On May 28, the board of governors of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) will be voting to elect a new president of the multilateral development financial institution. The successful candidate will take over from Donald Kaberuka, former finance minister of Rwanda, who was voted into office in 2005. Nigeria’s Agriculture and Rural Development minister, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, is among the eight candidates contesting for the AfDB presidency. The other candidates are nationals of Mali, Cape Verde, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Chad and Ethiopia.
The AfDB’s mission is to fight poverty and improve living conditions on the continent. This it does through promoting the investment of public and private capital in projects and programs that are likely to contribute to the economic and social development of the region. Given the critical role of AfDB in the development of African economy, and the robust landmark recorded by the outgoing president, it is important that Kaberuka’s successor key actively into the tempo of success already in place.
The outgoing president is credited with steering the bank through the tumultuous 2008 financial crisis and ramping up infrastructure lending. That AfDB maintained its tempo of development during and after the challenging years of the global economic crisis is to Kaberuka’s credit and he is concerned that his successor should hit the ground running.
Kaberuka was quoted recently as saying that the bank needs to do more to spread Africa’s economic growth and called on his successor to focus on reducing inequality across the continent. He had also warned that energy shortages and infrastructure gaps remain key challenges for the continent. This, in a way, forms critical aspect of agenda for the incoming president, who must have undisputed capacity for what it entails.
It is on this template that we endorse the candidacy of Nigeria’s Adesina whose profile is outstanding. Recently, each candidate was required to submit a vision statement that details their priorities for the bank which was presented at the Centre for Global Development in Washington DC where they met.
Adesina had said: “I’m running for president of the AfDB because I have a vision for Africa, an Africa that actually has inclusive growth; an Africa where you have countries that are actually well linked to each other, so it’s regionally integrated. An Africa that is connected to the rest of the world so you have an Africa that is globally competitive. But also an Africa that young people want to stay in, not one that they want to move away from. An Africa that we can be proud to call ours. And that’s my vision for the bank, for what the bank can do. I have laid out my priorities for doing that. First, it’s critical to have smarter infrastructure to have increased productivity and competitiveness for Africa. The second is the private sector – it’s the engine of growth … for wealth creation. A big thing for us in Africa is an inclusive model. But also jobs for Africa’s youth, jobs for Africa’s women, reviving Africa’s rural areas for inclusive growth and, finally, to have regional integration for shared prosperity.I’ve lived in 15 countries, 10 of those were Francophone countries. I’m a development economist; I come with a whole set of skills that cover development finance in rural economic development, public policy, investment and finance. And I have worked and delivered programmes at scale, at impact. I actually come from a rural area; my father was a farmer, I came out of poverty. So I know poverty is not about statistics, it’s something we have to change. It’s not about someone like me being an exception, that should be the normal thing in Africa. And that’s why I’m running for president of the bank, because I think we can bring a lot of hope and prosperity to the continent.”
This is Adesina’s manifesto. We are convinced he has the capacity to deliver because he is eminently qualified for the job. Adesina graduated with Bachelors degree in Agricultural Economics with First Class Honours from the University of Ife, Nigeria (1981), where he was the first student to be awarded this distinction by the University. He obtained his PhD degree in Agricultural Economics in 1988 from Purdue University, USA, where he won the Outstanding PhD Thesis for his research work.
In 2007, he was awarded the prestigious YARA Prize in Oslo, Norway, for his leadership in pioneering innovative approaches for improving farmers’ access to agricultural inputs in Africa. He was awarded the Borlaug CAST Award in 2010 by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, USA, for his global leadership in agricultural science and technology.
He received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Purdue University in 2008 and the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Obafemi Awolowo University, in 2009. He was awarded Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Franklin and Marshall College, USA, in 2010 for his global leadership on agriculture and improving the lives and livelihoods of the poor.
He was appointed by the United Nations Secretary- General Ban ki-Moon as one of the 17 global leaders to spearhead the Millennium Development Goals. His passion is to use agriculture to end hunger, create wealth and jobs and drive equitable economic growth in Africa to lift millions out of poverty. He has brought that passion to his native home Nigeria, in his present position as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, where he has spearheaded major reforms to transform the nation’s agriculture. The Nigerian government has shown a strong backing to Adesina’s bid to become the next AfDB president and we wholly endorse it.