance stakeholders attended in Abidjan late last month, Schlettwein rejected claims that the AfDB is focused only on West Africa.
He felt that just because the new bank president is from West Africa does not mean that the bank will neglect its southern African members.
“The election saw the participation of eight capable candidates, and the selective process was transparent. So, the fact that the new AfDB president is from the West is a result of a well-planned and well-executed election process”, he noted.
He further explained that at some point, a Zambian national held the bank’s presidency, and although most Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries were excited by the change, the borrowing trends did not change.
“One must appreciate that the AfDB is a truly African bank which has fully embraced pan-Africanism in that it serves the whole of Africa”, Schlettwein stated.
As the bank’s leadership recognises SADC and especially Namibia as an important financial clog on the African continent, Namibia thus has nothing to fear as far as lending from the AfDB is concerned as it has the promise of the new president, like it had that of the former president to protect against any sudden restrictions.
The bank is furthermore regulated by a board consisting of 56 African countries and 12 non-African members, and it is these members who make all operational decisions.
In addition, Schlettwein said the bank has been actively involved in Namibian projects as far as funding is concerned, as it has over the years dominated the funding of rail infrastructure in the country.
“Projects like the Tsumeb-Ondangwa and Ruacana -Omakange railways are but the few projects funded by the AfDB. We currently have a strategic plan with the bank which allows us to borrow money for developmental projects”, he explained.
The minister noted that the approach which Namibia has with the bank is one of engagement, and the AfDB is always keen to participate.
“Namibia is one of the best success stories to tell as far as development and micro- financing is concerned. Thus, we pride ourselves in maintaining the excellent relations we have with the AfDB”, he added.
Despite the good relations with the AfDB, Namibia also utilises other sources when sourcing financing for developmental projects.
“We always try to get the best deal. Therefore, we diversify our sources”, he said, adding that Namibia has nonetheless started to source financial technicians from the AfDB.
In 2013, the AfDB granted a loan worth US$338m (N$4,1 billion) to the Namibian Ports Authority for the construction of the new container terminal at the Port of Walvis Bay, and also a US$1.5m (N$18,5 million) to the government for logistics and capacity-building to complement the port project loan.
The former Nigerian Agriculture minister, whose campaign focused on inclusive growth and regional integration, came through six rounds of voting to land the role, defeating seven rivals from across the continent after claiming roughly 60% of the votes cast by the bank’s board of governors.
He succeeds current president Donald Kaberuka of Rwanda, whose term expires in September 2015, to become the organisation’s eighth leader since its foundation in 1964.
According to the bank’s annual report, it is one of Africa’s biggest lending institutions, rivalling the World Bank in financing infrastructure projects to improve electricity, transport and water services.
In 2013, the bank approved almost U$3.16bn (N$39 billion) in loans and grants to infrastructure projects on the continent.