Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s former Minister of Agriculture assumed office as the president of African Development Bank (AfDB) on Tuesday, September 1 at a ceremony in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, during which he took the oath of office administered by Zambia’s Finance Minister and Chair of the Board of Governors, Alexander Chikwanda.
Dr Adesina promised to tackle Africa’s chronic power shortages and unleash its economic potential. He said that Africa could easily be growing at double-digit GDP rates if its energy problem could be solved. “We must light up and power Africa – as a Bank we will launch a new deal on energy for Africa,” he said. He described energy as the engine that powers economies. He explained that “Africa is blessed with limitless potential for solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal energy resources. We must unlock Africa’s energy potential – both conventional and renewable.”
Under his presidency, he said, the Bank will expand opportunities and unlock potentials for countries, women, youth, the private sector – and the continent as a whole – with a view to ushering in a new wave of growth and development shared by all. Growth has to be shared, he said. “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. …. Africa can no longer be content with simply managing poverty. For our future and the future of our children, we must eliminate it.
“We must integrate Africa”, he said. “Grow together, develop together. Our collective destiny is tied to breaking down the barriers separating us.
“We will build stronger partnerships for impact – from the private sector, civil society and academic institutions, multilateral and bilateral development agencies. We will advance Africa’s priorities, as envisaged by the Founding Fathers of the Bank. We will be a strong voice for Africa, positioning and building support for Africa in the global environment,” he said.
“We must light up and power Africa”, he said. “Energy is the engine that powers economies.” He promised that the Bank will launch a New Deal on Energy for Africa. “Africa is blessed with limitless potential for solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal energy resources. We must unlock Africa’s energy potential – both conventional and renewable.”
He also stressed the need to develop the private sector to drive the industrialization of the continent, create employment for the young, empower the rural population and women, and lift millions out of poverty.
Adesina made it clear that “Africa must feed itself,” stating that it was inconceivable that a continent with abundant arable land, water, diverse agro-ecological richness and sunshine should be a net food-importing region. Africa has 65% of all the arable land left in the world, which can help meet the food needs of 9 billion people on the planet by 2050. This is a huge untapped potential, “but Africa cannot eat potential”.
He laid down five priorities that will drive the Bank’s work as it implements its current 2013-2022 Strategy: “Light up and Power Africa. Feed Africa. Integrate Africa. Industrialize Africa. Improve quality of life for the people of Africa.”
“Our Bank staff processes and systems will be shaped to deliver on these critical imperatives. We will become sharply focused on measuring the results of our lending operations on the lives of people. No longer will we judge ourselves simply based on the size of our lending portfolio, but on the strength of Africa’s growth and development and the quality of improvements in the lives of the African people. 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.
He urged African leaders to rededicate themselves towards making the continent integrated and globally competitive. “Let us rededicate ourselves to a greater Africa. An Africa with prosperous, sustainable and inclusive growth – one that is peaceful, secure and united, regionally integrated and globally competitive. A continent filled with hope, opportunities, liberties and freedom, with shared prosperity for all. An Africa that is open to the world, one that Africans are proud to call home.”
Nigeria’s Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, spoke on the need to consider other paradigms for Africa development, and to focus on good governance, climate change and the empowerment of women.
Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, reminded the audience that the African continent currently faces multiple challenges including security, market volatility, and youth unemployment. He said he was convinced that President Adesina would be able to tackle these challenges, given his experience and proven leadership.
Chikwanda, Zambia’s Finance Minister and Chair of the Board of Governors of the Bank described the occasion “a historic changing of the guard for the African Development Bank, the pride of Africa.”
Dr Adesina, who was elected in May to head the AfDB for a five-year term is the 8th President of the AfDB and the first Nigerian to occupy the office since the creation of the Bank in 1963. He took over from Dr Donald Kaberuka, who served for 10 years from 2005 to 2015.
Among those who attended the ceremony were Cape Verde’s former President Pedro Pires, Côte d’Ivoire’s Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan, former Nigerian Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as well as a large delegation of governors, legislators and business-people from Nigeria.
By Dike Onwuamaeze