ADB President Talks to the Middle East. (Business & Finance)

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At the end of May (28-30), the African Development Bank Group will participate in a series of meetings at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa. Each year the Group brings together about 1,500 financial experts from the public and private sectors, including ministers of the Bank Group's 77 member countries. In advance of the meeting ADB President Omar Kabbaj, answered the following questions posed by The Middle East.

TME: The ADB has a long history of operations in the Middle East/North African region; for the purpose of our readers would you outline the bank's functions?

President Omar Kabbaj for the ADB: The Bank started its operations in North Africa in 1968, almost as soon as it became operational. Since then, the Bank has made modest contributions to the economic and social development of the region. According to the Bank's Grouping the North African Region comprises the following countries: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Sudan and Tunisia. In this North African Region, we have two categories of countries: (i) the high-income countries eligible from the African Development Bank window, namely Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Libya and Tunisia, though Libya has to date not used ADB loans, and (ii) low-income countries eligible for the concessional resources of the African Development Fund, namely Mauritania and Sudan.

From its initial operations to date, the Bank Group has approved 336 operations (loans and grants) to the countries of the region totalling UA 9.786 billion (UA 1=about US$ 1.25673), which represents 32.8 per cent of the loans and grants financed by the entire Bank Group. The breakdown by sector of these loans is as follows: finance (22.6 per cent), multi-sectorial activities (19.1 per cent), electricity (14.9 per cent), agriculture (14.8 per cent), transport (10.8 per cent), social sector (7.0 per cent), and industry.

The highest proportion of loans went to the financial sector, reflecting the considerable support given by the Bank to the development of the private sector in the region, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises (SME/SMI), mainly through lines of credit to public banks. The second highest operation went to multi-sectorial activities, reflecting the importance of the support given to reforms intended to stabilise macro-economic frameworks, boost economic growth, and improve the performance of the economies.

TME: Tunisia was recently the recipient of two loans from ADB, can you explain how the loans will be used?

ADB: In 2001 Tunisia was actually granted three loans by the Bank amounting to UA 362.47 million; the loans were for: (i) the Fourth Line of Credit to the Banque Nationale Agricole (BNA) amounting to UA 108.178 million and approved by the Board of Directors on 1 June 2001; (ii) the Competitiveness Support Programme II, amounting to UA152.813 million and approved on 16 October 2001; and (iii) the Classified Road Development Project Phase III, amounting to UA 101.479 million and approved on 1 June 2001.

The specific objective of the fourth line of credit to BNA is to contribute to the development of production, improvement of competitiveness, and modernisation of SME/SMIs in agriculture, the agro-food sector, agro-industry, manufacturing, tourism and housing. By so doing, the Bank will help the government in achieving its objective of placing Tunisia's economy on a new path to economic growth of 7.5 per cent per year, within an environment which will be more open to the world economy in the coming years.

It should be pointed out that as regards lines of credit, approved by the Bank for regional member countries, Tunisia has benefited from the highest number, with 32 to date. …