US to invest in Africa in future: Congressman Meeks

US Congressman Gregory Meeks has warned that the US will only be part of the future if it invests in Africa now.

The New York congressman and chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee was speaking during a visit to the African Development Bank Group on Saturday, as he and a team of colleagues of the Congress were completing a tour of three West African countries. The President of the African Development Bank Group, Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, and several senior Bank officials welcomed the group to the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan.

“If the United States does not invest in Africa today – especially considering the size of the population of young Africans, which is larger than the entire American population – then we are not going to not be part of the future,” Meeks said. He added: “My only objective was to make sure that Africa passes” from the back to the front. There is a lot of work to do. Governments cannot do it alone. The African Development Bank will play a big role. When Prosper Africa needs advice, I will direct it to the African Development Bank.”

Meeks was joined by Congressman Ami Bera from California, Congressman Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, Congressman Joyce Beatty from Ohio, Congressman GK Butterfield from North Carolina, Congresswoman Congressman Brenda Lawrence of Michigan and Congressman Troy Carter of Louisiana.

The group had traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia before arriving in Côte d’Ivoire. Members said they were inspired by the immense opportunities the African continent offers to American investors.

Adesina thanked the United States for its continued support, including backing the Bank’s general capital increase in 2019, which saw its capital base rise from $93 billion to $208 billion. Adesina said the United States, the Bank’s second largest shareholder, was “working with the right institution.” “We are Africans, we understand Africa’s needs and we are driving change in Africa,” he said.

Adesina and visiting members of Congress agreed on the need for closer cooperation between the African Development Bank and US investors. Adesina said the bank would open an office in Washington, DC, once board approval is obtained. He explained that the office would provide advice on how to structure substantial US private sector investments in Africa. “We would like to see a lot more direct US investment in infrastructure,” Adesina said. “We look forward to working with the US Trade and Development Agency and others on this.”

Adesina said African economies were rebounding, but the continent faced growing trade debt, the adverse effects of climate change, lack of opportunities for young people and limited access to Covid-19 vaccines.

The African Development Bank is leading calls for the reallocation of $100 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) from the International Monetary Fund to African countries. It advocates that these funds be channeled through the Bank as a prescribed holder of SDRs and as an institution with a AAA credit rating. “SDRs offer African countries a tremendous opportunity to deal with debt,” said the Bank’s chief.

Adesina asked for support from the United States in the fight against climate change. He explained that the Bank was investing heavily in climate adaptation and was working closely with US President’s Special Climate Envoy John Kerry and US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on climate finance.

In April 2021, the African Development Bank, in collaboration with the Global Center on Adaptation, launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program to mobilize $25 billion to support climate adaptation on the African continent.

African youth figured prominently in the discussion. The visiting delegation learned that the African Development Bank supports entrepreneurship and skills development, especially digital skills, and is working to develop youth entrepreneurship investment banks that will support businesses young people.

On health, an equally important subject given the realities of the last two years in particular, the President of the Bank explained that as part of its quality health infrastructure plans, the institution would invest 3 billion dollars in the strengthening of pharmaceutical industries and vaccine manufacturing capacities in Africa.

Adesina also anticipated the 16th replenishment of the African Development Fund, the concessional lending arm of the African Development Bank Group. It promotes reform of the Fund to enable it to leverage its own funds and tap into capital markets to support low-income African countries.

Members of the United States Congress and senior management of the Bank shared a consensus on the transformative role of women. According to Adesina, the Bank, through its Affirmative Finance Action for Women initiative, would disburse $500 million to women’s businesses across the continent.

The members of the delegation expressed their strong support for the priorities of the African Development Bank and appreciated its impact on development.

According to Congressman Butterfield, a constant refrain during the visit to Africa was: “Congressman, we appreciate your help, but what we really want is trade and investment.

MP Omar highlighted the need for partnerships. She said: “We know that Africa is rich in resources. Resources can only be used well if they are developed. Africa needs partners to prosper.

Congressman Bera stressed the need to address Africa’s governance issues and the importance of keeping its resource revenues in African countries.

Discussions also focused on the role of the African Diaspora and the need to stem the brain drain of African professionals from the continent.

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