The African Development Bank Group’s annual meetings officially opened on Tuesday with a ringing endorsement of the institution by the Ghanaian government and a call on member countries to back the institution as the main engine for the continent’s economic growth.

Accra is host of the group’s annual gathering, which for the first time since 2019 will see in-person sessions.

Speaking at the formal opening ceremony, Ghanaian president Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo spoke of the continent’s ongoing fiscal and socioeconomic challenges and the importance of the African Development Bank to the continent’s development goals.

Eighteen African economies have faced credit downgrades, amid the headwinds of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The combined effects of the debt situation, rising interest rates and the rising cost of living are resulting in severe macroeconomic and financial instability, the president said.

“What is clear is that the resulting damage cannot be cured so easily with the limited fiscal tools at our disposal and national policy adjustments. Therefore, I reiterate my call for an elevated role for Africa’s premier bank, the African Development Bank,” Akufo-Addo said.

He added: “The African Development Bank is in a position to drive sustained transformation in Africa…With increased financial resources, the Bank could recapitalize key African financial institutions, such as the regional development banks, Afreximbank, Africa Guarantee Fund, Africa-Reinsurance Company and Africa50.”

Ghana’s finance minister, Kenneth Ofori-Atta, who is at the end of his term as current chairman of the African Development Bank Group’s board of governors, said the stakes were high and spoke of the risk of a lost decade.

Africa’s economic growth contracted by 3.2% in 2020 and debt-to-GDP ratios edged up from 60% to 71.1%, Ofori-Atta noted. The minister said, however, that it was not all bad news.

He pointed out: “In truth, growth prospects on the continent are not bleak, especially once Africa is provided with the requisite capital to succeed.”

Calling the African Development Bank a “reliable partner,” Ofori-Atta said it was necessary to support the Bank in raising competitive financing for its members to tackle the continent’s greatest threats: rising food and fertilizer prices, rising fuel prices, tightening financial conditions and climate change. “We must build from our unique resilience and strengthen partnerships,” the minister stressed.

Speaking on behalf of the African Union Chairman, Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission Monique Nsanzabaganwa saluted the African Development Bank Group for its commitment to the African Union’s Agenda 2063. She said the continent’s access to development building blocks, like better water, sanitation and infrastructure, was vital for its transformation. She added that transformation could only be achieved with an elevated role for the African Development Bank in mobilizing the needed resources.

The theme for the African Development Bank Group’s 2022 Annual Meetings is “Achieving Climate Resilience and a Just Energy Transition for Africa.”

Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina said Africa suffers disproportionately from the negative impacts of climate change, including increased frequency and intensity of droughts, cyclones, floods, compounded by desertification. He said this is despite the fact that Africa contributes the least to global warming, accounting for only 4% of all carbon emissions.

Adesina said: “Climate change is shortchanging African economies. Africa suffers $7-15 billion per year in losses to climate change. These losses are projected to rise to $40 billion per year by 2030. Africa has no choice but to adapt to climate change.

“To support the continent in doing so, the African Development Bank has doubled its financing for climate to $25 billion by 2025. Without any doubt, the African Development Bank is the leader on climate adaptation in Africa, and globally. The share of our climate finance dedicated to adaptation is 67%, the highest among all multilateral development banks.”

In his welcoming remarks, Bank Group Secretary General Vincent Nmehielle said the meetings were intended to promote Africa’s resilience to climate challenges.

Mozambique President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, currently on a state visit to Ghana, and President Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania also attended the opening ceremony.

The African Development Bank Group’s meetings ran from the 23 to today, 27 May.