By Ade Adefeko
From a relatively obscure background, Dr Akinwumi Adesina is now a global citizen of repute against all odds. Aside enjoying some ecumenical grace, that’s what happens when preparation intersects opportunities.
Dr Adesina, current President of Africa’s leading financial institution, African Development Bank(AfDB), had previously posted a sterling performance as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development from 2011 to 2015 during the presidency of Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
By the way, it needs be stated from the outset that the intervention here is not to review ‘Against All Odds,’ the latest biographical work on Dr Adesina, written by the inimitable Dr Leon Hesser, the same writer who authored the biography of Adesina’s mentor and father-figure, Dr Norman Borlaug, the man who founded the World Food Prize in 1986, a prize which Adesina himself won in 2017.
Well, for all lovers of arresting prose, here is a clue to wet your reading appetite: it is a 221-page book divided into three parts; Part One- Change Agent(contains four chapters), Part 2- Transforming Nigeria’s Agriculture Sector(contains seven chapters) and Part 3- Leveraging the Success in Nigeria across Africa: the Feed Africa Strategy(it contains four chapters). And that is where it ends!
The crux of this conversation however is to intimate the readers with the five priority areas encapsulated by Dr Adesina as the President of AfDB to banish hunger in Africa, eliminate extreme poverty and help drive continental inclusive growth and organic development throughAfrican Agricultural Transformation enabled by technology and other allied ingredients such as access to credit facilities, improved seedlings, investment in soft and hard infrastructures, among other factors.
These new development priorities known as the ‘High 5s’ under the innovative and inventive leadership of Adesina as AfDB President are meant to stimulate Africa’s economic transformation. These High 5s form a blueprint for the implementation of the Bank’s Ten-Year Strategy- 2013 to 2022 which are: Light Up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Integrate Africa; Industrialize Africa and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.
A bit of digression here. Dr Adesina was elected 8th President of AfDB on May 28, 2015 by the Bank’s Board of Governors making him the first Nigerian to head the organization. He resumed office in September, 2015. Needless to rehash it here again that his stellar performance as Nigeria’s Agric Minister between 2011 and 2015 during the presidency of Dr Goodluck Jonathan was arguably one of the unique selling points that recommended him for being elected as the Bank’s President aside having worked in about 15 African countries and abroad prior to his election as a development economist and agricultural development expert for twenty five years.
Meanwhile, Adesina was recommended for the ministerial position courtesy of the intervention of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his friend, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, former CBN Governor, now Emir of Kano amongst many other notable Nigerians.
Again, Adesina’s nomination for the position of President of the AfDB got the nod of the man who defeated Jonathan, Adesina’s boss, in the 2015 presidential election. Muhammadu Buhari, in spite of the bitter and acrimonious politics that exists between the APC and the PDP, did not hesitate a second to recommend Adesina for the exalted position.
Just like he left his footprints in the sands of time as Nigeria’s Agriculture Minister, especially with his Agricultural Transformation Agenda(ATA), Adesina, a fantastic public speaker, is committed to ending hunger in Africa through his Feed Africa Strategy which is the epicenter of his engagements as AfDB President, among other things.
The Feed Africa Strategy, one of the High 5s, is built around African Agricultural Transformation (AAT) which is modeled after Adesina’s Agriculture Transformation Agenda(ATA) when he held sway as Nigeria’s Agric Minister. The activities of the strategy focus on four ambitious targets namely: contribute to the end of extreme poverty – up to 130m people will be lifted out of poverty, representing 25% of the 550m that are projected to be living below the poverty line by 2025; eliminate hunger and nutrition – eradicate the undernourishment that 240m Africans currently experience by 2025; Africa should be a net exporter of agricultural commodities by 2025, representing the substitution of US$110billion worth of imports.
This shift will involve achieving self- sufficiency in key staples so that Africa can feed itself and move to the top of export-orientated global value chains where it has comparative advantage and double its share of market value for select processed commodities by 2025.
As his own personal contribution to the Feed Africa Strategy and ending global hunger, Adesina founded the World Hunger Fighters Foundation (WHFF) with the sole aim of raising another generation of young food and agribusiness entrepreneurs to help end global hunger and promote agriculture as a business that unleashes wealth for poor farmers. To kick start the Foundation, he committed the cash reward of $250,000 he got from winning the 2017 World Food Prize.
A by-product of the WHFF is the Borlaug-Adesina Fellowship which is meant to inspire young Africans to build and advance their ideas in food science and agribusiness. In July 2019, the Foundation received over One Thousand Three Hundred(1,300) applications from young enthusiasts across 39 countries in Africa, representing all 5 regions of the continent. After a rigorous evaluation process, 10 exceptional individuals emerged.
Against all odds, according to Adesina, the other components of the High 5s are also working. For example, as per lighting Africa, from 2015 to 2018, the AfDB President said the bank had helped connect about 16million people to electricity; in agriculture, he said 70m farmers had been linked to better technology; in transport, which is a way of integrating Africa as well as laying the foundation for the industrialization of the continent, the bank has invested in airports, seaports and roads which invariably has led to significant improvement in the mobility of goods and services and provided better transportation for about 55m people.
All the other components put together, other things being equal, if they are working optimally, there is definitely going to be improvement in the quality of life for the African people. And that’s the ultimate desire of Dr Adesina who conquered the pangs of personal poverty by dint of hard work and personal sacrifices and now wants to banish poverty on the continent and the world at large.
Like Dr Hesser concluded in Against All Odds that Dr Adesina’s amazing story continues, the story of the High 5s is still evolving as well and we hope the launch of his second term bid will help him achieve his goal of inclusive prosperity for farmers and overall food security for Africa.
Ade Adefeko is the Vice President, Corporate and Government Relations , Olam Nigeria Limited.
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