Akinwumi Adesina of Nigeria is more of an agricultural development specialist than a financier. His vision is based on continuing decentralisation and increasing support for private initiatives. Interview with Maureen Grisot.
If appointed, what would be your first action as president?
I would ensure that the AfDB supports inclusive growth so the lives of the greatest number are improved. To this end, the institution should focus on sectors that have the greatest impact such as infrastructure and agriculture. It will also be essential to convince the private sector to invest more on the continent. This is the key to creating jobs.
Why would you make a good
I lived and worked in 15 African countries, so I know the continent well. I stayed for 10 years in Francophone countries and shall be a bridge between these countries and English-speaking Africa. Finance is not the only skill needed to meet the important challenges. Throughout my career, I gained experience in the much broader field of development. In Nigeria, I have reached millions through projects. I worked at the community level and I am able to connect the macro and micro levels essential for achieving inclusive growth.
What needs to be changed in the way the AfDB operates for it to help Africa really take off?
We must first become interested in the structure of the Bank, so that it can meet all its mandates more effectively. It must have an impact in the country, and I will ensure it deepens decentralisation. African countries can address several other sources of funding. But the Bank must remain their first choice. I want to improve operational efficiency and reduce the time between the selection of projects and their implementation.
AfDB must also rebuild integrity, transparency and accountability. I am also known for being a champion of the fight against corruption all throughout my career. In Nigeria, in three months, I helped to end corruption that had lasted 40 years, and I want to make AfDB the African bank with integrity.
Can you give a concrete example of something AfDB does that other
development banks do not?
AfDB has done a lot for infrastructure on the continent. It takes about $93bn per year to cover the deficit of infrastructure financing in Africa. AfDB has attracted funding in this sector, including creating the initiative Africa 50.
The Bank has done a lot of work in the electricity industry and supported renewable energy while promoting regional integration.
The Bank’s strategy for 2013–2022 has been adopted. In this context, how can the new president pursue his or her own ideas and priorities?
My ideas are perfectly consistent with this strategy. I want to promote inclusive growth by developing the private sector, stimulating regional integration, by infrastructure construction and ensuring good governance. These are the AfDB priorities.
The decentralisation strategy has been criticised for being expensive and inefficient. Do you intend to continue it?
The quality of AfDB projects can be improved only if it is close to its customers. Agriculture in Nigeria is a success because the Ministry of Agriculture is decentralised in the country’s 36 states. Today we have the best performance in this sector, so I deeply believe in decentralisation.