International Development Debate

18th June 2020

Andrew Mitchell welcomes the UK Government financial commitment to the African Development Bank.

On that point, as we are not allowed to have points of order at this time, may I just say that there has been a statement and an urgent question in the last week on the dismantling of DFID, neither of which, for slightly different reasons, I was able to contribute to under the current rules of the House? Let me say through you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I would hope Mr Speaker might keep those rules under strict review and perhaps introduce some discretion if they are to persist in their current form for very much longer. Having said that, I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to contribute to this debate.

I draw the attention of the House to my interests, which are laid out in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, including that I am a strategic adviser to the African Development Bank—something that I do for the sum of £1 a year in order that there should be a contract. The House will no doubt have differing views on whether the bank gets value for money for that sum.

In recent years, the bank has been massively reformed, first by Donald Kaberuka, the highly respected former Finance Minister from Rwanda and, I think, the first elected president of the bank. Those reforms have been continued by his successor, Dr Akin Adesina, whom I advise and who I think will shortly be elected for a second term. During that time, the bank has made huge progress, as set out by both Front-Bench speakers. I wish to add a little colour to the comments that have been made and to explain why this is such good expenditure and why the UK is absolutely right to focus on building up the African Development Bank and helping it to be ever more effective.

The Minister mentioned the basic programme of the bank, which is encapsulated in the High 5s, which are: first, lighting up Africa; secondly, feeding Africa; thirdly, industrialising Africa; fourthly, integrating Africa, on which the Department for International Development has been extremely good at advising across the continent, where time spent at borders massively disrupts trade—Britain has been good at addressing that; and fifthly, improving the quality of life of African people.

The results over the past five years of President Adesina’s time in office have been spectacular. If we take them all together, we see that 18 million more people have access to electricity; 141 million more people have access to better farming techniques, food security and advice; 13 million people have access to finance from private sector investment programmes; 101 million people have had access to better transport, partly for the reasons I described; and 60 million people have access to water and sanitation—in our world today, nearly 2 billion people do not have access to clean water, and that has dire effects. The direct impact of the bank on the lives of a third of a billion Africans over that period is clear: there has been a higher rate of progress than at any time since the bank was established in 1964. The bank has retained its triple A status from all five global rating agencies, thus maintaining financial probity as well.

The Minister’s announcements today will ensure that the UK is able to help with the expanding capital base of the bank to accelerate all its objectives. That is the reason for the 125% increase in its capital. Once the money has landed in the African Development Bank, we will see those five key endeavours continue to be built on: 105 million more people will get access to electricity; 204 million people will be able to benefit from better farming technology; 23 million people will benefit from investments in private sector companies; 252 million people will gain access to improved transport and integration; and 128 million will gain access to improved water and sanitation. Those are very important changes to the quality of life of some of the poorest people in the world. The bank directly helps to support low-income countries.

In addition to that, the bank has shown a strong leadership response to the coronavirus crisis, managing to get together $10 billion to help African countries with support. It has raised $3 billion to fight covid-19, through a social bond on the global capital markets. It is the largest ever US dollar-denominated social bond listed on the London stock exchange, underlining how development links in some of the great British institutions that are not immediately seen as part of international development, and it is now over-subscribed, with orders of $4.6 billion. The Fight Covid-19 bond and the other funds that the bank has managed to bring together will be a huge boost to help private companies—particularly, pharmaceutical companies, which the bank intends to do everything it can to assist, for very obvious reasons—to survive after the crisis is over.

I wish to mention two or three other matters. In the last year, the bank has set up the Desert to Power Initiative, which will ensure that there are 10,000 MW of solar power across 11 countries in the Sahel, that belt of middle Africa. That will result in electricity for 250 million of the poorest people in the world, of whom 90 million are off grid. It is a $20 billion investment and will be the world’s largest solar zone.

There has been very strong input from the United Kingdom, with expertise from specialists at DFID made available to help the bank, and a very good relationship exists between DFID and the bank in making all of that happen.

The work on affirmative action for women in Africa is extremely important, and $3 billion is now available for financing women’s businesses, which is the largest ever such initiative. Publish What You Fund lists the African Development Bank as one of the four most transparent institutions of 45 global institutions.

The AFDB has had very strong support from the United Kingdom, as I have tried to set out. DFID has sent some of its cleverest and most effective officials to work in Abidjan to help build up the bank. We want the African Development Bank, rather than the World Bank, to be seen as the Africa bank that brings everything together. Under the leadership of both Donald Kaberuka and Akin Adesina, we are seeing that before our eyes.

I hope the Minister will consider any way in which we might increase our shareholding in the bank, because our influence is much greater than our very small shareholding. It would be helpful to have a continuous presence at the bank in Abidjan, rather than a rotating executive director role. That is not an easy ask, because of the way the bank is set up, but I think the bank would benefit from having the expertise of a British executive director all the time.

Finally, I hope that, just as we have with the World Bank, we will be able to see a much greater use within the African Development Bank of the trust fund structure. That would enable Britain to put money into a particular project or meet a particular ask where we want the bank to have a catalytic effect. The trust fund mechanism is now in common use elsewhere, and greater use of it would greatly benefit the African Development Bank and Britain’s desire to drive forward such objectives.

Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to address these points, to support what those on the Front Benches have said and, most importantly of all, to support this replenishment. It will do nothing but good for the overall aims that Britain so clearly has in wanting to do something about the appalling discrepancies of opportunity and wealth that disfigure our world today.