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Nigeria champions new pan-African bank


February 08, 2006/guardian



The stage for the take-off of what may emerge as Africa\'s biggest and most-capitalised investment bank was set yesterday in Abuja when the Federal Government inaugurated a 12-man committee to midwife the bank\'s formation.

The committee, which comprises of the country\'s very best in public finance, banking and the private sector, is headed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Prof. Charles Soludo.

The government is optimistic that it can successfully spearhead the bank\'s formation because of Nigeria\'s range of resources such as growing foreign reserves, increasing earnings from crude oil, its major roles in the establishment of some pan-African financial institutions and national economic growth under the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS).

The pan-African bank is expected to provide fund for the region\'s weak infrastructural platforms and strengthen the member-countries\' investment portfolios.

Without any hitches in its formative stage, the bank to be known as the African Investment Bank, will begin operations in 2009 with its headquarters in Nigeria.

While inaugurating the committee yesterday in Abuja on behalf of President Olusegun Obasanjo, Soludo said the panel was saddled with the responsibility to think through and help the fruition of the African Investment Bank.

He said: \" As you are all aware, the name is African Investment Bank and from the membership of the technical committee, the bank is ostensibly Nigerian because the dream is Nigeria\'s. We needed to have a framework and a platform as a prospect paper and to use that paper as a basis to begin to invite other members to join.\'\'

Soludo said that Nigeria is well situated to champion the cause following its feat in the past in the establishment of other pan-African institutions.

Nigeria, he said, \" is potentially Africa\'s largest economy. We are on course with the implementation of the NEEDS agenda. We are very far from the potential so far in terms of the economic capacity, growth capacity and infrastructure deficiency, the manufacturing, industrialisation, exporting and infrastructure development.

\" Indeed, the economy has been over the last three years much faster than what was prescribed in the NEEDS agenda. Inflation last year has gone down from 28 per cent in August 2005 to 12 per cent as at end-December 2005 and single digit in terms of core inflation. Infrastructure development is moving but not at the pace that most Nigerians would expect it to go in terms of electricity and others.

\"You know we still have quite a long way to go. But at the heart of the development of Africa and at the heart of remedying the infrastructure deficiency is to have export-oriented industrialisation. At the heart of it all is financing, \'\' Soludo submitted.

He stated that the need for the proposed bank had become imperative because Africa generally has very poor infrastructural base, weak export base, major export of primary commodities and highly volatile, but finance has remained the problem.

The CBN chief said that the bank\'s establishment was now more germane because of the failure of some pan-African financial institutions such as the African Development Bank (ADB), the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) and West African Investment Bank, to respond to the economic issues that the proposed bank will address.

He said: \" It is also important to note that quite a whole range of them in terms of demand relative to the needs and growing needs is still much and still growing by the day. And that is what has given rise to this idea. And particularly in the light of the growing external resources that we are pulling together such as the growing crude oil earnings, growing foreign reserves and the challenge of how to efficiently and effectively leverage on these resources for the development of the Nigerian economy and possibly the other African economies, have given the impetus for new thinking and for other ideas to begin to emerge.

\" Therefore, the President\'s vision in having this idea of an African Investment Bank is to create an institution that will be so well capitalised and we can leverage on the resources that we have today. This is a window of opportunities that we have and the pool of resources that we have in terms of the external reserves and excess crude reserves. Through the African Investment Bank, we will be able to accelerate the issue of infrastructural development,\'\' he said.

The committee, Soludo said, would essentially think through the objective and define the niche of the proposed bank; define the scope of the bank\'s operations; determine the composition of ownership and structure of ownership and modalities of operation, and determine what might be the capital base and who should contribute what and how it should be operated.

Other members of the committee are: the CBN Deputy Governor, (Financial Sector Surveillance), Mr. Tunde Lemo, who is its alternate chairman; the CBN Deputy Governor, (Operations), Dr. Shamsudeen Usman; and Prof. Sylvester Monye of the Federal Ministry of Finance, Abuja.

Others are former President, Afrexim, Mr. Chris Edordu; Dr. Seyyid Abdulai, former Director General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries OPEC (Funds); Oba O. Fajana and Alhaji Aliko Dangote who is representing the private sector.

The rest are the Group Managing Director of the United Bank for Africa (UBA), Mr. Tony Elumelu; the Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank, Mr. Tayo Aderinokun; the Managing Director of Access Bank Group Plc, Mr. Aigboje-Imoukhuede and the Special Adviser to the CBN Governor, Mr. Chidozie Emenuga, who will serve as the committee\'s secretary.

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