Last Tuesday, President of African Development Bank, AfDB and immediate past Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, took oath as the eighth president of AfDB, where he unveiled his economic blueprint, our Business Correspondent, LINUS OOTA reports.
For African Development Bank, AfDB, the 50-year-old economic and financial strong room on the African continent, it is a beginning of new economic life after marking the golden jubilee, as Akinwunmi Adesina, Nigeria’s immediate past Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, unveiled his economic blueprint and adopted a new strategy against Africa’s most common enemy, poverty.
The new President of AfDB, Dr. Adesina said he will in the incoming years, focus on tackling Africa’s chronic power shortages to unlock its economic potential.
Dr. Adesina who stated this at his swearing-in as AfDB’s eighth president last Tuesday in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
He said unlocking the continent’s economic potentials would help in ending its vulnerability to fluctuations in commodity prices.
“Though it boasts nearly a billion people, sub-Saharan Africa consumes about as much power as Spain, with less than five percent that number, due to poor generating capacity and limited transmission networks, two-thirds of Africans have no access to electricity.
“The lack of reliable power grids is a major obstacle to industrialising the continent’s economies at a time when Africa hopes to make a transition from commodities producer to a manufacturing hub and challenge Asia where labour costs are rising,’’ he said.
Adesina said the International Energy Agency noted that Africa required an additional $450 billion in power sector investment, to halve blackouts and achieve electricity access for all in urban areas by 2040.
He said Africa could easily be growing at double-digit GDP rates “if we solve this problem of energy.”
The 55-year-old, former agriculture minister, said energy problem on the continent has to be solved as a matter of urgency.
“This is going to be my most important priority, because Africa has to industrialise, we have to add value so that Africa does not expose itself to the continued volatility of global prices for commodities,” he said.
The AfDB president said that Africa needs to mimic China and other Asian countries’ use of abundant supply of cheap labour to take advantage of globalisation and attract investment.
“As wages rise in China and elsewhere in Asia, Africa can offer a competitive edge with its cheaper workforce, wages in China have increased by over 10 per cent annually over the past decade, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics,” he said.
Adesina said there are many opportunities in Africa today and there is urgent need to take advantage of these wage differentials, especially in terms of light manufacturing, textiles, footwear and others.
Adesina, a development economist with a doctorate from Purdue University in the United States was elected in May to head the AfDB for a five-year term.
Dr. Adesina, who appears to be equal to the task, considering his pedigree, economic acumen and ultimately, his myriad of achievements in agricultural sector of Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, helping Nigeria to reduce annual expenses on food imports from N1.1 trillion to N697 billion.
He said despite myriad of challenges bedevilling Africa as a continent in terms of energy, infrastructure, unemployment among others, poverty should not be comparative advantage of Africa, just as he disclosed that rural economies’ revival and agricultural development would be considered a major thrust of AfDB.
Adesina, who advocated regional integration as socio-economic means through which shared prosperity would be achieved and Africa would be globally competitive, said, “I want to assure you (Africans) that I as the President of the Bank, by the grace of God, poverty would not be the comparative advantage of Africa.
“We would work very hard to develop programmes that would end poverty on this continent, that would lead people out of it and create opportunities for shared prosperity all, across our continent.
“Obviously, I think critical issues of infrastructure would be important; energy for all would be important; electricity would be important, very critical to build private sector, to create wealth all, across our continent, and to make sure we are able to create jobs for hundreds of millions of our people, instead of people going across this Sahara Desert or Mediterranean to go to Europe, we want to create job on this continent of Africa and we can do that.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has called for a new approach to solving African economic challenges.
Buhari, who was represented at the investiture of Adesina as the AfDB president in Abidjan, by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said African countries should have a re-think of “some of the time-worn economic ideas and myths that have held them bound to a few options.”
Justifying the call for this paradigm shift, Osinbajo said western economies, particularly United States of America, had towed such path to emerge from its recent economic meltdown in 2008.
He said, “In 2008, western economies faced with what Ben Bernanke described as the “deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression” abandoned conventional free-market thinking and embraced state bankrolled stimulus plans to forestall the imminent collapse of their economies.”
He noted, “This proved once and for all that the monster called the economy cannot be allowed to prowl the streets with its free-wheeling struts without the leash of a trainer.”
According to him, Africa needs a new strategy in the face of daunting challenges.
He asked, “How can we trickle down paradigms work when half our populations are extremely poor?”
The vice president however expressed optimism that the AfDB, given its recent achievements under the out-gone President, Donald Kaberuka, could greatly assist Africa addresses some of its socio-economic problems.
He stated further that under the new leadership of Adesina, “the AfDB needs to redouble its efforts in addressing the needs of these fragile areas, through institutional support, emergency assistance, and bold pro-poor interventions in health, education and agriculture.”
Osinbajo therefore urged the new AfDB president “to focus on how economic policy can produce economic empowerment for women, and all categories of our people who have become disempowered and whose voices are seldom reflected in the rhetoric of policy.”
Meanwhile, the new AfDB president, has unfolded a fie-point agenda, which would be given utmost priority in the next five years.
In his inaugural statement delivered after he had taken the oath of office, Adesina listed the priority areas as light up and power Africa, feed Africa, integrate Africa, industrialise Africa and improve quality of life for the people of Africa.
Adesina, who spoke passionately about his commitment towards confronting the numerous challenges facing the continent said, “Unlocking the potentials of Africa for Africans will be our goal at AfDB.”
Present at the impressive ceremony were the President of Cote D’Ivoire, Allasane Quattara and his Prime Minister, Daniel Kaplan Duncan. Dignitaries from Nigeria also attended the investiture such as the Governor of Kano State, Dr. Umar Ganduje; Governor of Taraba State, Darius Ishaku; Governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal; former Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Governor of Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele; former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; and Nigeria’s Ambassador to Cote D’Ivoire, Mrs Ifeoma J Akabogu Chinwuba.
Many captains of industry in Nigeria and members of the National Assembly also graced the occasion.
Adesina, Nigeria’s immediate past Minister of Agriculture, is the eighth president of AfDB and the first Nigerian to occupy the office since the creation of the bank in 1963. He took over from Donald Kaberuka, who served for 10 years from 2005 to 2015.