Transcript of the African Finance Ministers Press Conference

October 12, 2013
Washington DC, October 12, 2013

Panel:
Daniel Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister, Minister of Economy and Finance, Côte d'Ivoire
Luc Oyoubi, Minister of Economy, Employment and Sustainable Development, Gabon
Armando Manuel, Minister of Finance Angola
Amara M. Konneh, Minister of Finance, Liberia
Ismaila Dieng, IMF Communications Department

MR DIENG: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to the African Finance Ministers Press Conference for the 2013 Annual Meetings.We have four Ministers from Africa joining us today. I will start by introducing them. We have Minister Luc Oyoubi from Gabon; Minister Amara Konneh from Liberia; and Minister Armando Manuel from Angola. We are expecting the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Côte d'Ivoire, Mr. Daniel Kablan Duncan, in a few minutes. So I will just start by giving the floor to Minister Oyoubi for his opening remarks. Minister Oyoubi?

MINISTER OYOUBI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. [Interpreted from French]: Thank you, Mr. President, for having given me the floor. I would like to first talk about Africa. We have been able to note that Africa for the time being is resilient, with growth rates of close to 5 percent, and this growth can be explained by the efforts carried out in Africa these recent years especially through structural reforms. Nonetheless, these reforms are required to be strengthened because this 5 percent cannot allow us to eradicate poverty in a significant manner. So African countries will continue in this struggle, to continue with these structural reforms, and to invest in particular in infrastructure. We are pleased to learn through the Development Bank that Africa will be initiating activities in 2014, and we hope that this will help Africa to boost its infrastructure capacity.

With regard to my own country, Gabon--and I am the Minister for Economy, Employment and Sustainable Development--let me say that Gabon has set the target to be an emerging economy by 2015. In order to attain this objective, Gabon intends to follow a growth path that is inclusive and broad. Many efforts will be required in addition to many sacrifices, obviously.

Concerning the macroeconomic situation, it is stable currently. Gabon being an oil exporter, when oil prices are strong, the macroeconomic situation is also good. So our growth right now is at 6 percent, inflation is less than 2 percent, and our indebtedness is 16 percent. We have an excellent coverage of our currency--about 90 percent--and our trade balance is always in surplus.

So, in the short term, things are looking good. However, we do not base ourselves on illusions. Oil will not last forever, and oil prices could change at any time. For this reason, we have implemented an ambitious program which is the Emerging Gabon Strategic Plan. It is an audacious plan that will help us reach our status as an emerging economy. There are a number of elements and different channels.

We want to reinforce, as I mentioned a moment ago, our infrastructure. We will also be strengthening human capital and governance in addition. We will protect our government in order to be able to have green and inclusive growth. With regard to infrastructure, the President has decided insofar as possible to put approximately 40 percent of our own budget resources to devote them to investment. And these investments, obviously, should include many aspects for infrastructure. With regard to human capital, we have noted the weaknesses of our education system. There was a lot of waste in education. Professional education was not up to par. There are some requirements in the scientific area. So our education system needs to be reformed in order to meet the requirements of our economy and the requirements and demands of our society.

For all of this, obviously, we also need to enhance governance, in particular financial, and that is why, in 2010, the government proposed to the Parliament to enact a new law that will have a program budget implemented and give a lot more power to Parliament and the General Audit. The government right now will be providing far more information than in the past to these two institutions, and this will obviously result in greater transparency. A few years back, we also created a National Commission for Illegal Recording, and all citizens may file complaints before this Commission should they note any problems in their day-to-day activities and life. In addition, we created a structure to combat illegal transfers. This is a national financial investigation entity. It is part of the GABAT [phonetic], which is the group for money laundering in Central Africa that wants to become part of all the other entities that are focusing on eliminating money laundering.

We have all the other entities for audit and government controls, et cetera. As I was saying, our goal is to achieve emergence through growth and inclusive development, and in this area, we have done many things. There are 13 new national parks covering 11 percent of the national territory, and including all the other parks, that means that we have 21 percent of our territory that has protected areas.

