President Adesina shares AfDB’s new transformation agenda as Annual Meetings open in Lusaka

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Publication Date: 
25 May 2016
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“Africa must think big, act big and deliver big. We must never show low ambitions for Africa,” African Development Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina said on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at the formal opening of the Annual Meetings of the Bank Group in Zambia on the theme “Energy and climate Change”.

Addressing a huge gathering of heads of state, ministers, business corporates, civil society and the media in Lusaka, Adesina said that the Bank has raised its level of aspiration for Africa through its High 5 development priorities.

According to Adesina, these priorities – Light up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa – have received overwhelming support from the intuition’s stakeholders across the Board.

The New Deal on Energy and the Jobs for Africa’s Youth initiative are being launched at the meetings, on the heels of the launch on Monday of the African Leaders for Nutrition initiative, which aims to end malnutrition, chaired by former President of Ghana, John Kufuor. The initiative is partnering with the African Union/New Partnership on Development (NEPAD), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Kofi Annan Foundation, the Big Win Philanthropy, Dangote Foundation and the World Food Program. The Bank also intends to launch a USD 3-billion fund to support women.

In the same vein, the Bank launched the Transformative Partnership on Energy for Africa, a bold co-development model which includes several partners: the African Union, the Africa Progress Panel, NEPAD, President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, the World Bank, and Sustainable Energy for All, African Energy Leaders Group, the European Union, the UK Government, China, France, Germany, Scandinavian countries, Japan, Korea, India, the private sector and others.

According to Adesina, the Bank decided to focus on lighting up and powering Africa because the continent is the only region of the world where lack of electricity has become the norm. Over 645 million people lack access to electricity while 700 million do not have access to clean energy for cooking.

“The greatest hindrance to Africa’s growth and development is lack of electricity,” he said.

“Africa is simply tired of being in the dark. Our goal is clear: universal access to energy for Africa within ten years. Expand grid power by 160 giga watts. Connect 130 million persons to grid power. Connect 75 million persons to off grid systems. And provide access to 150 million households to clean cooking energy,” he emphasized.

Adesina also shared ongoing corporate reforms in the Bank encapsulated in a new business development and delivery model, which involves restructuring and operations decentralization within the continent’s five geopolitical zones in central, east, north, west and southern Africa.

It has also established new Vice-President Complexes on Power, Energy and Green Growth; Agriculture, Human and Social Development; and Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization to deliver the High 5 priorities in the various sectors.

“These landmark institutional reforms will make us faster, more efficient and effective in delivering greater developmental impacts all across Africa. We will drive a new performance contract system and culture of accountability for results all across the Bank,” he said.

Adesina also reflected on African economies, noting that they have remained resilient and are not unravelling as interpreted in some quarters. Africa must henceforth look inwards to tap resources for the development of a more inclusive continent.

Africa must develop with pride, he said, citing the case of Kevin Do, a youth from Sierra Leone who received sustained applause as well as “tears of sympathy and joy” from the audience when he was invited to the podium to share his ingenuity. At the age of 12, Kevin developed batteries and moved on to develop a generator for his village, using metal scraps. He was invited to MIT Innovations Lab and lectured students at Harvard and MIT to show off his ingenuity.

Adesina thanked the Bank’s member countries for their support despite the difficult global financial and economic headwinds and urged them to contribute generously to the 14th replenishment of the African Development Fund, the concessional arm of the Bank Group which comes up this year.

For his part, President Idriss Déby of Chad, the current President of the Africa Union, underscored the difficult challenges facing many Africa countries afflicted by climate change-induced drought, famine, and conflict, noting that African countries can overcome some of these challenges through coordinated concrete actions.

He commended the Bank’s High 5 priorities and expressed the hope that every Africa country would have a positive story to share on their benefits at the next Annual Meetings.

Host President Edgar Lungu of Zambia, who declared the Meetings open, commended the energy and climate change theme of the meetings, noting that the two issues have crystallized into a binding constraint to Africa’s growth.

He said that lessons learned from exchanges would help the countries, including Zambia, to find solutions to the economic and environmental challenges they face.

“Africa can lead the world on climate resilience and low carbon emissions if the necessary policies are put in place now,” he said.

More 4,000 participants are attending the Annual Meetings, the AfDB’s window to the world. These include eminent persons such as Presidents Idriss Deby of Chad and Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Nigeria is represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. Former Presidents John Kufuor of Ghana, Festus Mogae of Botswana, Horst Kohler of Germany, and Mary Robinson of Ireland, are also attending along with some Prime Ministers, and ministers representing their heads of state. Also in attendance are three former Bank Presidents – Babacar Ndiaye of Senegal, Omar Kabbaj of Morocco and Kwame Donkor Fordwor of Ghana.

AfDB’s High 5s: A game changer in Africa’s development discourse

In his inaugural address on September 1, 2015, the eighth elected President of the African Development Bank Group, Akinwumi Adesina, set down a new agenda for the Bank Group, building on its existing 2013-2022 Strategy. In his speech, he outlined the five development priorities for the institution. The High 5s are to: Light up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the Quality of Life for the People of Africa. These focus areas are essential in transforming the lives of the African people and therefore consistent with the United Nations agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In 2013, the African Development Bank’s Board approved a Ten Year Strategy covering the period 2013-2022, entitled At the Center of Africa’s Transformation (TYS). The overarching twin objectives of the TYS are the achievement of inclusive growth and the transition to green growth through five operational priorities: infrastructure development, regional economic integration, private sector development, governance and accountability, and skills and technology. In addition, the TYS highlights three areas of special emphasis: gender, fragile states, and agriculture and food security.

In September 2015, world leaders agreed to an ambitious set of Sustainable Development Goals, with the objective of eliminating extreme poverty from the planet by 2030. A few months later, at the Twenty First United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris, an equally ambitious agreement on Climate Change was reached. To respond to this ambitious development mandate, the global community has tasked the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) to significantly scale up their activities by leveraging and crowding in financial resources and moving from “billions to trillions”, as was articulated during the UN Financing for Development conference held in July 2015.

These ambitious development goals will only be realized if they can be achieved in Africa. The Bank is responding to the challenge of supporting inclusive growth and the transition to green growth by scaling up investment and implementation of the TYS by focusing on five priority areas, referred to as the High 5s.

Not only are these five priority areas central to the TYS, but they also are intrinsically linked to the SDGs and the global commitments made on climate change, which were adopted after the approval of the TYS. These five priorities have also been highlighted as critical priorities in the Agenda 2063 for Africa, developed in partnership with the African Union. Figure 1 illustrates the linkage between the SDGs, the TYS and the High 5s.

Although the continent has experienced consistent growth over the past decade, 120 million Africans remain out of work, 42 percent of the population still live below the US $1.25 poverty line, and around one in four people in SSA remain undernourished. Inequality is also high: six of the 10 most unequal countries in the world are African, particularly affecting women and the youth. While it is recognized that Africa is the least contributor to carbon emissions globally, the continent is also the most vulnerable to climate variability and change. Making growth inclusive will require broadening access to economic opportunities for more people, countries and regions, and helping the continent generate much needed productive jobs, while protecting the vulnerable. Helping the continent transition to green growth will require mainstreaming sustainable development initiatives through investments in clean renewable energy, climate smart agriculture and sustainable water resource management, among others.