Think Big, Act Big, Deliver Big: AfDB Chief Shares New Agenda In Lusaka

 “Africa must think big, act big and deliver big. We must never show low ambitions for Africa,” African Development Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina said on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 at the formal opening of the Annual Meetings of the Bank Group in Zambia on the theme “Energy and climate Change”.

Addressing a huge gathering of heads of state, ministers, business corporates, civil society and the media in Lusaka, Adesina said that the Bank has raised its level of aspiration for Africa through its High 5 development priorities.

According to Adesina, these priorities – Light up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa – have received overwhelming support from the intuition’s stakeholders across the Board.

The New Deal on Energy and the Jobs for Africa’s Youth initiative are being launched at the meetings, on the heels of the launch on Monday of the African Leaders for Nutrition initiative, which aims to end malnutrition, chaired by former President of Ghana, John Kufuor. The initiative is partnering with the African Union/New Partnership on Development (NEPAD), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Kofi Annan Foundation, the Big Win Philanthropy, Dangote Foundation and the World Food Program. The Bank also intends to launch a USD 3-billion fund to support women.

In the same vein, the Bank launched the Transformative Partnership on Energy for Africa, a bold co-development model which includes several partners: the African Union, the Africa Progress Panel, NEPAD, President Obama’s Power Africa initiative, the World Bank, and Sustainable Energy for All, African Energy Leaders Group, the European Union, the UK Government, China, France, Germany, Scandinavian countries, Japan, Korea, India, the private sector and others.

According to Adesina, the Bank decided to focus on lighting up and powering Africa because the continent is the only region of the world where lack of electricity has become the norm. Over 645 million people lack access to electricity while 700 million do not have access to clean energy for cooking.

“The greatest hindrance to Africa’s growth and development is lack of electricity,” he said.

“Africa is simply tired of being in the dark. Our goal is clear: universal access to energy for Africa within ten years. Expand grid power by 160 giga watts. Connect 130 million persons to grid power. Connect 75 million persons to off grid systems. And provide access to 150 million households to clean cooking energy,” he emphasized.

Adesina also shared ongoing corporate reforms in the Bank encapsulated in a new business development and delivery model, which involves restructuring and operations decentralization within the continent’s five geopolitical zones in central, east, north, west and southern Africa.

It has also established new Vice-President Complexes on Power, Energy and Green Growth; Agriculture, Human and Social Development; and Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization to deliver the High 5 priorities in the various sectors.

“These landmark institutional reforms will make us faster, more efficient and effective in delivering greater developmental impacts all across Africa. We will drive a new performance contract system and culture of accountability for results all across the Bank,” he said.

Adesina also reflected on African economies, noting that they have remained resilient and are not unravelling as interpreted in some quarters. Africa must henceforth look inwards to tap resources for the development of a more inclusive continent.

Africa must develop with pride, he said, citing the case of Kevin Do, a youth from Sierra Leone who received sustained applause as well as “tears of sympathy and joy” from the audience when he was invited to the podium to share his ingenuity. At the age of 12, Kevin developed batteries and moved on to develop a generator for his village, using metal scraps. He was invited to MIT Innovations Lab and lectured students at Harvard and MIT to show off his ingenuity.

Adesina thanked the Bank’s member countries for their support despite the difficult global financial and economic headwinds and urged them to contribute generously to the 14th replenishment of the African Development Fund, the concessional arm of the Bank Group which comes up this year.

For his part, President Idriss Déby of Chad, the current President of the Africa Union, underscored the difficult challenges facing many Africa countries afflicted by climate change-induced drought, famine, and conflict, noting that African countries can overcome some of these challenges through coordinated concrete actions.

He commended the Bank’s High 5 priorities and expressed the hope that every Africa country would have a positive story to share on their benefits at the next Annual Meetings.

Host President Edgar Lungu of Zambia, who declared the Meetings open, commended the energy and climate change theme of the meetings, noting that the two issues have crystallized into a binding constraint to Africa’s growth.

He said that lessons learned from exchanges would help the countries, including Zambia, to find solutions to the economic and environmental challenges they face.

“Africa can lead the world on climate resilience and low carbon emissions if the necessary policies are put in place now,” he said.

More 4,000 participants are attending the Annual Meetings, the AfDB’s window to the world. These include eminent persons such as Presidents Idriss Deby of Chad and Paul Kagame of Rwanda. Nigeria is represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo. Former Presidents John Kufuor of Ghana, Festus Mogae of Botswana, Horst Kohler of Germany, and Mary Robinson of Ireland, are also attending along with some Prime Ministers, and ministers representing their heads of state. Also in attendance are three former Bank Presidents – Babacar Ndiaye of Senegal, Omar Kabbaj of Morocco and Kwame Donkor Fordwor of Ghana.

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