When our President was elected, he decided to forbid the exploitation of wood, and this is going to take some time, obviously, to fully implement, but it is going to result in positive effects in the future, especially by having value added. And we don't want to see any exports of these. Before, it used to add a tremendous amount to the state balance sheet. The head of state also decided to forbid the burning of gases because of the pollution that this results in. A number of measures were taken in order to follow this path of green growth.

So this is a summary, Mr. Moderator, of what we are doing in Gabon in our current situation.

MR DIENG: I thank you. Minister Konneh?

MINISTER KONNEH: Thank you very much. As you all know, Liberia endured years of conflict which damaged our infrastructure and institutions, and that led to one of the largest collapses in growth economies. Our economy collapsed entirely. That conflict ended about 10 years ago with the first democratic elections that ushered in the first female President in Africa.

The Liberian conflict left behind a legacy of under-investment and destruction. This is why, since the cessation of conflict, we have concentrated on nation building, reconciliation and development. First, our government, behind the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, focused on post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation of the former fighters. We put together a strategy to address the debt overhang and poverty. We also made a conscious effort to re-engage with the international community and ensure our qualification for HIPC assistance. This required the country to register a track record of sound economic policies, which it did through the IMF Staff-Monitored Program, leading on to a PRGF and subsequently an ECF arrangement with the IMF.

We rebuilt the basis of our economy and successfully reached the HIPC Completion Point with support of all of our development partners. We also focused on building institutions, because we realized that strong institutions are a necessary anchor for growth and development.

Where government functions most reliably to deliver services to its people, business can operate most securely. We established the Anti-Corruption Commission, strengthened the central bank, strengthened the General Auditing Commission, and improved our tax collection, among other reforms in economic management.

Due to these efforts, Liberia has grown at an annual average of around 7.5 percent since the end of conflict, reflecting the peace dividend. But despite this rapid growth, we recognize that the main drawback from this rapid growth is the limited number of jobs that are being created as the expansion of the economy has been driven mainly by the enclave sector.

These are the same drivers that turned the engines of growth in Liberia before the war, with very narrow spillover effects over the reset of the economy. So we are precisely where we were before our civil conflict.

So, while economic growth in Liberia remains on solid footing, our projections for 2013 imply that real GDP growth is going to be around 8.1 percent compared to 8.3 percent last year. This higher-than-anticipated growth is mainly due to strong performance in our mining sector. At the same time, the non-resource real GDP growth, including construction in particular, since we are rebuilding our country, has accelerated over the years, reflecting the pick-up in public investment by the government as well as robust private sector activity.

So, in December 2012, Liberia launched the Agenda for Transformation, the second poverty reduction strategy, which we are now implementing. This Agenda intends to remove key infrastructure constraints, particularly in energy, in roads and ports, and to support youth capacity development in agriculture.

Today in Africa, Liberia has the highest energy tariff at 54 cents per kilowatt hour. This is constraining private sector development and making it impossible to achieve our goal of inclusive growth for our people. That is why we have taken the painful political step to cut waste in our national budget and move the savings toward infrastructure development, particularly the hydro which was destroyed during the war.

So the government has secured financing to rehabilitate our hydroelectric plant, which could come on line at the end of 2015, and we have addressed our country's substantial energy shortage. We have prepared a Medium-Term Expenditure Framework in a context of economic governance to ensure that we can meet our responsibilities to these projects to our partners and our citizens. But substantial challenges remain, and other reforms in the public sector, particularly around the civil service, will require strong action on our side.

Going forward for Liberia, really, the mining sector is expected to be an important source of strong growth, but expanding the non-mining sector, particularly agriculture, will be crucial to achieve broad-based and inclusive growth to help reduce poverty.

Natural resources continue to play an important role in our economy. Iron ore, timber, and rubber dominate our exports. Oil, when we finally discover it, it going to be crucial and will offer much potential. So the management of these natural resources becomes crucial for the government, and land access is going to be key. We need to work on our land reforms. Investment in power and transportation, we believe, should foster the linkages between Liberia's private sector and our natural resource sector.

We expect that through this investment over the next six years, we should be able to put 100,000 of our citizens to work, gradually, and this should begin to address our unemployment issue. But it will take time to come on line. We just have to keep working to get us to a steady state for that to happen.

