African Development Bank plans to boost operations

The new president of the African Development Bank, the continent's premier development financing institution, wants to increase the scope of the bank's lending operations. ``We should aim to put it on a level with the Asian and Inter-American development banks,'' said Babacar N'diaye of Senegal at the end of the bank's meeting earlier this month in Brazzaville, Congo.

Bank officials plan to increase substantially its capital base of $6.3 billion to support its next five-year lending program -- 1987-91. The bank is funded by its member countries and by borrowing money from capital markets.

However, Mr. N'diaye does not aim to reach the bank's capital level until 1992 at the earliest. The bank now has 75 members -- 50 African and 25 non-African -- with the recent admission of China and Argentina.

The head of the American delegation at the Brazzaville meeting, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Treasury James Conrow, told the meeting that ``in contrast to other multilateral development banks we have been able to fund fully our commitments to the African Development Bank.''

Mr. Conrow urged prudence regarding the bank's next capital increase. ``Greater emphasis must be placed on improving the bank group's own operations rather than in pushing for their rapid expansion,'' he said.

This means concentrating lending on priority sectors such as agriculture, transport, and public utilities, he urged. Policy reforms encouraging the private sector and growth of market economies are the key to long-term progress in Africa, he argued.

N'diaye, the bank's former finance vice-president who successfully managed a rapid expansion in the bank's international borrowing, said that more effort should be made to improve the quality as well as the quantity of the bank's services.

He suggested that the bank provide more technical assistance, including advice to countries seeking to reschedule their external debts.

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