By Joni Akpederi
Months of intensive lobbying by President Alassane Ouattara and Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan to get the African Development Bank to relocate to its natural home in Cote d’Ivoire have finally paid off.
The Board of Governors, at a meeting yesterday, adopted and approved the resolution to allow the Bank to return to Abidjan. The executive management team has been directed to monitor and manage the movement, which some observers see as one of the enduring legacies of President Donald Kaberuka, quite aside from his efforts to beef up the Bank’s balance sheet and pursue the most audacious decentralization programme in the institution’s history.
This is not the first time the hope of a glorious return has filled the air. Three years ago, the Bank held the annual meetings in Abidjan, encouraged by the relative peace and calm the country enjoyed at the period. Unfortunately, the political situation deteriorated during the next elections, cutting short all hope and optimism. The violence that followed the elections and the subsequent turmoil, which internationalized the crisis, stalled preparations at the Bank.
Following President Ouattara’s victory at the polls and reconciliatory moves to reunite the country, Cote d’Ivoire has returned to normalcy and is fully ready to welcome the world to what was once one of Africa’s most stable countries. Today Cote d’Ivoire is a long way from the confused country it became after the unfortunate 1999 coup d’état.
This time around, the government of Cote d’Ivoire is pulling out all the stops to ensure that the Bank’s return goes without hitches. According to Mme Nialé Kaba, Ivorian Minister of Finance, the country has been working hard to improve security in the capital and the regions. The government is particular about infrastructure rehabilitation to fix the roads and other facilities destroyed during the civil war as well as those that had gone into disrepair or were abandoned in the heat of the intermittent crisis. Special attention is being paid to social services including transport, education, health and water supply, in a bid to assure the AfDB and other institutions that once proudly called Cote d’Ivoire home that it is now safe to come back.
Back in 2010 at the Bank’s annual meetings, the then Governor for the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, Paul-Antoine Bohoun Bouare, ended his impassioned welcome speech with an appeal for the Bank to make the journey back to the country. He cited “the internal efforts, the invaluable assistance of its (Cote d’Ivoire) friends and the international community and the favourable conditions now in place”, and topped it off with the “security level assessments by the United Nations (that) have been positive”.
Today, these same reasons have been adduced to justify the Bank’s return, but this time with much more concrete evidence and confidence. The government has gone out on a limb to please the Bank directors. It has rehabilitated the giant property of the International Trade Centre and offered it to the AfDB free of charge for a couple of years. It has also undertaken the rehabilitation of the famous school, Mermoz, to provide quality education for the children of Bank’s staff.
Cote d’Ivoire couldn’t be more ready for the long-awaited reunification with the AfDB family.