On Africa, I would like to say that developments in the global economy remain critical for Africa's growth. In this regard, we are concerned that the increased downside risks to the global economy, as we just heard from the IMF Board, will impact negatively on Africa's trade flows and financing opportunities.

We are also worried about the uncertainty regarding the unwinding of unconventional monetary policies and the threat of potentially devastating budgetary challenges in the United States which, if left unaddressed, could derail the fragile recovery we experienced last year across the world.

Africa remains at risk from negative movements in commodity prices, and a slowdown in world growth could increase the danger of this. However, as I have highlighted, the key concern for Liberia and for Africa as a whole is tackling our significant infrastructure deficit. We must ensure that large-scale transformational infrastructure projects are aggressively pursued. These projects, if implemented, will unleash Africa's growth potential, create jobs for our citizens, and reduce poverty.

This is how we believe we can achieve inclusive growth. It is worth repeating here that the ability to travel from one side of our country to another side, and from one country to another, is almost at this stage a fundamental right; that the ability to travel between countries is necessary for trade, for business, and for sharing of knowledge and innovation; and that the access to power and water is crucial for good health, for stability and for inclusive growth.

So natural resources--and our development partners have helped us to understand this better--will be crucial in Africa's future, because we are well-endowed. So focusing now on managing them properly, in the best interests of our people, should be the priority of governments.

MR DIENG: Thank you very much, Minister Konneh. I will now give the floor to Minister Manuel.

MINISTER MANUEL: [Interpreted from Portuguese]: I need to refer to the long period of time that Angola was in a military conflict. It was difficult to obtain our peace. We had a GDP of about $6 billion, and 10 years later, this became approximately $120 billion.

I would like to refer to one of the countries with the largest growth in the Region, but nonetheless there are current circumstances in the global economy that mean that we can still retain our positive growth rates.

I would also like to refer to the fact that this is a country where there is a significant weight of our informal economy, which is one characteristic trait for other African countries as well, and in 2002, our inflation rate was above 4,000 percent. In 2012, we were able to bring it down to a single-digit inflation rate.

This means that we have achieved a certain level of stability in the macroeconomic policies, stability as to our foreign exchange as well, and a continuing process for accumulating international liquid reserves, especially deriving from the oil sector, that today carries significant weight in our GDP--much more so than in past years. And there is also a diversification of non-oil commodities and products.

Given the events in 2008-2009 when Angola was still a strongly exporting country with an important weight for the oil sector which was about 40 to 50 percent, and approximately 70 to 80 percent of public revenues and close to 90 percent of exports, the international financial crisis then allowed us to learn a number of lessons. Some of them resulted in adopting economic policies in order to generate and create buffers to protect the vulnerability of the economy given the variations in oil prices.

I would like to refer here also to the adoption of a prudent fiscal policy taking a conservative price per barrel so that differences of oil prices on the international market could result in savings that could be used for future generations and also provide a mechanism to give some stability to the countercyclical impacts on public spending.

So we established the Angolan Sovereign Fund which, under its many diverse mandates, has to also ensure that there are savings for future generations and encourage the diversification of the economy and also to be able to provide instruments for greater stability in the country, as I mentioned a moment ago.

And you are probably well aware that in the period 2002-2012, Angola, in terms of its external position, attempted to eliminate its liabilities before the Club of Paris and tried to leverage its economy and establish bilateral relations. In this way, it was able to raise resources in order to implement its National Reconstruction Plan. This Plan ended in 2012, and according to recent lessons, we have developed a new program which we are calling the New Development Program for the five-year period 2013-2017.

Among the many objectives of this National Development Plan, we are attempting to ensure the continuity and the creation of basic needed infrastructure to improve the business environment, to create indicators that will attract private investment. Here, we are talking about infrastructure for the energy sector and to increase the energy supply in the order of 10,000 gigawatts of power through the building of hydroelectric dams. We are talking also about logistics platforms, interagency platforms, in order to integrate the country, its ports, its highways, its railway. And the National Development Plan also wants to respond to these needs for regional integration of Angola in the context of this organization.

