We Must Help Africa Build Back Boldly, But Smartly, Says AfDB’s Adesina

Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina was on Tuesday in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, sworn in as President/Chief Executive of the African Development Bank (AfDB), for a second five-year term.

Adesina, who first took office as the 8th elected president of the Bank Group in 2015, was unanimously reelected by the Board of Governors with a 100% vote at the end of its 2020 Annual Meeting on 27 August. For the first time, the meetings were held virtually due to the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Unveiling a sweeping vision to consolidate the institution’s successes over the last five years, he noted that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed everything globally, besides drawing Africa’s growth back. 

“Now, we must help Africa build back boldly, but smartly, paying greater attention to quality growth: especially in the areas of health, climate and the environment,” he said, outlining ‘Institution’, ‘People’, ‘Delivery, and ‘Sustainability, as four strategic pillars. These, he continued, are factors that will drive five top-level goals such as deepening quality and impact; and maintaining financial sustainability.

The President added that the new framework would enhance and complement the bank’s High-5 priorities, which have guided its mission since 2015 when he first assumed office, and which align with other continental and global development framework.

Adesina unveiled the High 5 priorities namely: Light up and power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the Quality of Life for the People of Africa in his 2015 inaugural speech.

Continuing, he said the “UNDP has shown that achieving the High-5s would lead to achievement of 90% of the SDGs and the Agenda 2063 of the African Union.

“We will build on the great successes we have had in agriculture, by scaling up technologies to reach tens of millions of farmers and supporting Africa to build competitive agricultural value chains. We will add value to what we produce in Africa, and provide creative and high-tech opportunities for massive youth engagement in agriculture and agribusiness.”

A significant element of the programme will entail strengthening AfDB, a development that is partly responsive to the challenges spurred by the ongoing pandemic, but also an element of the institution’s longer-term efforts to meet Africa’s development needs.

“The future beckons the bank to be more agile and more selective; to scale up what’s working already and reinforce its own institutional and human capacity.

“Our bank must ensure its own long-term financial sustainability to drive Africa’s growth further, deeper and faster in the years to come,” he stressed.   

A statement by the group recalled that AfDB responded swiftly to the COVID-19 pandemic and its twin health and economic crises, setting up a response facility of up to $10bn to extend flexible and targeted support to its member countries.

The pandemic has also pointed up the need for a greater strategic focus on Africa’s health care systems, following which the bank, according to Adesina, “will pay increased attention to supporting Africa with quality health care infrastructure, and building on its comparative advantage in infrastructure.”

Under the High-5s, the  group estimates that 18m Africans have gained access to electricity, 60m enjoy new access to water, while 141m people have benefited from improved agricultural technologies for food production.

“When you first elected me five years ago, I had a vision. Five years later, I have yet a vision to build on our collective achievements over the next five years.  A vision to build a much stronger and resilient African Development Bank Group with the leadership and capacity to deliver greater quality impacts for the people of Africa, while remaining financially strong and sustainable,” Adesina said.

Meanwhile, leaders across the continent, including Presidents Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Alpha Conde of Guinea, George Weah of Liberia, President Sassou Nguesso of Republic of the Congo and Guinea Bissau’s Umaro Embalo, have reaffirmed their support for the bank under Adesina.

In separate goodwill messages, they commended the AfDB’s interventions, especially its assistance to member states in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Dr. Adesina, you have our full support as you continue to lead the Bank through this COVID-19 period, marked by turmoil but also the prospect of new opportunities for our continent,” Kagame said.

He applauded Adesina’s efforts in ensuring that the AfDB played a key role in ensuring Africa’s interests reflected on the international agenda during the crisis.

President Buhari noted that the unanimity of Adesina’s reelection was a vote of confidence in his leadership and programmes, especially the bank’s High 5 priority agenda. If diligently implemented, the High 5s will help Africa to meet most of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.

“Under your leadership, the Bank has made admirable progress and we are confident that this gain will be consolidated and scaled up in the next five years,” Buhari said in a message presented on his behalf by the Bank’s Governor for Nigeria.

While congratulating Adesina for his overwhelming reelection, President Conde urged him to continue to pursue the High 5s and related policies to provide jobs for the continent’s growing youth population.

President Weah pledged Liberia’s continued partnership with the Bank under Adesina’s leadership. “Dr. Adesina, your reelection signifies Africa and the world’s confidence in your leadership,” he added.

Niale Kaba, the Ivorian Minister of National Planning and the immediate past chairperson of the bank’s Board of Governors, represented Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, who also reaffirmed his country’s strong bond with the bank.

Ghana’s Finance Minister and incoming chairman of the Board of Governors, Kenneth Ofori-Atta, presided over the swearing in ceremony.

There were solidarity messages also from former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, under whose government Adesina served as Agriculture Minister, and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.

Messages also poured in from regional bodies, including the African Union Commission, the Common Market For Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), ECOWAS and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

Photo caption: Chair of the Board of Governors and Ghana’s Finance Minister, Kenneth Ofori-Atta, presiding over the swearing-in ceremony and administered the Oath of Office on Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina for a second five-year term.