Home > Speeches > Opening Speech By Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina President, African Development Bank Group African Development Group 2021 Annual Meetings June 23, 2021

Opening Speech By Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina President, African Development Bank Group African Development Group 2021 Annual Meetings June 23, 2021


  • Your Excellency, President Nana Akuffo-Addo, President of Ghana
  • Your Excellency, Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission
  • Honourable Governors of the African Development Bank Group
  • Boards of Directors of the African Development Bank Group
  • Senior Management and Staff of the African Development Bank Group
  • Distinguished members of the media
  • Friends of Africa, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Welcome to the 2021 Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank Group.

My very special welcome to H.E Nana Akuffo-Addo for hosting us (virtually in Ghana) for this year’s Annual Meetings. We are grateful to Minister Ken Ofori-Attah, also the Chairperson of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank Group, for his leadership and support for the Bank.

I very warmly welcome my dear brother, H.E. Moussa Faki, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission. Your presence here with us today, is a further testament to the strong partnership between the African Development Bank and the African Union Commission, as we work tirelessly to achieve the goals of Agenda 2063: the Africa we want.

I especially want to welcome you very warmly, our Governors, and thank you for your unwavering loyalty, commitment and support for the Bank. That support makes it possible for us to strongly back Africa, through thick and thin. 

Thank you very much.

Our Annual Meetings are always exciting times. Times when we meet each other, give each other our High5 greetings, exchange and debate ideas on how to accelerate Africa’s development, how to strengthen the Bank, and to position it more strategically and effectively to take on big challenges on behalf of Africa.

I miss those physical meetings. The energy of our collective engagements. The pandemic has changed so many things. Life is no longer the same. Our mode of working and our interactions have changed. 

Yet, I am confident that while the mode of our meetings is virtual, we will ensure that we pack the virtual space with the same buzz, the same drive, the same energy.

We need that energy, as we reflect on the challenges facing Africa with the pandemic and how to support the continent to recover from its widespread effects in the short, medium and long term.

Before the pandemic, Africa was home to six of the fastest growing economies in the world. This changed, as economies went into lockdowns, travel was restricted, tourism dried up, while commodity prices plummeted because of weakened global demand for exports of oil, gas and commodities. 

The effects of the pandemic on the continent’s economy have been massive. Africa’s cumulative GDP losses are estimated between $145 billion and $190 billion. Africa will need a lot of resources to support its recovery. Low-income sub-Saharan African countries alone will need $245 billion by 2030, while all of sub-Saharan Africa will need $425 billion by 2030. 

And the challenge of development just got even harder, as 30 million people fell into extreme poverty, and an estimated 39 million people could fall into poverty by the end of 2021. 

Africa needs strong actions to support its recovery.

The African Development Bank took strong actions. 

We responded quickly and strongly to support African economies. 

The Bank launched a $3 billion social impact bond on global capital markets, which was at the time the largest ever US denominated social bond in world history. 

We announced a $10 billion Crisis Response Facility. 

We provided $28 million to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

We saved lives and livelihoods.

We secured the future.

We turned peril into possibility.

It is still challenging, no doubt, but Africa is starting to move forward, again.

Vaccines are becoming available gradually. Lockdowns are being lifted. Restrictions are being eased. Businesses are reopening. A sense of normality is starting to return. Economies across the continent are on the road to recovery, with an average projected growth in gross domestic product of 3.4% in 2021.

The recovery is conditional on access to vaccines, and the resolution of Africa’s debt. 

Africa produces less than 1% of its vaccines.

Africa should not be begging for vaccines; Africa should be producing vaccines!

The African Development Bank will support Africa to produce vaccines, as part of the Vaccines plan of the African Union. 

The Bank will also plan to commit $3 billion to developing the pharmaceutical industry in Africa. We will leverage our resources. 

We will not work alone. We will work in partnership with others. Together, I am confident we will get vaccines to all in Africa.
The Bank is taking actions to tackle Africa’s debt. 

We have launched a Debt Action Plan and a new Strategy for Economic Governance in Africa. Both will support countries to tackle debt, and to embark on bolder economic governance reforms to forestall a debt crisis.
We commend the positive efforts being made by the International Monetary Fund and the G-20 to address the debt situation, including initiatives such as the Debt Service Suspension Initiative and the G20 Common framework.
We now have a real opportunity to tackle Africa’s debt challenges, more decisively, with the recent decision by the IMF to issue $650 billion special drawing rights (SDRs). 

As agreed by African Heads of State and global leaders at the Summit on Financing of African Economies, called by President Emmanuel Macron of France, $100 billion of these SDRs should be provided to support Africa. I am delighted that the G7 Heads of State and Government agreed to this call at their recent summit.

To use the special drawing rights, we need new lenses, we need new approaches, for these are extraordinary times. 

These SDRs should also be used to direct financing to Africa, through the African Development Bank – a prescribed holder of SDRs – to on-lend to African public development banks, to support green, climate-resilient and inclusive recovery, and the stabilization of the economies. 

Let me be very clear: Africa is not looking for a free pass.

Debt resolution must be reinforced by stronger economic governance, public financial management, better and transparent management of Africa’s natural resources, and mobilization of domestic resources.