Another important aspect of the National Development Plan is the National Training Plan for Senior Management. There is a new strategy in place because Angola has understood that the wealth of a country cannot be measured only in its natural resources, but it also has to be in its human capital. And this is a current challenge that the country is taking on, to form the skilled workers to achieve the objectives of economic development.

From this perspective, our relationship with international organizations, including the IMF and the World Bank, should open a new chapter and be able to make the most of the knowledge that we can achieve through this partnership in order to be able to develop our human capital.

Let me also mention here that among other actions implemented by the government, there is an ambitious program to combat poverty that today would show that a third of our population is already achieving significant improvements. This program won't simply provide financial means or economic means to the poor but will give them the means to earn their own living. This is improving the economy because it stimulates the economic activity for small enterprises.

In the fiscal area, we have tax reform underway, and the goal is to smooth the tax burden in order to attract investment and also to formalize the economy by bringing into the formal economy those agents that are in the informal segment. There is a Private Investment Law that is being enacted, this is is aiming to attract private investment into the country.

In general terms, these are the most outstanding aspects of what the Angolan economy is carrying out right now. We are part of the [inaudible], which is the agency that is combating terrorism and money laundering, and a number of progresses have been made through our economy together with other reforms, such as in the judicial sector and the administration. By combining all of these efforts, we believe it will be possible to have a healthy implementation of our National Development Plan. I am sure you are also aware that we have been visited by rating agencies, and indicators appear to be quite satisfactory given the macroeconomic stability framework that we have achieved and the prospects for the economy's growth.

MR DIENG: Thank you very much. I will now hand over to His Excellency, Daniel Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance for Côte d'Ivoire.

PRIME MINISTER DUNCAN [Interpreted from French]: I would like to thank you for being here, and I would also like to state that our participation at the Annual Meetings at the IMF and World Bank is an opportunity on one hand to take stock of where we are with the institutions while also sharing what is happening in our countries with our partners, both internationally and domestically, and also to see what is happening with the American Government.

On the international stage, we are working to increase openness. We have spoken with President Jim Kim regarding poverty reduction and our commitment to ensure that by 2030, the rate of poverty is only 3 percent of the population. When it comes to shared prosperity, we note that the lowest revenue has risen. Additionally, we note that there has been a struggle when it comes to the issue of gender in our countries in general.

At the IMF level, you know that we have also expanded the implementation of decisions taken in 2010 by the Board through which members must be elected, and this issue has been resolved. I would also like to mention the relative [unclear] issue of the international business environment, where the BRICS and emerging countries--Brazil, Russia, China, South Africa and India--have decreased growth while developed countries have been subjected to the 2008 crisis, and this has affected Africa. So, against this backdrop, I will share with you the situation of Côte d'Ivoire.

We have taken many decisions when it comes to improving governance, and we are doing our utmost to improve the situation among lowest-income countries. Côte d'Ivoire has approximately 3 million inhabitants. We have always played an important role in West Africa. Prior to the crisis, which lasted from 2000-2010--we are a stable country, and we are very important in West Africa--prior to the crisis from 2010, following the elections, President Alassane Ouattara was elected to his post. He had previously been Governor of the Central Bank and worked with the IMF. In 2020, we aim to be an emerging country. It is with this major goal that we are focusing our government's efforts to ensure strong growth and eradicate poverty by 50 percent by the year 2015.

To that end, the government is working arduously. We have many efforts aimed at ensuring peace and security in Côte d'Ivoire, achieving national reconciliation and reconstruction and economic progress. Regarding peace and security, much has already been done. The situation has greatly improved, and insecurity following the crisis has fallen to 1.4, which is explained by the return of the African Development Bank and efforts put forth by UNESCO and major multilaterals which have also worked with Cote d'Ivoire. Cote d'Ivoire values its relationship with all 50 members of ECOWAS, and you will note that Alassane Ouattara was elected President of ECOWAS on February 17, 2012. They worked in concert with their peers when it came to resolving the Mali crisis, ensuring that that situation, in which rebels occupied the Northern part of the country, would be resolved, and peace would return to that country.

