Harare (New Ziana)- Having successfully helped other countries, including Somalia and Sudan, deal with their debt problems, the African Development Bank (AfDB) on Tuesday pledged to similarly assist Zimbabwe tackle its foreign debts.
The country has foreign debts of more than US$10 billion, much of which it has been unable to service over the years due to a sustained economic downturn caused largely by illegal Western sanctions imposed on the country.
As a result, most international lenders stopped giving fresh loans to the country until it cleared its previous debts, a condition Zimbabwe has been unable to meet.
But, in spite of its failure to service its foreign debts, the AfDB has stood by Zimbabwe by not only advancing new financial support itself, but also assisting it to pay off some of the debts, and crafting debt clearance strategies.
Speaking after talks with President Emmerson Mnangagwa, AfDB president Akinwumi Adesina said the bank will mid-wife and champion Zimbabwe’s debt clearance efforts to other international creditors.
Referencing a lesson taught to him by his mother as a young boy of the importance of team work in achieving set goals, Adesina, who arrived in Harare on Monday, said Zimbabwe had suffered enough from challenges associated with not being able to access international funding, as such, the time was ripe for concerted efforts to change the situation.
“When I was a kid, my mother taught me how to sweep. The day she wanted to teach me how to sweep, she asked me take a strand of a broom and try to sweep with it, but I could not do it. She then asked me to put all the strands together and tie them together and try to sweep, and I was able to sweep. So it means that it is going to take more than one person, it is going to take all of us, lock, hand in hand, walking together to chat this course. The President let me know of his very strong commitment to that and I assured him that I would meet with all the partners (other international lenders) and walk together to be able to do this,” he said.
“As the African Development Bank, we also did this for other countries, we have done it for Somalia, we helped them to have their arrears cleared working closely with the World Bank and IMF. We also did it for Sudan working with the IMF and World Bank and other bilateral partners. Circumstances are different obviously, but I think that the commitment is there. I am very hopeful that we will be able to do it. A new reinvigorated Zimbabwe is good for everybody.”
Asked on the envisaged time-frame to conclude the special assignment he has just taken on, Adesina responded: “For everything under the sun there is a time and a season, so we will get there.”
Adesina said one of the reasons he had accepted to champion Zimbabwe’s debt cause was because he believed that it was time to “reinvigorate, and re-dynamise” the country’s economy as it was also critical for the Southern African Development Community and the continent at large.
“We are also now talking of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and of course Zimbabwe needs to play a very big role within that particular area whether it is in manufacturing, agriculture, human capital or ICT, we want Zimbabwe to be a very key player of that,” he said.
That President Mnangagwa is also keen on ensuring a successful resolution to the debt issue, would also spur the AfDB’s efforts, Adesina said.
“It is clear that the President is highly committed to that process, it is clear that the President is also committed to engaging with the international community and I told the President that in my role as the President of the AfDB, I will help.”
“I will not walk alone, I will walk with everybody including the bilateral development partners, multilateral development partners, the World Bank and IMF, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for us to map out a direction that will build the capacity of Zimbabwe on debt arrears and debt resolution to also help them have a roadmap towards getting there and also how to mobilise resources,” he said.