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Africa has lost over a decade of economic growth gains due to COVID-19 – Adesina

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Dr. Akinwumi Adesina

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic which hit the world in late 2019 starting from the Chinese city of Wuhan and has continued to ravage the rest of the world causing havoc, pain and misery, has caused the African continent to lose more than a decade of gains of economic growth, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina has said.

Speaking at the 2020 Annual Meetings of the Bank, today August 26, 2020, which is being held virtually due to the pandemic, he said “with the pandemic, Africa has lost over a decade of gains of economic growth. Africa’s recovery will be long and difficult. Now we must help Africa to build back, boldly, but smartly, paying greater attention to quality growth: health, climate and the environment.”

Noting that even in these challenging times, the Board of Directors of the Bank pulled together to support Africa.

“The Bank launched a $10 billion COVID-19 Response Facility to support African countries. We launched a $3 billion social bond on the global market – the largest US dollar denominated social bond ever in world history. These actions reflect our ambition, our unshaken commitment and unyielding responsibility to support, stabilize and strengthen African economies,” he said.

Dr. Adesina acknowledging that the world has changed said a global COVID-19 health pandemic has upended all plans – including travels. Health and safety have become primary for all decision making. That’s why the Governors of the Bank took the extraordinary decision to hold the Annual Meetings virtually — for the first time in the history of the Bank.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading fast and causing much havoc and untold hardships. Lives lost — too many. Jobs lost — unimaginable. Economic losses —too deep and vast to fathom.

Our collective humanity has never been so challenged — so tested, so vulnerable. Yet our interdependency, our need for pulling together, uniting and staying focused together, has never been more important, he said, adding, “For in unity we build strength. Strength to overcome, even the most challenging of obstacles.  Pulling together has always been the strength of the African Development Bank,” he said.

He applauded the shareholders, indicating that they helped to raise the capital of the Bank by $115 billion.

“We pulled together, yet again, in Pretoria, South Africa, and gave the African Development Fund 35 per cent increase in financing – financing so crucial to low income countries and fragile states,” he said.

In an apparent reference to accusations against him by some staff of the Bank, he said the past several months no doubt have been challenging for the Bank.

“Yet, we pulled together. I would like to sincerely thank you all, our esteemed Governors, under the excellent leadership and wisdom of the Chairperson, Minister Niale Kaba, for joining hands to steady the Bank,” he said.

Some employees of the Bank had anonymously accused Adesina of “various cases of alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct: unethical conduct, private gain, impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, adversely affecting confidence in the integrity of the Bank, and involvement in political activity.”

He denied the accusations and was later cleared by the Bank’s Ethics Committee. The US government stepped in and asked for an independent investigator to be appointed to look into the matter. The Bank’s Board set up a panel to review the allegations. The panel came up with a verdict agreeing with the Ethics Committee and cleared him of wrongdoing.

“I am proud of the African Development Bank and the strength of our governance systems. I am proud of each and every shareholder of the Bank who challenged and made us all better. Our experience has made us better and stronger. Our challenges, though difficult, have become our gain.  But it’s not been easy… I will reach out… I will engage… We will heal…,” he said.

Adesina who is the sole candidate for the election of President for another five-year term is standing unopposed.

Today, the Bank also formally welcomed Ireland into its fold, making the country its 81st member.

The AfDB is Africa’s largest development bank.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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