Akinwunmi Adesina: A new era for the African Development Bank

Akinwunmi Adesina: A new era for the African Development Bank

A GRI Power Broker article.

Akinwunmi Adesina is a technocrat who pursued and implemented bold policy reforms in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, which has suffered from four decades of corruption. He also initiated innovative agricultural investment programs to expand opportunities for local farmers, as well as the private sector. These reforms are being continued and expanded under his leadership of the African Development Bank.

Adesina’s Bold Reforms

Agriculture plays a significant role in the economies of many developing countries such as Nigeria; employing a large chunk of the rural population. As in many developing economies, the rural population in Nigeria is geographically dispersed and isolated from knowledge centers. Consequently, Adesina’s reforms in the agricultural sector was arguably one of the major achievements of the Jonathan administration.

Taking technology to the fields

Adesina became Minister of Agriculture in 2011, and within the first three months, he ended four decades of corruption in the agricultural sector, by introducing the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) which provided subsidised inputs to farmers. The GES program also provided support for fish farming, livestock, and mechanisation services.

For the first time in four decades, transparency was introduced into the supply and distribution of fertiliser to Nigeria’s rural farmers. For at least forty years, previous governments in Nigeria had bought and distributed fertilisers without adequate monitoring systems. Due to the lack of supervision, the system became corrupt, thereby undermining the private sector as fertilisers were distributed to rich and powerful men who had taken advantage of the lax enforcement.

In some instances payments were made by the federal government for fertiliser not supplied, while in other instances subsidised fertilisers were resold back to Nigeria’s government and neighboring countries.

Adesina also developed the world’s first Electronic Wallet System (EWS): a platform through which farmers received subsidised electronic vouchers for their seeds and fertilisers via their mobile phones.

The benefits of using mobile phones to connect the diverse stakeholders along the agricultural value chain in Nigeria resulted in an increase in food production by at least 21 million metric tons, while food imports dropped more than a third, thereby creating at least three million jobs.

Through these reforms, rural smallholders were given opportunities to access useful information, such as information on weather conditions, crop prices, data, and general farming advisories thereby improving their productivity and transforming their livelihoods. Other African countries and countries in Asia such as India and China, as well as Brazil, have indicated their interest in adopting EWS for providing their own farmers with subsidised farm inputs. These reforms earned Adesina significant recognition, being named Person of the Year by Forbes Africa magazine in 2013.

High 5s

On Thursday, 28 May, 2015, Adesina was elected as the new president of the African Development Bank (AfDB). He took over from Donald Kaberuka on September 1st, as the bank’s eighth president. Known for his bold reforms and results driven work ethic, Adesina is refocusing the AfDB around five top priorities he has called High 5s, namely: Light Up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.

During the AfDB’s annual meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, on May 24th, 2016, Adesina shared his ongoing reforms, summed up in a new business development and delivery model, including restructuring and decentralisation of operations within Africa’s five geopolitical zones. The objectives of the reforms include greater efficiency, effectiveness and accountability in the delivery of developmental objectives across Africa.

MapAfrica 2.0

Furthermore, Adesina is also utilising MapAfrica 2.0 – the AfDB’s interactive online tool – to afford the global audience the opportunity to observe and appraise the Bank’s projects across Africa.

MapAfrica 2.0 is a dynamic results measurement tool that provides transparent and equal access AfDB work across Africa. It is a tool that allows stakeholders track 800 AfDB projects on the ground and how they interrelate to the bank’s new High 5 development priorities. The tool also helps the bank track its projects and ensure it assigns its resources appropriately.

MapAfrica 2.0’s procedures follow the stipulated standards laid down by the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), which is indicative of the Bank’s commitment to accountability and transparency. These efforts have paid off, as in April 2016, the AfDB was ranked as one of the world’s 10 most open and transparent organisations..

Challenges ahead

Adesina is faced with the challenge of ensuring that there is strong integration among the leaders on the continent, as African leaders lack political will to ensure integration. This in turn undermines the effectiveness of the African Development Bank to achieve its High 5 developmental objectives.

Twenty-nine African countries are listed as fragile states: this directly impacts the work of the African Development Bank. Adesina will have to lead the AfDB to address the sources of fragility so that the regional institution can help build resilient economies.

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About Author

Tolulope Ola-David

Tolulope Ola-David is a Political Risk Analyst specialising in the political climate and social conditions of Africa.