Dike Onwuamaeze and Nume Ekeghe
The President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has called for unity within the institution in order to stabilise the bank to enable it to support the rebound of the African economy from the ravages of COVID-19.
This is just as the Board of Governors of the Bank are expected to elect the bank’s president today with Adesina being the only one standing for election.
Adesina spoke yesterday during the opening ceremony of the virtual annual meetings of the Board of Governors and Shareholders of the AfDB, which is being hosted in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Apart from being the sole candidate in the election, Adesina is the first Nigerian to occupy the role. The former Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture was elected for a five-year term on May 28, 2015, at the 50th annual meetings, which took place in Abidjan.
Nigeria recently paid in its new general capital increase commitment of $85 million, which almost doubled its voting rights in the bank to 15.52 per cent.
Speaking at the meeting yesterday, Adesina said: “Today, I stand before you with gratefulness for your strong and collective support over the past five years. We succeeded together and together we must also go forward, reaching for what lies before us to help fast-track Africa’s development by building on our collective achievements, strengthening weaknesses and deepening our impact.
“At this annual meeting, I offer myself to you, our governors, for the consideration of re-election for a second term as president of the AfDB. I do so with humility and with a strong sense of duty and commitment in the call to serve Africa and our bank selflessly to the very best of my God-given ability.”
The AfDB president said Africa needed a strong multilateral institution such as the AfDB to support the continent through the raging pandemic and help its economies rebound for healthier lives and livelihoods for its people.
He stated that the AfDB needed to work more closely with its shareholders.
He noted that COVID-19 pandemic was spreading fast and spreading much havoc and untold hardships through losses of lives, jobs and economic productivity, which are “too deep and too vast to even begin to fathom.”
This, he added, has made “our need for pulling together, uniting and staying focused together more important than ever. For in unity we build strength to overcome even the most challenging of obstacles. Pulling together has always been the strength of the AfDB.”
Adesina stated that Africa has lost more than a decade of economic growth as a result of the pandemic, therefore, “Africa’s recovery would be long and difficult. Now we must help Africa to build back boldly and smartly by paying greater attention to quality growth, health, climate and the environment.”
He said the past several months had been challenging for the bank and thanked the governors under the leadership of the Chairperson of the AfDB Board of Governors, Ms. Mme Niale Kaba, for joining hands to steady the bank and pulling it together.
“I am proud of the AfDB and the strength of our governance system, 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 has not been easy. I will reach out. I will engage and we will heal,” he said.
Adesina also used the occasion to highlight the gains of the High Five programme he launched five years ago at his inception as the bank’s president.
He said: “Time has gone so fast and fast has also been our impact in those five years for Africa’s progress as 18 million people now have access to electricity; 141 million people have benefitted from improved agricultural technologies for food security; 15 million people have access to finance through private sector investments; 101 million people have access to improved transport and 60 million people have gained access to water and sanitation.”
He thanked the board and staff at the bank for their hard work and the strong support that made the achievements possible, adding that they should not rest as the prize for good work is more work.
In his opening speech, the President of Côte d’Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, highlighted the unusual context of this year’s Meetings, taking place against the backdrop of the pandemic.
He also underscored the Bank’s critical support for his country and other regional members.
“This is an opportunity for me to acknowledge the African Development Bank, its President and Board of Directors, for the unwavering support, expressed in these difficult times to African states.
“Indeed, the Bank’s COVID-19 Rapid Response Facility has made it possible to finance and support African countries in the fast implementation of plans to fight the pandemic.”
President Ouattara praised the “remarkable capacity to adapt that the Bank has shown by continuing its operations and functioning in virtual mode, since March 2020,” and the work accomplished by Bank President Akinwumi Adesina “who has successfully led the transformation of the African Development Bank and has given it great credibility and visibility, of which we are proud.”
President Ouattara wished Adesina good luck in his re-election bid.