At a conference in Nairobi, Kenya in 2011, former Group Managing Director of the United Bank for African (UBA) and Chairman of Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu, proffered a new economic viewpoint christened ‘Africapitalism’, apparently a coinage from the word Africa and the concept of capitalism. Africapitalism, according to Elumelu, was an economic philosophy that would put the economic transformation of the continent in the hands of its people. “Nobody would develop Africa except us,” said Elumelu at that conference.
In May 2015, there was a significant shift in the leadership of the African Development Bank (AfDB), one of the agents which should drive Elumelu’s envisioned Africapitalism. With the election of Akinwunmi Adesina as president, the quest to rescue Africa from underdevelopment and poverty became more invigorated. Adesina, having recorded stellar accomplishments in international organisations and as Minister of Agriculture in his home country Nigeria, has a passionate understanding of what Africa’s challenges regarding self-reliance and prosperity were, and how precisely those challenges could be met with opportunities.
Adesina immediately established a broad Africa-for-Africans-by-Africans strategic development plan which prioritises member countries’ growth and development needs rather than what donor agencies and partners want. Adesina’s High Five roadmap, which emphasises better, more impactful penetration of the Bank’s interventions on the average African, has been pursued so effectively in the past five years that every known development indicator points to a gradual emergence of the continent from the ashes of poverty and decay to the path of progress and prosperity.
The AfDB, piloted by Adesina in the past five years, has made remarkable progress in its pursuit of its dream to Feed Africa, Light up Africa, Industrialise Africa, Integrate Africa and Improve the Quality of Life in Africa. And these policy thrusts are not just slogans. Between 2015 and 2020, the Bank’s capitalisation has significantly improved by more than 200 per cent. One of the impediments to accelerated growth and development through the AfDB in the continent was the red tape between project conceptualisation and implementation. Within the past five years, Adesina has reduced by 44 per cent, the time between project approval and the disbursement of the first tranche of funding.
Six hundred and forty five million people lack access to electricity in Africa. Thus, the AfDB, under Adesina, has a 10-year plan to light up and power the continent. So far, 18 million people now have access to electricity through the ‘Light up Africa’ initiative, with power projects in Morocco, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia, Egypt and other countries. The AfDB is also closing the infrastructure gap in the continent. 101 million people have benefitted from access to better transportation in Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco and other parts of Africa.
Through the ‘Feed Africa’ initiative, 141 million people in the continent have now gained access to improved agricultural technology for food security. Key among projects revolutionising this growth are the Green Morocco, Indorama Nigeria and Mauritius Water Project. In improving the quality of life in the continent, 60 million people have been directly affected by improved access to water and sanitation. Specifically, the region of West Kordofan in Sudan, where 50 percent of income was spent on water and 80 per cent of conflicts arose due to shortage of water, was transformed through the visionary leadership of Adesina, whose direct intervention accelerated the delivery timeline of AfDB’s water project in the region.
Even with these milestones, it is pertinent to emphasise that the Africa of our collective dreams will take time and vision to attain. However, with the youngest population in the world and an increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from $10 billion in 2010 to $50 billion in 2019 (with a projected increase to $2.5 trillion in 2030), Africa is on the path of growth, and integral to that journey has been the repositioned AfDB led by Akinwumi Adesina.
If this much can be achieved by the Bank in five years, it is safe to project that a lot more will be achieved in the next five years with Adesina at the helm — which is why we commend the African Union and friends of Africa for endorsing Dr Adesina for a second term.
It is the view of this newspaper that other stakeholders in the bank owe themselves a responsibility to encourage and help propel the trajectory of the policies put in place by the Adesina administration which is, so far, using the machinery of AfDB to extricate the continent from economic dependency that had made the its socio-economic growth and development unacceptably sluggish.
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