Lagos, Nov. 29, 2023: Africa will not earn respect globally until we end poverty at scale, says Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank(AfDB).
Adesina stated this on Tuesday, in Lagos at the 40th Anniversary Lecture of The Guardian and the Public Presentation of the Guardian Federalist Papers titled, “Federalism is the Answer.”
Speaking on the topic of the lecture, “For the World to Respect Africa,” Adesina said for way too long, Africa had allowed poverty to linger pervasively in the midst of plenty.
According to him, poverty, is abnormal, especially when resources are vast and when it has been pervasive for so long.
He said Africa should not become a museum of poverty, adding that to reverse this trend, there must be a public accountability component.
Expressing disappointment in the continents current state, Adesina said poverty must not become the comparative advantage of Africa, despite housing half of the world’s gold and one-third of all the minerals in the world.
“Our governments must realise that it is their responsibility to lift all their people out of poverty and into wealth as fast as possible.
“It is doable. We have seen clear examples of such progress in other regions of the world, especially in Asia over the past three decades.
“There is no reason why acute poverty cannot be eradicated in Nigeria and across Africa. We have to become a continent that grows inclusive and well distributed wealth.”
Using South Korea as an example, Adesina said the country moved from GDP per capita that was $350 in the 1960s when it got independence, to approximately $33,000 in 2023.
This, he said, is the kind of quantum leap that Africa needs rather than attempting to alleviate poverty.
“We must really ask ourselves, when will we make the shift that South Korea made from being a country that was one at the low end of the development ladder to a rich, industrialised nation that it is today?
“We simply must turn the tide. Ultimately, we must put ourselves in a position where we also can give. that is how Africa will earn respect,” Adesina said.
Speaking on resources, Adesina said there was something fundamentally wrong in the management of natural resources.
He noted that if natural resources continued to be mismanaged, Africa would remain stuck.
“Consequently, in the midst of plenty, majority of people remain poor. I have urged African governments to stop securing loans backed by their natural resources.
“That is because those natural resource backed loans are not transparent. They are expensive and make debt resolution very difficult.”
The AfDB president said the resources of a country do not belong in the pockets of powerful and rich individuals but for the benefit of the people of that country.
Adesina also said Africa would get respect when it was able to feed itself, adding that a nation or region that begged for food was free only in words but dependent on others for life.
On his part, feeding 9.5 billion people in the world by 2050 would be a big challenge given climate change and a limited amount of cultivated arable land.
He said Africa would play a critical role in this because the continent had 65 percent of the remaining uncultivated arable land in the world.
“What Africa does with agriculture will determine the future of food in the world.
“The African Development Bank has invested over $8 billion in agriculture for the past seven years, which has improved food security for 250 million people.
“The export of raw commodities is the door to poverty while the export of value added products is a highway to wealth,” he said.
Adesina said that the continent would earn respect when it deepened good governance and the rule of law.
According to him, military coups in parts of Africa pose a danger.
He, however said terrorists and peddlers of unrest do not just appear, noting that they were people who lived in extreme poverty, unemployment and environmental degradation.
“Today, 85 percent of Africans are living in or close to a country in conflict. This calls for the strengthening of the overall security architecture in conflict affected areas,” Adesina said.
In her goodwill remarks, Noimot Salako-Oyedele, Deputy Governor, Ogun State described The Guardian Newspapers as a beacon of journalism excellence.
Paying tribute to the late founder, Alex Ibru, she acknowledged the contributions of his wife and children in driving the newspaper forward.
She noted that their unwavering commitment ensured that the organisation did not falter but continued to thrive.
“The Guardian is an institution that has actively contributed to shaping our society. It has played a crucial role in holding public figures accountable and championing social justice,” she said.
Chairman, Guardian, Lady Maiden Alex- Ibru said the interlocking mutually reinforcing fundamental principles of the Guardian were, and are “intellectual excellence, the balanced coverage of events, consistently upholding the interest of justice, equity and the rule of law.”
She said other principles of the organisation include pursuing probity in public life, and actively promoting the best interests of Nigeria and Africa.
“It is upon that seminal anchor that I welcome you to the guardian’s 40th anniversary lecture, ” she said.