The founding of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) in Sudan some five decades ago is a historic event that the country claims with national conceit and pride that is indeed well-deserved! Between February 27 and March 2, this year, Sudan’s cooperation with the Bank was again in the limelight for a very good reason: the President of the AfDB, Dr Akinwumi Adesina was in the country on a historic four-day state visit.
The visit came as the President stepped up efforts to roll out the Bank’s Ten-Year Strategy 2013-2022 and its five priority areas, dubbed the High 5s, now serving as major accelerators of Africa’s economic transformation and development. For Sudan, the timing was propitious given the temporary lifting of the US economic sanctions in January until July 2017, the prevailing positive political atmosphere which may see an end to internal conflicts in the country and the positive implications for economic recovery prospects.
The Sudanese authorities firmly clutched the opportunity to showcase the unique historical ties between the Bank and the country, appreciating the Bank’s prominent role in advancing its development agenda and exploring new areas for deepening cooperation. The country renewed its call for the AfDB to continue its lead role in providing technical assistance, especially in the area of debt relief and speedy economic recovery, and targeted operations to accelerate social service delivery and create employment opportunities. It was also an occasion for the Bank to provide feedback on its strategic orientation, innovation and impacts, and to underscore areas for the country to deepen reforms for the success of development operations.
Indeed, cooperation between Sudan and the AfDB got strained when, in 1995, the country fell into arrears and got suspended from the Bank’s lending operations. In 2007, however, the Bank opened a Country Office and approved a US$15 million grant in 2009 to finance household poverty survey in Sudan, the first in the country in 30 years. Thanks to the survey and complementary technical work, the country produced and implemented its interim-Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP) during 2012-2014, along with other technical requirements for debt relief. With lead support of the Bank, Sudan has also embarked on the preparation of a full PRSP, which will underpin its momentous journey to economic recovery, with strong emphasis on private sector-led economic diversification with a focus on agriculture and agri-business.
Today, the Bank is the first port of call and a partner of choice for Sudan, with an active portfolio of about $200 million (all grants), financing technical assistance in financial and economic governance, capacity building to improve the delivery of basic social services and targeted operations to create jobs. In 2016, the Bank approved a US$30 million grant to finance the ‘ENABLE Youth Program’ and create agri-business opportunities for the youth. By creating employment opportunities for some 12,000 youth, the programme will make a significant dent on Sudan’s 22 percent youth unemployment rate. Even though Sudan cannot access new loans due to arrears, the recourse to flexible and innovative instruments, notably Trust Funds and Facilities, especially the Transition States Facility, has enabled the Bank to maintain visibility and leadership.
* Dr. Abdul B. Kamara is the AfDB Resident Representative for Sudan, email@example.com