At the conference organised by International Monetary Fund (IMF) African Department on ‘Sustainable Development and Sustainable Debt’ in Dakar, Senegal this year, six different panels, comprising a good number of Heads of Government and Finance Ministers within and outside of Africa, were made to address questions bordering on the challenges of ‘Sustainable Development and Sustainable Debt’.

Panel one (parallel session) focused on ‘Infrastructure financing — How to enhance joint efforts by all development institutions?’ The panel was to review trends in financing of infrastructure projects in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), from official development assistance. The panelists were invited to provide insights on whether ‘traditional’ partners can re-invigorate their involvement in infrastructure projects; how ‘newer’ partners see their activities involving in that area; and how traditional and newer partners can join efforts to mutually improve effectiveness for the benefit of SSA countries?

For panel two (parallel session), the question such as ‘Development and Debt — Where are we? How to better capture returns from public investment?’ was the focus. The panel discussed the progress that SSA countries achieved towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the financing required to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and debt developments in SSA in recent years. Against this background, the panel exchanged views on how the State can better capture the returns from public investment, whether through domestic taxation, user fees, or improvements in international taxation regimes.

Panel three (parallel session) tackled the question on ‘Development and Debt — How to get more private domestic and foreign private investment?’ The panel discussed opportunities to boost domestic and foreign private investment to accelerate progress towards SDGs, without putting additional burden on public sector balance sheets. The panelists discussed the impact of their activities in the countries they operate. They also discussed the institutional framework required to promote a win-win synergy, including the business environment and investment de-risking.

The question for Panel four was about ‘What can be learned from successful cases?’ The panelists to whom Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, belonged were invited to share concrete measures or approaches that their countries or institutions implemented in specific areas where they over-perform relative to peers. Such policy measures could be related to public or private sector financing of development.

Apart from specific questions thrown at other panelists, Ahmed was to personally address the following question: “Where do you think your country has been more successful in progressing towards SDGs and why? Looking across the SSA region and with the experience of the MDGs, what are some general commonalities that we have seen in countries that have done better than their peers over the last few decades?”

In her response to the questions, she said: “I have always said that it is very important for African countries to balance the need between development and debt sustainability. Whenever we are borrowing, we must make sure that our borrowing is responsible; that we use it to build structures that will ensure the future economic returns. So, in Nigeria, we keep very close eyes on debt sustainability analysis.”

She also stressed that Nigeria is not anywhere near debt distress level, when asked about the government’s recent borrowing plans. “We have put a lot of emphasis on transparency for whatever we our borrowing. On a quarterly basis, we publish the current status of our debt level for the public to see, including what we have done and the ones that we have serviced. We have huge development deficit on one hand, and we don’t have sufficient revenue to meet the deficit on the other hand. It means necessarily we must borrow. Currently, our borrowing is at N25.5 trillion translating to $83 billion which is 18.99 percent. So, we are at 19 percent debt to gross domestic product (GDP). I keep saying that we don’t have debt problem but revenue challenges and we are working on how to generate enough revenue.”

Panel five (parallel session) had to address the question about ‘How to make innovative private financing truly transformative?’ The panelists brainstormed new approaches to private financing to address development needs without endangering public debt vulnerabilities. Reflecting on progress so far under the Compact with Africa and various ‘blended finance’ or ‘de-risking’ initiatives, the panelists were invited to consider further steps needed to scale up innovating financing and make it truly transformative.

Panel six (parallel session) had attended to the question about ‘How to spend better and to finance better?’ The panel discussed measures to ensure that borrowed resources are allocated to high-return investment, covering selection and prioritisation of investment projects as well as strengthening of expenditure efficiency. The panelists also were encouraged to discuss how to strengthen institutional capacity in recipient country in these areas, including by unlocking multilateral development banks’ wealth of knowledge on investment project, and what steps can be taken for SSA countries to get as good financing terms as possible.

The thrust was that while development needs remain large in SSA countries, the financing space has narrowed in recent years, according to the conference paper prepared by the IMF staff team led by Dominique Desruelle, Ivohasina F. Razafimahefa, and Cemile Sancak. The SSA countries have made significant socio-economic progress in the last two decades. Income per capita improved; poverty rates declined; education and health outcomes expanded.

“However, SSA countries are only about half-way to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ability to finance development needs has become more constrained as public debt increased rapidly between 2011 and 2016, albeit stabilising thereafter. In addition, official development assistance (ODA) has stagnated or even declined.”

Also present at the event were the following: Ibrahim Assane Mayaki (Executive Secretary AUDA-NEPAD, Mr. Thierry de Longuemar (Vice President, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Mr. Zamir Iqbal (Vice President, Islamic Development Bank), Ms. Vera Songwe (United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of UNECA), Ms. Zhu Jun (Director General, People’s Bank of China), Mr. Emmanouil Davradakis (European Investment Bank), Ms. Barry Aoua Sylla (Minister of Finance of Mali), Mr. Emmanuel Pinto (Director, African Development Bank),

Mr. Guillaume Chabert (Co-President Paris Club), Ms. Francesca di-Mauro (Director Central and Southern Africa, European Commission), Mr. Christian de Boissieu (Vice-president, Cercle des économistes),  Pr. Moustapha Kassé), M. Cheikh Kanté (Minister in charge of Plan Sénégal Emergent), Ms. Linda Broekhuizen (European Development Finance Institutions), M. Thierry Déau (CEO Meridiam), Mr. Vincent Rouaix (CEO, Gfi, Informatique), Mr. Peter Sullivan (Citi Group, Managing Director, Public Sector Africa), Mr. Lubomir Roglev, (Director of lawfirm Afrique DS), Mr. Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo (Minister of Finance and Budget, Senegal),

Ms. Retno Marsudi (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia), Mr. Louis Paul Motaze (Minister of Finance of Cameroon), Aliou Maiga (Director, International Finance Corporation), Moustapha Kassé (Dean of African Economists of the African Union), Amadou Hott (Minister of Economy, Planning, and Cooperation, Senegal), Dr. Hamed Al-Bazai (Vice-Minister of Finance, Saudi Arabia), Ms. Lawson Hall (Société Générale), Ms. Lucie Villa (Moody’s), Mr. Andre Cartapanis (University Professor), Mr. Jean Philippe Duval (Associate PwC), Mr. Eric Meyer (Deputy Assistant Secretary, US Treasury), Zhang Zhengwei (Deputy Director General, Ministry of Finance, China), Mimi Alemayehou (Managing Director, BlackRhino), Ms. Sinthya Roesly (Head of Board of Directors, Exim Bank Indonesia), and Alioune Ndiaye (CEO, Orange Middle East and Africa).



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