By Kenechukwu Obiezu
Nigerians remember Mr. Akinwunmi Adesina fondly, even warmly. It was he who left his post as the Vice President of Policy and Partnerships for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to become Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2010.
As Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, he was named Forbes African Man of the Year for his reform of Nigerian agriculture. He introduced more transparency into the fertilizer supply chain and even proposed to give mobile phones to farmers but was eventually put off by a lack of mobile networks in the country’s rural areas.
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On May 28, 2015, Mr. Adesina was elected the presumptive President of the African Development Bank (AfDB). In 2017, he was awarded the 2017 World Food Prize and on August 27 2020 he was re-elected as President of the AfDB for the second term of five years.
In a paper titled, “Mobilising Financing for Africa’s Accelerated Economic Recovery, Development and Integration”, delivered to African leaders at the 35th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, he painted a gloomy picture of Africa amid startling revelations to the effect that Africa had witnessed a decline in GDP growth of 2.1 percent in 2020, its lowest in 20 years; a GDP fall of 165 billion dollars leading to a loss of over 30 million jobs leading over 26 million people to fall into extreme poverty.
He largely blamed the global COVID-19 pandemic for the figures but went on to starkly warn that, “We must learn from this experience. Africa can no longer outsource the security of the lives of its 1.4 billion people to the benevolence of others. We must secure African lives.”
He further added that “It is time to build Africa’s healthcare defence system. This must be based on three strategic priorities. First, building Africa’s quality healthcare infrastructure. Second, building Africa’s pharmaceutical industry, and third, building Africa’s vaccine manufacturing capacity.
According to him, “Africa needs 600 million to 1.3 billion dollars to meet its goal of attaining 60 percent vaccine production by 2040. Investing in health is investing in National security. The African Development Bank plans to invest 3 billion dollars to support pharmaceutical and vaccines manufacturing capacity for Africa.”
Amid truly startling statistics, Mr. Adesina painted a crystal-clear picture of the mountains standing in Africa’s way to complete recovery from the pandemic and advancement along the path of growth because as things stand, if African children are to have any kind of stable future, the structures must be put right.
It was out of nowhere that the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world with such forceful fury. As people watched lives and livelihoods crumble before their eyes, there was the unmistakably bitter feeling that things were going to take a painfully long time to stabilize.
At this time, it was predicted too by experts that the world’s most vulnerable people would take some pretty big hits. This has come true. Africa which has many of the world’s most vulnerable people has taken a big hit as the figures from the president of the AfDB have shown. In Nigeria for example, the World Bank recently said that 91 million Nigerians live below the poverty line which figure was truly alarming.
Now, with the depredations of the pandemic, many Africans are in tougher times. Africa should be doing better than it is today but so many factors have simply not allowed an extravagantly gifted continent to thrive. These factors have conspired to ensure that Africa, especially Sub- Saharan Africa continues to post some of the worst statistics of human misery.
The immiseration of Africans has been deliberate and systematic. It has come from within and without Africa as bitter colonialists combine forces with homegrown leaders to undermine democracy in many African countries.
With democracy undermined and its structures dismantled, accountable governance goes through the window just as corruption comes in to savagely delineate for a few what should be the fate of many.
Then there are the needless mindless conflicts that continue to convulse many parts of Africa and the growing threat of terrorism.
These all have contributed to weakened government structures in many African countries forcing military men who are themselves incurably corrupt and avaricious to stage military coups. The recent coups that have swept across West Africa bespeak a terrible menace and a dangerous trend.
Africa’s recovery will begin from Africa and it is urgent for the wellbeing of its millions of long-suffering people that it should begin now.
Kenechukwu Obiezu writes from Anambra State.