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Africa can no longer manage poverty, we must eliminate it – Adesina

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina - AfDB President
Dr. Akinwumi Adesina – AfDB President

The newly appointed President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, says Africa can no longer be content with simply managing poverty.

“For our future and the future of our children, we must eliminate it,” he said today September 1, 2015 in his inaugural speech at his investiture as President of the AfDB in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

He argued that while Africa’s economies are growing, inequality is increasing all over the 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, he said.

“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,” he added.

Dr. Adesina acknowledged the work of his predecessors and said the Bank has become the institution that it is today due to the efforts of many great men and women – dedicated public servants.

“To the serving and past members of the Board of Governors, Board of Directors, past Presidents of the Bank – including their Excellencies Babacar N’Diaye, Kwame Donkor Fordwor and Donald Kaberuka, who are here with us, to the dedicated professional staff of our esteemed Bank – let me say thank you,” he said.

He noted that future generations will look back on their work with respect and admiration, adding, “We have a sacred duty to honor your hard work by building upon the solid foundation that you have created.”

Dr. Adesina pledged and dedicated himself to the mission of the Bank as President.

The mission of the Bank he says includes expanding opportunities and unlocking potentials – potentials for countries, for women, for the youth, for the private sector, for the continent.

“As we unlock these potentials we will unleash a new wave of growth and development shared by all,” he said.

He urged, “We must integrate Africa – grow together, develop together. 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. As we open up Africa with high quality regional infrastructure – especially rail, transnational highways, information and communications, air and maritime transport – Africa will witness a phenomenal boost in intra-Africa and global trade and the entrepreneurial spirit of small businesses, large businesses, and millions of our young people, will be unleashed.”

He indicated that by strengthening regional approaches to development and delivery of the Bank’s programmes, including financing and advisory services, the Bank will reduce inequalities between regions and countries. Through partnerships with regional economic communities and the African Union we will make progress toward our shared goal of truly integrating Africa.

“We must build more resilient economies and reduce fragility risks. A one size fits all model to financing development should give way to customized support to fragile states and countries coming out of conflicts,” he said.

He noted, “these states need our understanding and they deserve our support – and confidence. Our confidence in their ability to build stronger political, economic and social institutions. Our confidence that they can – if well supported – foster inclusive growth, by effectively managing their resources for the development of their peoples.”

Pointing out the resilience and doggedness shown by Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in the face of the Ebola crisis and the success of Nigeria in tackling the pandemic, he said, that clearly demonstrate that political will is the currency of development.

“The Bank will work in new ways to address root causes of economic fragility, support diversification of economies, strengthen institutions for transparency, accountability and good governance, and support countries to get more out of their own domestic resources. We will build Africa’s confidence in itself – the confidence to solve some of its greatest challenges,” he said.

On the continent’s energy crisis, he said, “We must light up and power Africa. Energy is the engine that powers economies. The more energy economies have, the more prosperous are their peoples. We must do more to power Africa, from our homes, businesses, industries, to our schools and hospitals. To do so, we must take bold steps, think differently and act with a greater sense of urgency,” adding, “Africa cannot stand by with such massive resources for both conventional and renewable energy and yet be known for the darkness, not the brightness, of its cities and rural areas. Factories lie idle for lack of power. The lack of energy has put the brakes on Africa’s industrialization. Hundreds of thousands, especially women and children, die every year from the effects of smoke from biomass and fuel wood, simply trying to cook meals for their families. Much wealth is tied down and potential wasted on our streets as small businesses, welders, barbers, food processors, electricians, all hard working Africans, are underemployed and spend most of their hard-earned incomes paying for energy.”

Among other things, Dr. Adesina believes 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. Our bright sunshine should not only nourish our crops, it must power our homes. Our vast water resources should do more than provide us much needed drinking water: they must power our industries. Unlocking the huge energy potential of Africa, for Africa, will be a major focus of the Bank,” he said.

According to him, the Bank will be a leader on this critical issue, for nothing is more important for Africa’s economic growth and development.

“We will be bold, creative, build strategic partnerships on energy for Africa and harness resources from public and the private sectors. We will work closely with our political leaders and support African countries to power their economies. As a Bank, we will launch a New Deal on Energy for Africa,” he declared.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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