Good morning to you all. I warmly welcome you to the 2020 Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Forum. Let me particularly welcome my dear big sister, Dr. Graca Machel, for joining us. It is so great to have my dear brother, Youssou N’Dour, joining us. I hope you are all staying safe, well and healthy in the pandemic.

I appreciate and have great admiration for the great work you all do every day, as Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).

CSOs are closer to people, so you know and feel their needs and pulse. CSOs fight every day for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves, often at great risk.

CSOs give visibility to the less visible, voice to the voiceless, and defend the rights of citizens.

Development is all about people and must be accountable to people. People are not statistics. To be meaningful and impactful, development programs must address the hopes and aspirations of people.

We must run people-centered programs.

As we gather today, life is not the same anymore for all of us, given the Covid-19 pandemic. No part of the world has been spared. Globally, over 60 million people have been infected and over 1.4 million people have died. In Africa, total infections are at over 2 million people and over 45,000 people have died.

The world has become more fragile as we face existential risks. Tackling the pandemic calls for global partnerships, greater sensitivity, pulling together, and not pulling apart.

The African Development Bank Group moved swiftly to provide support for African countries to tackle the pandemic.

We launched a $10 billion crisis response facility to help countries to address immediate fiscal challenges and access to health equipment and provide support for frontline health workers.

The Bank also launched a $3 billion fight Covid-19 social bond on the global capital markets, the largest ever in the world.

Yet, as we do this, we recognize that the pandemic has had, and continues to have, more serious impacts on the poor.

The poor are more vulnerable, as the majority work in the informal sector and have no access to health insurance or any form of social protection. They spend their life savings once they suffer external health shocks. Women, who form over 76% of the frontline health workers, are disproportionately more vulnerable.

For many in Africa, a day without work is a day without a livelihood. Because a large share of the population depends on daily wage work in services, tourism, agriculture and hospitality sectors, millions have fallen further into poverty as these sectors have all been severely impacted by the pandemic.

The Bank estimates that 25-49 million people have fallen into extreme poverty. Over 50 million jobs would have been lost by the end of this year.

The pandemic has clearly worsened inequalities: gender inequality; income inequality; inequality in access to healthcare; inequality in education; and inequality between developed and developing countries, in their abilities to address the pandemic.

That is why the Bank’s support to countries through the crisis response facility focuses on targeting those in need and ensuring that policy and project interventions build resilience.

The critical issue is not the amount of funds that are provided by us and others, regardless of how significant, but who they reach. Transparency and accountability are critical, and we have these as key requirements in the Bank’s support to countries.

The role of civil society in monitoring these interventions is important, to ensure that they effectively reach the poor and vulnerable, who are most affected.

Over the past five years, the Bank’s interventions through its High 5 programs have benefitted 335 million people. I am very excited that our support is providing electricity, food security, access to finance, water and sanitation and access to improved transport.

I am even more excited for the next five years, following my unanimous re-election by all our shareholders with 100% of the votes of regional and non-regional shareholder countries.

We will work much harder, collectively and in unison, to accelerate the impacts of our work.

The pandemic has upended plans by governments to invest in projects, as attention has shifted (and rightly so) towards tackling the pandemic. But we must now rebuild back, bolder, better, and with greater economic, social and climate resilience.

As we do, the African Development Bank Group should have bold engagements with the civil society. Meetings are not enough. Talking to each other is not enough. We need to work together, concretely.

I have informed my team that I am not happy with the current approach, where we simply meet at the CSO Forum.

We will completely revamp the Bank’s approach for engaging civil society from being process-driven to outcomes-driven. Consultations with civil society are not enough, what we need are actionable programs.

I have heard enough talk on civil society. I want to see clear actions, with outcomes that are measurable in our engagement with the civil society.

At the next Civil Society Organizations Forum, what I would like to see are civil society organizations on the platform sharing how they have worked with the Bank to deliver concrete outcomes.

First, the Bank should have a specific intervention that strengthens the institutional capacity of civil society organizations. The stronger the civil society organizations, the better they will be able to function as independent voices to inform our work and operations.

Second, the Bank should support civil society organizations on advocacy work to promote Africa’s development and the High5s in countries, to help accelerate the achievement of the SDGs and Agenda 2063.

Third, the Bank should further strengthen its engagement with civil society at the community level on projects to ensure that the intended impacts are being well monitored and achieved.

Fourth, the Bank should specifically support civil society organizations that are working with women’s groups, as we pursue our work to accelerate access to finance for women.

Fifth, the Bank should further strengthen its work with the civil society on ensuring there is compliance to social and environmental safeguards on all Bank projects. As a Bank, we are committed to supporting projects that are socially and environmentally accountable.

Finally, the Bank should strengthen its engagement with the civil society on anti-corruption efforts on projects. The Bank is a transparent organization and was ranked last year as the 4th most transparent organization in the world. The Bank has zero tolerance for corruption and welcomes the civil society to partner with our independent anti-corruption department.

At the end of the day, we must make development work for the people. It is not how loud one speaks but how one’s voice is amplified.

Together, let us amplify the voices of the poor, the vulnerable, including the disabled, the women and the youth.

Let us amplify the voices for good governance and accountability.

Let us amplify the voices of hope, and bring the future faster into the present all across Africa.

Together, let’s support Africa.

Thank you very much.


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