The World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Moroccan authorities have decided to proceed with the 2023 Annual Meetings in Marrakech despite the recent earthquake in the North African country. The Moroccan Central Bank Governor, M. Abdellatif Jouahri, consider debts, financial inclusion and climate change, among others, as the key issues that will top African nations’ agenda at the meetings, writes EGOLE ANOZIE

Following the national crisis caused by the recent earthquake in Morocco, authorities in the Kingdom of Morocco have said the Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund would go on as scheduled.

Morocco, which would be hosting the Annual Meetings 50 years after it first took place in Africa, had maintained very high momentum in its preparation until the earthquake struck. Still, the country said it remained unperturbed, though mourning the dead and managing the humanitarian fallout of the tragic incident.

Officials of the North African nation said the meeting would be held from October 9-15, 2023, while assuring that the Moroccan government remained committed to helping the earthquake victims.

This year’s Annual Meetings theme is “Global Action, Global Impact”.

The Governor of Bank Al-Maghrib, Morocco’s Central Bank,  Abdellatif Jouahri, during a virtual chat with journalists recently, said the over 50-hectare venue of the international event was not affected by the earthquake, adding that the World Bank and IMF officials had assessed the venue of the meetings in the aftermath of the earthquake and ascertained that it was not only unaffected, but it offered a world-class arena conducive for such a global gathering.

 He explained that the enormous debts owed to development banks by African nations, financial inclusion and climate change are some of the issues that would top the agenda of African countries during the meetings.

 He said, “The declaration of Marrakech should be centred on the new multilateralism. We have witnessed a massive gap between developed and poor countries, and we should build new multilateralism with the condition to allow our countries to reduce the gap and not face new gaps like the digital bridge. The key areas to be discussed during the Annual Meetings include debts; addressing the problem of the debts is crucial, and ensuring resources are made available for countries that need them more, particularly African countries.

 “The second one is financial inclusion. It should be developed in our countries, and the digital platform provides a veritable tool for us to close the gaps in our countries. Also, digital currencies are to be developed by central banks. The other thing to be lobbied about is climate change. It is a pivotal thing to be addressed in Marakkesh. For instance, Morocco’s production has been hampered by the drought. We must ensure that all the financial commitments made in Paris, 30 per cent of which have not been fulfilled for African countries, must be pushed to the front burner. We need to ensure that the financial commitments to Africa are met.   The food security of our population is also very critical.”

Speaking further on the earthquake, the Moroccan central banker reiterated that the earthquake in Marrakech would not affect the World Bank Group and IMF meetings.

“When the unfortunate incident happened, the World Bank and IMF officials witnessed that the venue of the Annual Meetings and the hotels were unaffected,” he said, “The evaluations of both institutions’ officials in the presence of Moroccan authorities show that the Annual Meetings could proceed despite the tragedy.”

 Ahead of the annual meetings, Jouahri explained that several events had been organised tagged ‘Road to Marakkesh’, focusing on climate change, financial inclusion and other issues.

 “The African Caucus occurred in Cape Verde, where our continent’s problems were discussed. There was also a symposium by central banks on financial inclusion and a symposium on gender,” he added.

 The Moroccan central bank governor maintained that the main issues discussed at the African Caucus that would be presented to the World Bank and IMF at the Annual Meetings include debts by African nations and the representation of Africa in both organisations.

He said, “Equity should prevail, and Africa should get its rightful place in both institutions.  One of the topics to be discussed during the Annual Meetings will be the future of development banks, among other items.   We have to ensure that all the development banks are reformed, and we have to make sure that our voices as African nations are heard.  Marakkech will provide an opportunity to discuss the reform of the development banks such as the World Bank, AFDB and others.

“The Association of African Central Banks has sub-regional committees addressing issues specific to each region. We are following up on our relationship with the World Bank and IMF.”

According to him, the African Continental Free Trade Area and a unified currency are some of the main topics being discussed at the Association of African Central Banks.

“We will push these issues at the meetings,” he said, “The debts of the most vulnerable countries in Africa are also being discussed. We have seen what has been done by the G20, which is not enough. Brentwood’s institutions are doing things we commend by putting together private and public investors. We saw what they did with Tanzania and Chad, but we want their interventions to impact, more concretely, the lives of our people.”

W’Bank, IMF speak

Similarly,  on the fallout of the earthquake, in a joint statement, World Bank President, Ajay Banga; IMF Managing Director, Kristalina Georgieva; and Kingdom of Morocco’s Minister of Economy and Finance, Nadia Fettah Alaoui, said, “Since the devastating earthquake in Morocco on September 8, the World Bank and the IMF staff have worked in close coordination with the Moroccan authorities and a team of experts to thoroughly assess Marrakech’s capacity to host the 2023 Annual Meetings. In undertaking this assessment, key considerations were that the meetings would not disrupt vital relief and reconstruction efforts and that the safety of the participants could be assured.

