MONROVIA-Finance Ministers from Africa on April 10, 2023 gathered in Washington DC to discuss shared challenges facing humanity, including climate change and pandemics.
They were given the time to provide their perspective on how Africa can surmount its underdevelopment, health, and climate problems.
Given their financial firepower and expertise, many around the world are calling to reform the multilateral development banks (MDBs) to address these global challenges which can and already have setback development outcomes.
Panelists Finance Ministers were drawn from Liberia, Ghana, Kenya, Benin, and Angola.
They were given terms to discuss the topic, “Adapting Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to Global Challenges: Perspectives of African Leaders on Reform,”
Liberia was represented by its Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah.
Minister Tweah making the case for African Countries, he was clear: “Africa has never been treated as a strategic geostrategic interest in the geo-multilateral system.
Without munching his words, the Liberian Finance Minister said, “Africa needs $2.4 trillion for climate change finance between 2020 and 2030 and $100 billion to close its infrastructure gaps,” he stressed.
The Liberian Minister backtracked a bit and drew the attentin of the panel calls that have been made for the last 75 years, but added that these augments fell on deaf ears.
He wondered how in the next thirty years anyone would listen to the urge for strategic reforms within the multilateral development banking system when every effort had gone unheeded for over 70 years.
He said the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were established because the West and its allies did not want another Adolph Hitler or another world war, and there was a strong desire to spread democracy and human rights across the world.
Minister Tweah further noted that after 44 years, the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and within that 44 years China, which had the last reserve of the communist world, was able to pull over 600 million of its people out of poverty. Conversely and unfortunately, during that same 44-year period, Tweah said, Africa pushed millions of people into poverty.
He also recalled that the global financial system gave South Korea $ 2.5 billion, which the World Bank also gave to many Western and Asian countries in 1950—a funding he said enabled South Korea to become an economic miracle.
Mr. Tweah also said when it comes to the issue of capacity to manage huge infrastructure, Africa is disadvantaged, which is why the IMF and IDA were formed to deal with large infrastructure projects.
He said it has to be presented to the G7 and the multilateral community that the reforms being sought within the Multilateral Development Banks are not just a cherry-picking, and sporadic small pieces of things here and there, but that “we have to go 1945 to see that the Cold War which succeeded with the fall of the Soviet Union came at the expense of Africa. That’s what the G7 has to remember.
“We, Africa, paid the price. Between 1945 and now, the West destroyed the Climate and Africa is needing $2.4 trillion to restore itself.”
He said when that context is stated in that way, the better the prospects for reforms and all that will achieve.
Minister Tweah asserted that except that was done when the entire multilateral financial system is subjected to rigorous reform it would only be tactical gains “as we have had for a long time now”.
He said all that is needed to achieve genuine reforms within the MDBs and improve Africa’s infrastructure gap is a whole geo-economic and geostrategic approach.
Minister Tweah also used the occasion to make a case for Liberia’s green economy through the huge deposit of its forest reserves. He said despite the green nature of the Liberian economy, it receives no support from the international community, but the narrative could change with the recent signing of a pact with the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with respect to a US$50 bn climate fund to promote green economy globally.
“Liberia is a green economy, but it receives no support from the international community for its greenness. How can we be serious?
“So the other day the President encouraged us to sign a $50bn pact with the UAE. UAE is establishing a $50 bn fund. So they were saying, you are green, we want to do our development. We want to leverage your greenness, and so we want to pipeline some projects, so we could give you $500m to $1bn to do your infrastructure because the West is already developed and maybe UAE wants to go to the West.
“So UAE may want to pollute and they could use our forest to pollute. And so these are what is happening in the Paris Conversation. There must be a broader look at it and not these piecemeal discussions.
“There must be realistic discussion in these conversations, otherwise we will be coming back here all the time without solving the problem”, he said.