THE African Development Bank (AfDB) says it has accepted to assist Zimbabwe’s US$13,5 billion debt clearance plan partly because of the need to alleviate the country’s citizens from the impact of extreme poverty.
The Southern Africa nation enlisted AfDB’s president Akinwumi Adesina to assist the nation to clear its long-standing, huge external debt arrears.
The continental bank’s leader arrived in Zimbabwe on Monday to commence his engagement process with President Emmerson Mnangagwa, senior government officials and G7 member states envoys among others.
Speaking to the media soon after meeting Mnangagwa, the AfDB chief said among other reasons prompting him to accept the role was the empathy on the need to assist impoverished citizens.
“I told President Mnangagwa that it is about the people of Zimbabwe. They have suffered long enough, you know two decades. When I look at the situation today you have 49% of the people in extreme poverty and that really has to change through new hope,” he said.
Adesina appreciated Mnangagwa’s commitment to the arrears clearance process and international community re-engagement.
“As the President of AfDB I will help in that. I told him (Mnangagwa) about five regions where I am taking on a similar role. It is my duty and responsibility to do so because we have 54 member countries from Africa and Zimbabwe is one of them. So when one of them hurts, the whole part hurts,” he said.
He underscored that he was accepting the role because Zimbabwe has been a reliable shareholder to the bank as testified by the US$9,6 million payment made as part of the general capital increase despite economic challenges back home.
“Zimbabwe has also continued to make token payments of roughly US$700 000 a year to clear some of the outstanding debts.
“The third is the fact that I really believe that it is time to reinvigorate and redynamise the economy here because it is critical for the SADC. We are now talking about the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and of course Zimbabwe needs to play a very big role,” he said.
The Southern Africa nation has been involved in a number of external debt clearance strategies like the Lima plan agreed with global lenders in Peru in 2015 under which 15-year debt arrears to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) amounting to 108 million U.S. dollars was cleared.
The efforts did not however encourage the Bretton Woods institution to unlock any credit lines for the embattled nation.
Zimbabwe also owes the World Bank, AfDB, European Investment Bank, Paris Club and other bilateral donors billions of U.S. dollars.