Let’s develop Africa with pride: AfDB boss

SIX months into office, African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina looks back on his accomplishments and shares his vision for the bank and Africa in the next 10 years.

In a 10-minute video, the president describes his vision for a better integrated Africa, with a wider market where people can travel everywhere without restriction.

He sees the continent with better infrastructure linking the countries in terms of air travel, rail and water navigation facilities to link the markets.

“I see in 10 years an Africa that would be able to feed itself, that is able to take advantage of all the resources it has, a more competitive Africa on the global market,” he said.

“In 10 years, I expect to see Africa that is totally lit up, that has universal access to electricity, an Africa that is not in darkness.

“That is what 10 years would look like for me.

“I’m very excited about what I’m doing as president of the African Development Bank. When I was elected the eighth president of the bank, I did say very clearly that we were going to work on five critical issues, which I felt were the most important challenges facing Africa.

“Those development priorities are now known as the High 5s — to light up and power Africa, Feed Africa, Integrate Africa, Industrialise Africa, and to improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.

“I’m terrifically excited that there’s so much energy around these five areas,” he said, adding that they have been embraced by development partners and African leaders.

During his first six months in office, the bank has been engaged in trying to form global alliances around these five development priorities, Mr Adesina said.

The AfDB played a key role at the United Nations climate talks in Paris (COP21) in December last year, bringing together African leaders and supporting the African Group of Negotiators, who pushed for a climate agreement that was in the interest of Africa.

At COP21, the AfDB and partners launched the African Renewable Energy Initiative (AREI), which aims to provide 300 gigawatts of electricity across the continent by 2030.

 At the bank’s High-Level Conference on Agriculture in Dakar in October, the bank invited ministers of finance and development partners to look at agriculture as a business, a viable source of employment for youth, particularly in rural areas, and a path to food security.
 The conference also announced a range of initiatives aimed at raising agricultural productivity across the continent.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos 2016, the AfDB launched a Transformative Partnership on Energy for Africa with the participation of global chief executives, and partners, including the United States government’s Power Africa initiative, UK government and the United Nations, to mobilise public and private sector financing.

With over 645 million Africans that still do not have access to energy, he said “that is totally unacceptable.”

Mr Adesina pledged to do more for girls’ education, to make sure girls stay in school and are not forced into early marriages. He called for Affirmative Finance Action for Women, a new initiative to leverage finance for women-owned businesses and female entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector. He also announced a Bottom of the Pyramid Energy Financing Facility for Africa that will give 700 million people access to clean cooking energy.

The African Development Bank is Triple-A rated, said Mr Adesina, which means the bank can mobilise more money to do more for African countries.

“We want to be a first-rate bank that delivers impact at scale in Africa. We want to be that bank of reference, that bank of choice for our regional member countries. I think we are on the right path for that.”

On his vision for the AfDB , he indicated that he wants to reorient it to become more development impact-oriented, with the right people in the right jobs, and streamlined processes. “I don’t want a bank that is an elephant. I want a bank that is like a lion.”

The bank’s new business model proposes, among other things, increased decentralization to enable it to work more closely with clients on the ground and in the field.

“I don’t see my position at the African Development Bank as a job. It’s not a job. It’s a mission,” he said.

“I am driven constantly by a greater ambition for Africa. This can be a greater continent. I want us to develop Africa with pride. That’s what drives me every single day.”