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'We must help Africa build back boldly, but smartly' - AfDB President

In a speech kicking off his second term as African Development Bank chief, newly sworn-in President, Dr Akinwumi Adesina unveiled a sweeping vision to consolidate the institution’s successes of the last five years, hone the Bank’s operations and exploit opportunities and urgency created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything globally. It has thrown Africa’s growth back,” Adesina said. “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.”

Adesina outlined four strategic pillars: ‘Institution’, ‘People’, ‘Delivery, and ‘Sustainability, that will drive five top-level goals that include deepening quality and impact; and maintaining financial sustainability.

The President stressed the new framework would enhance and complement the Bank’s High-5 priorities, which have guided its mission since 2015, and which align with other continental and global development framework. “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 program will entail strengthening the Bank, 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.”

The Bank responded swiftly to the COVID-19 pandemic and its twin health and economic crises, setting up a response facility of up to $10 billion 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. The Bank, Adesina stated, “will pay increased attention to supporting Africa with quality health care infrastructure, and building on its comparative advantage in infrastructure.”

Adesina unveiled the High 5 priorities in his inaugural speech in 2015. They are: Light up and power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa, and Improve the Quality of Life for the People of Africa. Under the High-5s, 18 million Africans have gained access to electricity, 60 million enjoy new access to water, and 141 million 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.

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