ECOWAS is continuing to work in Guinea-Bissau. They are realizing enormous efforts. There is a major issue of drug trafficking in that country, and Guinea-Bissau needs to return to stability. They need peace and security. Regarding the second area of national reconciliation, following the implementation of a National Commission for Dialogue and Reconciliation, that Commission was in South Africa, and they worked to bring together the sons and daughters of these countries, and they signed that the government would achieve political normalization by 2015 during that year's elections.

Regarding the economy, there has also been enormous progress. Cote d'Ivoire in 2012 had a 9.8 percent growth rate, meaning that we are nearly at double-digit growth. And this year, we received an IMF mission in September, and our growth rate has been 8.7 percent. Next year, we will have an 8.2 percent growth rate. We have a demographic growth rate of 3.2 percent, and our demographics have swiftly improved the lives of the Ivoirian people.

We have three major groups. We work with four major countries--Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. We also work with eight other countries, with the CFA franc zone, and we share a common tariff policy. Within ECOWAS, we work with 15 other countries with nearly 300 million inhabitants, and we have an arrangement where any company in one of those countries is able to export to other member states. So we have a shared export zone as if we were one country.

Cote d'Ivoire has also made great strides in the business environment. We have invested in Cote d'Ivoire in the Cote d'Ivoire Business Forum, which will be in February 2014. We expect that there will be about 2,500 representatives from around the world in Abidjan who will come, and they will learn more about opportunity in Cote d'Ivoire.

Agriculture is still fundamental for Cote d'Ivoire. We are the number one producer of cacao. We are also the largest African producer of banana and other fruits. We have worked to industrialize the production of these products to achieve added value. We are also working to improve efficiency.

Cote d'Ivoire has oil reserves, and our goal is to ensure that we are an oil producer for the sub-region. We are working with Ghana, Togo and Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali. They asked us to provide electricity in Western Africa, so we did so, with Liberia and Sierra Leone. This boosted our capacity enormously. In the mining and oil sector, the second-largest in our country, we have enormous investment potential, and certainly the private sector is up to the task.

I would also like to speak about services, for example, ports and airports. The port and airport in Abidjan serve many people in the West African Region. Cote d'Ivoire is now a high-quality tourist destination, particularly with one of the most beautiful basilicas in the world. Cote d'Ivoire, as I have already stated, is a country that is leaving behind a period of crisis, and we play a major international role. We are working to improve the conditions of all of West Africa.

MR DIENG: Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Now we will open to questions, and we have half-an-hour, so I will ask you to keep your questions short. Nick?

Q QUESTIONER: A question to Ministers Konneh and Manuel. In Alaska, they have a system whereby a portion of the hydrocarbon wealth is divided up, and each resident gets a small amount. Would you consider such a system for either Angola or Liberia?

MINISTER KONNEH: Since you have oil, you can go first. I don't have oil yet.

MINISTER MANUEL [Interpreted from Portuguese]: Certainly, yes, we do take that into consideration, and we are carrying out studies in order to improve carbon credits.

MINISTER KONNEH: Actually, I want to say something to that. Yes, you asked about Gabon and Liberia. As you know, we are exploring for oil. We haven't found oil yet, but all of the evidence since we are in the same region as Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, in the Gulf of Guinea, all of the scientific evidence leads to it.

What we are doing now is to reform and prepare ourselves for that possibility. One, we are reforming our laws around natural resource management, particularly oil.

Two, we are looking at existing models, not just the Alaskan model but the Ghanaian model, we are looking at the Botswana model, and we are also looking at the Timor Leste model--you know, Liberia has other minerals, not just oil--so that we can develop a unique Liberian model. Maybe the Alaskan model is one possibility, but right now, we are basically just looking at all of the existing models in other countries so that we can develop our own unique one.

MR DIENG: Thank you. Patrick?

QUESTIONER: Patrick Smith from Africa Confidential. I wanted to ask Minister Oyoubi a question about Gabon's membership of the Extractive Industries Initiative. In February this year, Gabon was de-listed from membership of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. I wonder if you could explain why that happened and also whether your government has any plans to get back into compliance with the Transparency Initiative.

MINISTER OYOUBI [Interpreted from French]: Thank you for this very relevant question.

Gabon chose to take an EITI until the publication of the report. We have published one report, and then there were situations that did not allow us to comply with the time line.