 “Based on a careful review of the findings, the managements of the World Bank and IMF, together with the Moroccan authorities, have agreed to proceed with holding the 2023 Annual Meetings in Marrakech from October 9 to 15, adapting the content to the circumstances.

“As we look ahead to the meetings, it is of utmost importance that we conduct them in a way that does not hamper the relief efforts underway and that is respectful to the victims and the Moroccan people. At this very difficult time, we believe that the Annual Meetings also provide an opportunity for the international community to stand by Morocco and its people, who have once again shown resilience in the face of tragedy. We also remain committed to ensuring the safety of all participants.”

Meanwhile, officials of the Moroccan Ministry of Economy and Finance, who asked not to be named, explained that over 9,000 accreditations had already been confirmed while over 12,000 participants were expected at the meetings.

More than 13,000 hotel reservations were also said to have been made for the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings week.

Giving further details about the campus, where the meetings will be held, a senior economy and finance ministry official said the Kingdom of Morocco had put in place a world-class venue with 48 halls for different technical sessions, a 3,500-capacity plenary auditorium, and 650 well-equipped offices for central bank governors and their delegates from 189 countries.

“The over 50 hectares campus has two clinics, two food courts and a massive press centre that can seat 600 journalists. There are two dedicated studios for the World Bank and IMF,” the official said.

In July, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Mrs Nadia Fettah, said that besides the huge facility being prepared to host the large-scale event, airports, hotels and means of transport at the national and local levels had been fully mobilised.

She said the total number of participants in the meetings was expected to reach 14,000, including 4,500 members of official delegations representing 189 countries.

In addition, the minister noted that Morocco’s event hosting would provide a significant opportunity to shed light on the kingdom’s major achievements, reforms and progress.

The Acting General Director of the Ministry of Investment, Convergence and Evaluation of Public Policies in Marrakech, Mohammed Sabibi, mourned those killed by the quake but said an impact assessment was being carried out to ensure that the affected mountainous villages were rebuilt in a resilient and sustainable manner.

At the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings, he said hosting global events was central to Marrakesh’s tourism and investment strategy.

Despite the devastating earthquake, he confirmed that the city was ready to host the global meetings.

Sabibi advised African countries attending the event to see it as theirs, have a robust agenda and be vocal about it.

Similarly, the Executive President of the Policy Centre for the New South, Karim El Aynaoui, said African countries should mobilise themselves and form a common front at the event to ensure that the Bretton Woods institutions prioritise Africa.

“I hope African countries will mobilise themselves to make Marrakesh a milestone in terms of their long-term growth,” Aynaoui added.

Debts

Over the years, Nigeria and many other African countries have been burdened with a rising debt profile.

In a Keynote Speech by Dr Akinwumi Adesina,  President of  African Development Bank Group, delivered at the Paris Club in June, he said that the total external debt of Africa was estimated at $1.1tn in 2022.

He added that the total debt of Africa is expected to rise to $1.13tn by 2023.

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association, which make up the World Bank, have, over the years, advanced loans to Nigeria.

The IBRD lends to governments of middle-income and creditworthy low-income countries, while the IDA provides concessionary loans – called credits – and grants to governments of the poorest countries.

The World Bank is Nigeria’s biggest multilateral creditor, with the country owing about $14.51bn as of June 30, 2023.

Further breakdown showed that Nigeria has $14.51bn IDA debt and $485.75m IBRD debt by Q2 2023.

The total amount slightly increased by $180m from the $14.33bn owed as of March 31, 2023.

Aside from the World Bank, Nigeria also owes other multilateral organisations, with a total multilateral debt of $20.79bn.

The International Monetary Fund is Nigeria’s second top multilateral creditor, with Nigeria owing $3.26bn as of June 2023.

Loans from World Bank and the IMF make up 85.47 per cent of Nigeria’s multilateral debt.

The 2023 Annual Meetings of the World Bank Group and the IMF are scheduled from Monday, October 9, through Sunday, October 15, 2023, in Marrakech, Morocco, with the theme for the Annual Meetings being  “Global Action, Global Impact”.

Like the Moroccan Central Bank governor, experts in Nigeria hope the continent’s ballooning debt profile will be at the forefront of discussions during the meetings.

A development economist, Aliyu Ilias, told the PUNCH that the external debt burden would likely double with the currency devaluation in Nigeria and some African countries.

He said, “If Nigeria is owing a particular amount in dollars, now that we have naira devaluation, the total amount in naira will double.”

He further called for a moratorium or debt buyback to alleviate the heavy debt servicing burden for many African countries, including Nigeria.

“On the debt issue, I would have wanted a situation whereby we could have a moratorium for our debt. Or they can be an opportunity for a debt buyback,” he added.

He also recommended that there should be discussions on food security.

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