World Bulletin / News Desk
After almost 11 years of relocation to Tunisia, Ivorians are pinning their financial and economic hopes on the anticipated return of the African Development Bank (AfDB) to its headquarters in Abidjan later this year.
"The bank will be returning to its statutory headquarters in Ivory Coast, which is a major victory for us as a government and a sign that normalcy has been totally restored to the country," Albert Mabri Toikeusse, minister of development and urban planning, told Anadolu Agency.
"Beside the possibility of financing more development projects, the presence of AfDB will provide many opportunities for the local population in terms of jobs and businesses," Toikeusse added.
"So it's a worthwhile investment, preparing for the arrival of the bank to its original base."
When the multilateral finance institution shut its Abidjan headquarters and set up shop in Tunisia in 2003 due to political turmoil in the Ivory Coast, many Ivorians lost their jobs and businesses.
Thousands of locals had provided services – as housemaids, drivers, cooks, doctors, etc. – for most of the bank's roughly 800 high-earning staff members.
AfDB personnel included nationals from across the African continent and beyond – moneyed patrons of a number of restaurants, shopping malls and nightclubs in the country's commercial capital.
The local housing market boomed as bankers engaged in costly property deals, settling their bills without hesitation.
Ivorians still miss the boom times, but hopes are high that the bank's imminent return will yield another period of relative prosperity.
Instead of its earlier staff of about 800, this time around the AfDB will bring with it some 2000 men and women – many of whom will be accompanied by their families.
Local observers hope the new arrivals will stimulate demand for more services, thus creating more direct and indirect employment.
Conscious of the potential benefits, the Ivorian government has left nothing to chance in its preparations for the multinational lender's return.
Renovation work on the AfDB's headquarters was completed in October of last year.
The 27-storey building took 14 months to build and cost around $66 million, which Minister Toikeusse – who oversaw the project – described as a worthwhile investment.
Founded in 1963, the AfDB currently boasts 78 member-states – 53 in Africa and 25 in Asia, Europe and North America.
Its chief mission remains fighting poverty and improving living conditions in Africa by promoting investment in local projects and programs.
Like diplomats, AfDB staffers enjoy certain privileges in Ivory Coast, such as using official vehicles with special license plates that aren't stopped at police checkpoints.
"Unique plate numbers were part of the enticing benefits package tabled by Ivory Coast's founding president, Felix Houphouet Boigny, when he lobbied for the AfDB to be headquartered in the country in the early 1960s," Eugene Adepo, a former economics professor at Abidjan's Cocody University, told AA.
"The duty-free import of materials for the bank was also one of those advantages, which was a clever sacrifice from the Ivorian government," he added. "You can't enumerate the benefits of the AfDB's presence to the population and the authorities."
But as the public anxiously awaits the bank's return, precise dates for the move have yet to be announced.
AfDB President Donald Kaberuka, for his part, a former Rwandan finance minister, told reporters in January that his entire staff planned to return to the city before the end of the year.
Other reports have suggested the bank would return sometime in November.
The local construction sector will likely experience an initial boom upon the return of the AfDB, which has requested a total of 1365 residential units, according to the Construction Ministry.
"The return of the bank has been put off several times, so many people have to see it to believe it," said Soumahoro Manssa Ben N'faly, president of Ivory Coast's consumer union.
"The housing sector is already picking up, but other sectors will only pick up once the AfDB comes around – not before," he added.
"Notwithstanding, it's as certain as the moon that the bank will be here by next Christmas."
The bank's management, meanwhile, has promised to provide local property owners with loan guarantees if they expand their projects to help meet the need for new accommodations.
"Besides my six duplexes already available for rent, I've begun four new projects also destined for AfDB workers," Jean Kouassi, a 63-year-old property owner, told AA.
"This is a chance for us all, not only for home owners," Kouassi said.
"My building projects will provide jobs for architects, bricklayers, painters, plumbers, electricians, etc., not to mention the materials – cement, marble, roof tiles and bathroom accessories – I'll be purchasing in bulk," said the property owner.
"There's a boom coming."Last Mod: 27 Mart 2014, 10:09