Gabon did not ask to leave the EITI, and that entity's procedures are somewhat particular. This is being used as a mechanism for exclusion because we were excluded from EITI yet we are able to return to it. So the situation is a bit ambiguous.

We have been suspended. Every time there is a member suspended, they are able to return. When one is excluded, normally, it is not so that you can return, and yet we do have the possibility to be re-listed with EITI. So we are working to understand and ensure that if we join EITI again, we are not excluded soon after.

So, in summary, it is true that we have been de-listed, but we are working with EITI, but we would also like to know that we are not going to go back only to be excluded after six months. There are several situations affecting African countries, and we are working to resolve this so that we are able to join again.

MR DIENG: Thank you.

QUESTIONER: My question is for any of the Ministers. Today the President of the World Bank is once again presenting a new World Bank Strategy, and we heard about the time lines being too long, it is very risky for the Bank. I would like to know if this is something that you saw in the World Bank's report. Could you give us some tangible examples, and what would you like to see?

PRIME MINISTER DUNCAN [Interpreted from French]: I think that it was very gold of them to look at things head-on. There can be difficulties in our countries and challenges. I think that it was courageous of them to say so. And regarding the time lines, I think they were extended by 40 percent, and we need to give 100 percent to all issues on the ground. Therefore, I think this will be a way of accelerating things.

When it comes to the Bank and Cote d'Ivoire, we have an IDA of $4 million which will be used in Cote d'Ivoire. We also have IFC programs of $700 million. They have already been used. And we have MIGA also of $700 million. These were taken as part of the Consultative Council in Paris for 2012. I would like to note that in general, the IFC issue, including MIGA as its private sector, are very interesting, but with IDA, there are some challenges. But we are sharing this with our country and with the Bank. Regarding Cote d'Ivoire, there will be a committee that liaises between the Bank and the country so that this is done in the best conditions possible.

We should ensure that accelerated use of resources is done in the best way possible, as needed.

QUESTIONER: [Interpreted from Portuguese]: A question for Minister Manuel.

Minister, I would like to know about what was stated at the meeting of African meetings. Are you frustrated with the delay to approve the IMF 2010 reform, because that is also delaying negotiations for changes in the IMF in the future, and I would imagine that that is frustrating for countries like Angola and Nigeria. I am not sure if you share that view.

MINISTER MANUEL [Interpreted from Portuguese]: Naturally, yes, that has been a concern of African countries. We are waiting for reforms that allow our economies to improve lives, and as you know, we face the circumstances in the international economy. These are all critical aspects when it comes to trade, the drop in the price of certain commodities, and in a way, when it comes to financing our development needs.

Naturally, this is a source of concern in Nigeria and South Africa. Certainly also in Angola, we view it with some concern. And in countries such as South Africa, this tends to dominate their foreign accounts. It is also a concern for other economies which are accumulating international reserves and liquidity. It does lead to a slowdown in growth and instability for emerging economies. And it is a concern for us. Naturally, Africa's concern is that our voice is heard and that we are active participants, that we receive attention, that we also receive the benefit of knowledge and financial resources. Thank you very much.

QUESTIONER: My question is to all the Ministers. Trade is one way of improving the economic development of African states. I would like to know if there is a way through which West African countries, both Francophone and Anglophone, can establish a strong trading link with Central Africa, Eastern Africa and even Southern Africa as a way of improving all of the economic developments in these countries.

PRIME MINISTER DUNCAN [Interpreted from French]: I believe that you are correct to bring up this issue. When you look at the economic zones around the world, exchanges within these zones are much greater than outside of them. That is the case in Europe, in the European zone, where countries exchange about 72-73 percent amongst themselves and the rest with the rest of the world. We also see that in the United Sates, they trade at a high level with Mexico. And the same goes for Asian countries.

In Africa, we have five communities in principle, the [unclear] in the eighties, so that our communities would be able to work together to create a common African market at the end of the day.

So, in the case of Cote d'Ivoire, we have exchange with ECOWAS countries at 24 percent. On average, it is around 10 to 11 percent, so it is quite low compared to exchange with the North. And if you look at countries, we have inter-zone exchange. And I believe that when it comes to Central Africa, we have the CEMAC, we have the shared currency of the CFA franc, which allows for a boost in trade. But we have accords when it comes to foreign tariffs, and we might look at merging this among African countries when trading with the rest of the world.

