The 52nd Annual Meetings of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the 43rd Meetings of the Board of Governors of the African Development Fund (ADF) opened in Ahmedabad, India, yesterday, May 23, 2017 with calls for greater cooperation between the Bank and India to help drive Africa’s transformation.
Addressing over 3,000 participants at the Mahatma Mandir Conference and Exhibition Center, the President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, highlighted the Bank’s efforts in the implementation of its Ten Year Strategy encapsulated in the High 5 priorities.
These are, Light up and power Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialise Africa, Integrate Africa, and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.
With the ever-increasing need to meet the demands of the High 5s, Bank Group operations went up by over 17% to 305 in 2016. In the same vein, cumulative investments, rose by 19% to US$ 10.45 billion over the figure for 2015.
In real terms, over 22 million people benefitted from Bank finance services ranging from access to water and sanitation to healthcare, electricity, agriculture, and transport, among others; while 630,000 people mainly youth and women benefitted from its “agripreneurs” project aimed at attracting young graduates to agriculture as business.
The central theme of the Annual Meetings, “Transforming Agriculture for Wealth creation in Africa,” underscores the importance of agriculture for Africa’s transformation and the Bank is banking on the continent’s bulging youth population engaging in agriculture as a business for real transformation to take place.
“To develop with pride, Africa must feed itself,” Adesina said noting that the continent’s food imports bill would nearly triple to reach US $110 billion per year by 2025 and disrupt the continent’s macroeconomic and fiscal stability.
AfDB President, Adesina also raised the issue of youth unemployment in Africa and how the Bank has embarked on creating 25 million jobs that would impact 50 million youths within 10 years in which it invested US $800 million in 2016 to support 50,000 young commercial farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs in eight countries.
Investing in agriculture will enable African economies to grow by 10-20%, he said. It would reduce the one million migrants who travelled from Africa to Europe in 2016 alone, and avoid the loss of over 5,000 young lives, whose future now lies buried at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.
AfDB President, Adesina also emphasized the need to bring in the private sector in the Bank’s High 5s projects; with the imminent launch of the Africa Investment Forum, a completely transactional Forum to enable mega deals and fast-track investments in Africa by pension, sovereign wealth, insurance and other institutional investors.
“Our job as Africa’s Bank is to bank on Africa’s future. We will trust the youths, we will support their dreams, we will spark their creativity and we will enable their entrepreneurship,” he said.
The Bank is also investing US $12 billion in power in the next five years, and leveraging US $50 billion from the private sector. It has set up the Vice-Presidency for Power, Energy, Climate and Green Growth, and recruited world-class staff. In 2016, it invested US $1.7 billion in energy and leveraged US $2.5 billion.
The last mile power connection in Kenya is linking one million people to electricity. The Bank led the syndication of US $965 million corporate loan for South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, the largest in Africa’s history. It also provided and energy sector reform budget support of US $1 billion to Algeria.
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Adesina emphasized the fact that to do more for Africa, its economies, its youth and women – the Bank would need more resources. Therefore, there is a need to begin discussions on the recapitalization of the Bank.
He cited the plea made by the German Minister for Development and International Cooperation Gerd Mueller who, during his recent tour of some African countries and visit to the Bank said, “The African Development Bank is the voice for Africa. It should be given more resources to do more for Africa.” In this regard, a recapitalized bank will be able to deploy resources to meet the rapidly rising needs of a continent for development.
“Africa’s huge investment opportunities beckons to you, from agriculture and agribusiness to energy, infrastructure and financial services – and the African Development Bank and its partners will be there to help you advance your investments,” Adesina added.
Prime Minister Modi calls for Asia-Africa Growth Corridor
For his part, Prime Minister Modi reiterated the centuries-old strong ties between India and Africa, noting that India’s partnership with Africa is based on a model of cooperation that is responsive to the needs of Africa.
He called for an Asia-Africa Growth Corridor for development of Africa, supported by Japan and India.
There is a great to deal of development know-how to be gleaned in India – from the development of modern IT systems, to the management of sprawling rail infrastructure – that Africa can benefit from.
“By 2018, no village in India will be without electricity,” said Modi, who for 15 years was the Chief Minister for Gujarat, home state of Mahatma Gandhi.
“India is the fifth-largest investor in Africa and has invested US $54 billion in the continent in the past two decades,” he said
The Prime Minister concluded by saying that while India may never compete with long-distance runners, India would always stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Africa in the great development marathon.
Bill Gates sends message of solidarity
For his part, Bill Gates conveyed his support to the meetings in a video statement emphasizing the importance of partnering with Africa. He said partnership is a powerful way to help Africa move forward.
Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal and Patrice Talon of Benin, as well as Vice-President Daniel Kablan Duncan of Côte d’Ivoire participated in the ceremony alongside India’s Minister of Finance, Arun Jaitley, and the Chief Minister for Gujarat State, Vijay Rupani.