Thursday, November 5, 2009

Arab bank readies $1bn for African food, roads

November 5, 2009 - By Reuters Khartoum

The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (Badea) is to step up funding for agriculture projects to help governments stave off future food price crises and droughts, according to the bank's director-general.

Abdelaziz Khelef said the bank would increase total commitments to $1 billion (R7.8bn) under a new five-year plan, a $100 million increase from the previous plan.

A quarter of that money would now go to agricultural and food security projects, up from less than 20 percent in the last five-year period, he added.

Badea was set up by Arab League countries to give grants and soft loans to development projects in sub-Saharan Africa. Sudan and other north African League members do not benefit.

"Most African countries are facing a very difficult situation in terms of food security," Khelef said at the bank's Khartoum headquarters on Tuesday.

Khelef said the bank would be interested in supporting irrigation schemes and building rural marketplaces. It wanted to help fund regional trade blocs and long-term government food security strategies.

Half the bank's total funding pot would go on African infrastructure projects, he said, particularly new roads to boost trade between regions and neighbouring countries.

Khelef said the bank did not have an emergency fund to help farmers hit by drought in east Africa. "But we can help them develop projects to avoid a repetition of this kind of crisis in future."