He was sworn in by Zambia’s Finance Minister and Chair of the Board of Governors, Alexander Chikwanda at a ceremony in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
“I consider this duty with a great sense of responsibility, with enthusiasm, devotion, and total engagement,” Adesina said in his speech. “Today, I can well support myself on the strong and deep structures built by the founders of the African Development Bank, and I am inspired by the great work that [the bank] has done in Africa.”
Adesina went on to speak of his mission as President and the five priorities he has laid out, to “light up and power Africa. Feed Africa. Integrate Africa. Industrialise Africa. Improve quality of life for the people of Africa.”
Speaking on the state of the continent, he emphasised that inclusive growth would be a critical part of AfDB’s strategy.
“While Africa’s economies are growing, inequality is increasing all over our continent. The sparkle in the eyes of the fortunate few is drowned by the sense of exclusion by the majority. Hundreds of millions of people are left behind. Most of them are women and our young people. They do not feel the impact of economic growth in their lives. Our collective challenge is to drive inclusive growth – growth that will lift millions out of poverty. Africa can no longer be content with simply managing poverty. For our future and the future of our children, we must eliminate it,” Adesina said.
“Our collective destiny is tied to breaking down the barriers separating us. From large to small nations, from countries on the coast to those far inland, from the island states that depend on the blue economy, to states coming out of conflicts with resilience and determination, our aspirations are the same – to deliver quality growth and development and to see all Africans prosper,” he continued, saying that high-quality regional infrastructure, particularly in transport, will be key to building both intra-African and global trade as well as new business.
He also spoke about reducing fragility risks, especially through customised support to fragile and post-conflict states. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea’s ongoing recovery from Ebola was mentioned as an example of strong political will rising to face challenges in fragile environments.
On powering Africa, he said that the bank would launch a ‘New Deal on Energy for Africa’ in which the public and private sector needed to come together on both conventional and renewable power investments.
He added that the private sector needs to be built up, including the development of financial markets and private capital markets to improve access to finance for SMEs. Financial and private sector development will be critical in leveraging the agriculture sector, the main crux of Adesina’s vision.
“Africa must feed itself. It is inconceivable that a continent with abundant arable land, water, diverse agro-ecological richness and sunshine is a net food- importing region. And Africa has 65 per cent of all the arable land left in the world to meet the food needs of nine billion people on the planet by 2050. This is a huge untapped potential and Africa cannot eat potential,” he said.
A number of Adesina’s projects as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and private sector players such as the Rockefeller Foundation have focused on making agriculture an efficient business and smart investment.
“We must think differently: grow agriculture as a business, to become a wealth-creating sector, not one for managing poverty. This will excite the youths to see agriculture as a viable business. By moving away from exporting primary commodities, to developing agro-allied industrial zones in rural areas, Africa will expand its ability to export processed cocoa not cocoa beans, processed coffee not coffee beans, textile instead of cotton,” he said.
Adesina went on to lay out his vision of the Bank under his leadership.
“We will be more than a lending institution. We will build a highly competitive, world-class knowledge-driven Bank, to provide top-notch policy and advisory services to countries and the private sector. We will become a true development institution with measurable impacts on the lives of Africans,” he said, highlights plans for decentralisation and a merit-based system that would attract the best professionals on the continent to the Bank.
“The African Development Bank must march forward with a new resolve. The development finance landscape is changing rapidly – and the African Development Bank must change with the times. We must remain competitive. And we must lead,” he said.
Akinwumi Adesina president AfDB Pic: www.expressng.com