African Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina, outlined the bank's new development priorities and underscored the importance of partnerships during his first annual luncheon with ambassadors and the diplomatic corps in Côte d'Ivoire, on Thursday, Feb. 11, in Abidjan.
During the luncheon, Adesina presented the bank's new agenda, including the High 5s, which aim to light up and power Africa, to feed Africa, to industrialize Africa, to integrate Africa and to improve the living conditions of Africans. He also urged those in attendance to work together to support Africa, especially fragile and conflict-affected States, and to fight climate change. “At the bank, we are currently accelerating the delivery of our Ten Year Strategy through sharper focus on the High 5s,” the president said, explaining that energy is key.
The president pointed out that no fewer than 645 million Africans have no access to electricity. The result: businesses and SMEs cannot function adequately, resulting in widespread unemployment.
“Energy is crucial, as the region cannot continue to live in darkness and we lose many lives every day due to lack of electricity,” he said.
In spite of the challenges that lie ahead, the Bank Group president affirmed that the continent is resilient, and so is the African Development Bank. “We reached 90% of our African Development Fund (ADF) financing target for the year,” he said. In 2015, “overall loans and grants in the year for the entire Bank amounted to US $9 billion, up from US $7.1 billion in 2014, which is about a 26% increase. Over 50% of the institution's 2015 approvals went to infrastructure, of which 30% went to transport and 15% to energy projects.”
However, Adesina made it clear that the continent cannot achieve its development goals without its partners. “You are already our greatest champions and advocates,” he said.
He affirmed that the continent is indeed resilient and dynamic, and stressed that it has seen economic growth thanks to improved political stability, and solid macroeconomic and fiscal policies. The continent has built its resilience and dynamism on factors such as increased public sector investment in infrastructure and improved private consumption, he added.
President Adesina also outlined that despite economic headwinds with declines in commodity prices and weakening demand, the economic prospects are still good for the continent, with growth projected to accelerate to 4.4% in 2016 and strengthening further to 5% in 2017.
Adesina thanked the Government and the people of Côte d'Ivoire for facilitating the smooth return of more than 1,000 AfDB staff members to the Bank's headquarters in Abidjan, and acknowledged the tremendous progress made over the past years to bolster the economy. “We are proud of Côte d'Ivoire as it has just conducted peaceful and successful elections and looks set to consolidate and accelerate its progress,” Adesina said. “It is good to be back home after 11 years of wonderful hospitality in Tunisia.”
Joseph Spiteri, Dean of the diplomatic corps in Côte d'Ivoire, commended the African Development Bank for its work and its efforts to pull millions of Africans out of poverty. He also called on the international community to support the Bank in this regard.
The luncheon ended with a press conference, where local and international media interacted with President Adesina on issues related to African economy, the impact of commodity prices on oil-rich countries and non-oil countries, diversification of markets, and resource mobilization.
Held every year for the past decade, the ambassadors' luncheon aims to share perspectives and aspirations on African economies and brings together the diplomatic community and representatives of international organizations accredited to the Bank's host country.
“Today is very special for me, as it is my first such occasion, since I took the baton of leadership, as President of the African Development Bank on September 1, 2015,” President Adesina said.
Côte d'Ivoire's Minister of Planning and Development, Nialé Kaba, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Albert Mabri Toikeusse, were also in attendance, as were private and public sector representatives, AfDB Senior Management and Executive Directors, and key Bank staff.