But we must not let the pandemic mask the gains that we have made along the way. We must sustain those gains, and do even more to help Africa get back on a faster recovery pathway.

Over the past five years, before the pandemic, the Bank’s High5s have helped to improve the lives of 335 million Africans. 

The continent witnessed an increase in access to electricity for about 20 million people, as the Bank supported the generation of 3,000 megawatts of power. Access to electricity on the continent has increased from 49% to 56% since the Bank launched its New Deal on Energy for Africa. The electricity makes it possible for hospitals and clinics to operate during the pandemic and to safely store vaccines. 

The Bank has launched the Desert to Power initiative, a $20 billion program, to develop 10,000 megawatts of solar power in the Sahel, and provide electricity for 250 million people. This will be the largest solar zone in the world. 

We are expanding options for farmers that were never before thought possible. In Sudan and Ethiopia, the Bank has supported farmers to have access to heat-tolerant wheat varieties that now, for the first time, makes it possible for Sudan to boost self-sufficiency. 

As Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdock of Sudan said “we now grow wheat in drylands where we never thought we could grow it. We have cultivated these heat-tolerant varieties on 800,000 acres, and expect Sudan to be self-sufficient in wheat in three years”.

What an incredible achievement! 

The Bank, together with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, co-convened a global leaders dialogue on Feeding Africa, and mobilized $17 billion to support the scaling up of food security. The Leaders called for the establishment of a Facility for African Food Security and Nutrition to scale up technologies to millions of farmers and to achieve zero hunger by 2030. 

The Bank is taking decisive actions on the climate and green recovery.

The Bank, together with the Global Center on Adaptation, launched the African Adaptation Acceleration Program, to help mobilize $25 billion for climate adaptation in Africa. 

The Bank is supporting African countries to implement their nationally determined contributions, to promote green growth and energy transitions, as we look forward to COP 26 in Glasgow.

The Bank is taking actions to expand economic opportunities for women. 

Through our Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), we approved a portfolio guarantee of $250 million with the Africa Guarantee Fund in January 2021. 

This guarantee will help to unlock up to $2 billion in financing for women-empowered businesses. The effects are being felt in  the countries. 

The Bank is taking actions to unleash the potentials of the youth in Africa. 

The Bank’s Coding for Employment program has already equipped over 23,000  youth in 45 countries with digital skills enabling them to set up their own businesses. 

The Bank is exploring with countries the establishment of Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks. They will finance and grow the businesses of the youth, boost jobs and unleash youth-based wealth in Africa.

The African Development Bank is taking decisive actions to reboot investments into Africa. 

Making the African Continental Free Trade Area work is now more crucial than ever before. The African Development Bank will continue to invest in regional infrastructure, promoting regional integration, including the integration of financial and capital markets. 

We remain highly committed to the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area. That’s why the Bank provided $4.8 million to support the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat.

As we look to the Africa Investment Forum 2021 Edition, the African Development Bank and its partners have already prepared a pipeline of 230 projects valued at $208 billion, to boost opportunities for the African Continental Free Trade Area.

I am very optimistic about Africa.

Africa will recover.

Africa will build back better.

Africa will thrive.

Others share my optimism. A survey of private equity firms by the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association in 2020 shows that 60% of limited partner investors expect to increase their allocations to Africa in the next three years.

There is also great optimism about the African Development Bank.

We are pressed on every side, but we are not deterred.

We operate in one of the riskiest environments, but we remain focused, and determined to support Africa to develop, against all odds.

We are reforming, we are strengthening our institution, we are deepening our development impact and effectiveness.

Honourable Governors,

I have some good news…

The African Development Bank was named as the “Best Multilateral Financial Institution in the World for 2021” by Global Finance, the prestigious U.S. Magazine.

The African Development Fund (the Bank Group’s concessional lending institution) was ranked by the Centre for Global Development as the second best in the world, among 49 multilateral and bilateral institutions providing concessional financing globally, for the quality of its development assistance.

These recognitions point to the quality of the work of the Bank, quality and strength of our governance, our responsiveness to the needs of our regional member countries, and the effectiveness of our delivery and impacts. 

They also reflect the high levels of dedication and commitment of the staff and the Boards of Directors of the Bank, as we continue to work relentlessly, to improve our operations, strengthen the institution, to accelerate Africa’s development, while assuring the financial sustainability of the Bank. 

We are here for a purpose: to fast-track Africa’s development.

As shareholders, and Governors of the Bank, your support is what keeps us going.

Your confidence inspires us. 

Your strong financial support keeps us afloat, to swim even in stormy tides.

Your wise counsel/words of advice, helps us to chart even better paths, for ourselves, and for the continent we all serve, selflessly.

Africa deserves our stronger actions and support for a much better future!

Honorable Governors: 

Africa is standing on the cusp of a whole new exciting era. 

No matter how steep the mountain, together we will reach the top. 

From there we will clearly see the Africa we want: a fair and equitable continent where progress is shared by all. 

Our resolve is stronger than the challenge thrown at us by the pandemic.

We are resilient.

Africa’s brighter future beckons. 

And we are ready!

Thank you very much.