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Ivory Coast, north Africa troubles top Africa Bank meet

The African Development Bank opened its annual assembly Thursday pledging to help Ivory Coast and north Africa after their upheavals, but saying youth unemployment and rising costs were challenges.

The bank would “coalesce with partners around a common vision for north Africa in support to the transition in Tunisia, in Egypt and the economic recovery of Libya, when the time comes,” president Donald Kaberukahe said.

A focus needed to be “inclusive growth”, he said in a speech for the two-day assembly, after the outbreak of discontent including over youth unemployment, “social and economic exclusion” and lack of genuine democracy.

The situation was complicated by skyrocketing food prices which were now higher by two percent compared to the peak of the global food crisis in 2008, he said.

“The recent instability in the north of Africa threatens not only the economic growth of the region but also the activities of our institution,” Portuguese Finance Minister Fernando Teixeira dos Santos added.

Kaberuka announced emergency budget support of 130 million dollars for the Ivory Coast after the end of its bloody post-election standoff, with President Alassane Ouattara sworn in last month.

The resolution of the crisis also opened the way for the bank to return to its headquarters in Abidjan, which it left around eight years ago for Tunis.

“But above all, it makes it possible for Cote d’Ivoire to embark on the long road of national reconciliation and reconstruction,” he said.

“We fully understand that this is not an easy task; and we are prepared to play our part, alongside the international community.”

The bank has 53 African countries as its shareholders and aims to reduce poverty and improve living standards on the continent.

Its annual assemblies in Lisbon brings together 77 countries and international institutions for two days.

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is expected at the meeting on Friday as part of her lobbying campaign to become head of the International Monetary Fund.