Basic infrastructure needs to be developed, and I will give you the example of ECOWAS. Our peers are creating a high from Abidjan to Lagos which is going to be about 1,000 kilometers and is going to cost several billion dollars. We are also building one from Abidjan to Ouagadougou, et cetera. So it is important that we have the means to communicate which will allow us to boost integration at that level. You will often notice that from Central to West Africa, we have to go to a capital like London or Paris before we go to our final destination. So we need to improve communication and transport, which will improve trade in the Region.

MINISTER KONNEH: If I may add to that, to what the Prime Minister just said, true, in West Africa, we are making efforts to improve regional trade. In the context of Africa's development, I think we need to put greater emphasis on regional integration. In the Mano River Union, the union of four countries affected by conflict, we are trying to fix that through collaborating on key infrastructure projects like the West African Power Pool, the CLSG--Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone--where we bring in power from Cote d'Ivoire, through Liberia, into Guinea and Sierra Leone. I would like to thank the Prime Minister for the leadership on this one.

You know, infrastructure is a key facilitator of regional integration--roads, energy, ports, et cetera. That is one. Two, our regional bodies must enforce the protocols. In the case of ECOWAS, we have the protocol on the free movement of people, and I think we need to remove the constraints that traders across countries face at our border crossing points.

I can understand the concern for security because of the fragile nature of our neighborhood, but we need to work on that in order to make it faster once we put the infrastructure in place.

We also have to look at the currency of trade, taking into consideration exchange rate fluctuations that affect small business people who go across, particularly the women.

So we are working on a common monetary union in West Africa. There are concerns about loss of sovereignty in currency. There are also concerns about experience in the euro zone. But at the end of the day, West African leaders must look at all of this in order to encourage regional integration.

I would like to conclude on this by saying that all of us sitting around this table, you will notice that we are on the Southern [phonetic] Atlantic Coast of Africa. Angola has oil. Cote d'Ivoire has gas. Gabon has oil. Ghana has oil. They have this [unclear] that we think about this key natural resource just the way that we thought about the internet, where we ran the Ace [phonetic] cable from Europe to Africa so that all African countries are connected to the internet. Perhaps it is about time for us to sort of run a gas pipeline along the coast that everybody can tap into so that we can deal with this energy deficit in Africa.

MR DIENG: Thank you. We have time for one more question.

QUESTIONER [Interpreted from French]: Mr. Prime Minister, how do you plan to finance the Cote d'Ivoire Development Plan? Could you confirm, perhaps, the issuance of a loan in CFAF, or will you be taking it on the international money markets? What will you be doing?

PRIME MINISTER DUNCAN [Interpreted from French]: Thank you very much for that question. Let me just say that we do have a Program 2012-2015 for $22 billion, of which roughly $9 billion is from the public sector, with four projects, and $13 billion for 60 private sector projects. When I was in Paris with the Advisory Group, we obtained the full financing for the public sector--I am talking here about that $9 billion. This was obtained through discussions such as with the World Bank, financing $2 billion, and the African Development Bank, et cetera, all of them having participated in financing the public program. With regard to the private sector, over three days of discussion, we were able to locally obtain 90 percent of the funding with all of the participants who were at Paris. With regard to loans, we have programs with both the IMF and the World Bank, and these are concessional loans for these programs.

The concessions are in a major proportion so there is direct access to the markets through euro bonds or dollar bonds, but those are very difficult. However, with the International Monetary Fund, we have found out that if we borrow in CFA francs, there is no problem, because there is no risk danger for us, no exchange risk for us.

So we are going to issue--between $500 million and $1 billion is going to be request for proposals in order to finance in particular the arrears within Cote d'Ivoire and also some of the productive projects. So the discussions are still underway, but I expect that by the end of this year, or perhaps in early January next year, we will be able to complete financing.

MR DIENG: Thank you, Prime Minister. We have run out of time. I would like to thank our panelists and thank you for taking the time to attend. Thank you very much.



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