The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, is holding a series of meetings with senior US government officials and business leaders in Washington to encourage increased investment in Africa.
VOA’s Peter Clotti spoke with Nigerian economist Adesina to discuss why he thinks the continent is ripe for foreign investment – especially from the United States.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
VOA: What is your plan to promote foreign investment in Africa?
Edicina: I think first and foremost… remember that Africa – even before the pandemic – has six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world. You also see with the African Continental Free Trade Area which is going to be a free trade zone with 1.3 billion people and a collective GDP of $3.3 trillion… and so when you look at the meaning, you have Large consumer and business spending on the continent is set to increase to $6.7 trillion by 2030. So this tells you that the core elements of Africa are as strong as ever. And so basically my mission in the US is to encourage the US private sector to invest in Africa in a big way – especially in infrastructure and energy in terms of renewable energy and digital infrastructure.
So basically, our role as the African Development Bank is to tell the investment story of Africa. Second is to really give investors confidence that they can invest because we can help source deals, we can design bankable projects, we can do riskier projects and we can make sure That governments really do do the right thing in terms of business investment. and regulatory environment.
VOA: Speaking about the pandemic, you have been very vocal on the issue of vaccine inequality. Why this attitude?
Edicina: I have been quite vocal about access to vaccines. Check it out in Africa today. Only 24 million Africans have been vaccinated. And so, you have a continent that is not being treated fairly in terms of equality with respect to vaccination. And that’s because you have a situation where the developed countries bought all the vaccines, advanced procurement agreements, closed it.
And so the key is really making sure that Africa doesn’t go through this again. So, we want to make sure we’re dealing with this in three ways. First, encouraging global vaccine manufacturing companies to move to Africa, and I think we’re making some good progress there. You need to build up your indigenous R&D capability. And at the African Development Bank, we are working to support Africa in this right now. We need an African health care defense system.
See it as a defense system that requires more investment in pharmaceuticals, more investment in vaccine manufacturing on the continent, but at the same time with greater investment in quality health care infrastructure – primary health care, secondary, Includes tertiary health care infrastructure and clinical facilities. So those three things have to work in tandem to secure Africa’s health.
VOA: One of the annual major events of the African Development Bank, which has attracted significant investor interest from around the world over the past three years, is the Bank’s Market Day, held in December. Tell me a little more about that and your expectations for this year.
Edicina: Africa Investment Platform has become Africa’s leading investment market. And what makes it very distinctive is that there is actually no speech at these meetings. You know, it’s all transactions, deals and deals and deals.
What investors will tell you is, ‘why would I want to invest in Africa because I really don’t know if they are bankable projects or not.’ Well, we’ve shown that there are indeed bankable projects. In 2018, when we had the first premier edition of the Africa Investment Forum, we were able to raise $38.7 billion in investment interest in Africa on bankable projects in less than 72 hours. Just think this. And we did it again in 2019 and were able to secure US$40.1 billion of investment interests. And that means there are indeed investment opportunities.
Of course, things were really affected by the COVID-19 situation; However, now going back to the Africa Investment Forum Market Days for 2021, the event will be held on 1-3 December in Abuja under a hybrid model. We will have some people in Abidjan who will connect with others globally. We will be running investment boardroom sessions where we will engage investors, project developers, insurance companies, legal facilities and banks who can help co-finance or syndicate or risk projects that are going to happen with all the heads of state. Everyone is now eager to accelerate investment in Africa.
VOA: You have been vocal about the importance of renewable energy, climate resilience, adaptation and mitigation, as well as emerging technology. How do you see Africa adapting to these issues?
Edicina: Well, quite honestly, we have to. we have no choice. Africa contributes only 3% or no more than 4% of greenhouse gas emissions. But now we really have to deal with its negative consequences. For example, the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was scary. It basically says that Africa will be dry, very hot. This would probably make some parts of Africa almost uninhabitable. I think we have to answer this very quickly.
Part of the answer is the African Development Bank and the Global Center for Adaptation, headed by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. We established the African Adaptation Acceleration Program. This is to raise an additional $25 billion dollars for adaptation in Africa. We aim to reach 30 million farmers and herders in Africa with digital climate advisory services that will enable them to be well informed and therefore be able to adapt to climate change. From other parts of the Bank’s work, which is on agriculture, we are today providing access to farmers with drought tolerant maize varieties throughout East Africa and Southern Africa.