Resource-rich Africa has no excuse to remain poor, says AfDB boss

ABUJA, November 30, 2023 – With US$ 6.2 trillion worth of natural resources, 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land, and a vibrant youth population, Africa has no excuse to be poor, according to African Development Bank Group [AfDB] President Dr Akinwumi Adesina.

He said the continent must look inward urgently to solve its many challenges and urged citizens to hold governments accountable for poverty.

Adesina made the call in Lagos where he delivered a lecture to mark the 40th anniversary of The Guardian, Nigeria’s foremost independent newspaper. The lecture was held under the theme, For the World to Respect Africa.

Adesina, who won The Guardian’s ‘Man of the Year’ Award in 2021, stressed that Africa should not be where it is today and urged its resource-rich nations to strengthen good governance, transparency, accountability, and sound management policies to turn things around.

He said considering the vast natural resources that Africa has, it must become a continent that grows inclusive and well-distributed wealth.

“If we manage our natural resources well, Africa has no reason to be poor. We have US$ 6.2 trn in natural resources,” he said. “So how in the world are we still poor? We simply need to pull up our socks, stamp out corruption, and manage our resources in the interest of our countries and our people,” added Adesina.

He explained further: “Saudi Arabia has oil, as does Nigeria. Kuwait has oil, as does Nigeria. Qatar has abundant gas, as does Nigeria and other countries. Yet, Nigeria is the country with the largest share of its population living below the extreme poverty line in 2023 in Africa. Clearly, there is something fundamentally wrong in our management, or rather mismanagement, of our natural resources.”

As an example, the Bank president cited South Korea, which raised its GDP per capita from US$ 350 in the 1960s to approximately US$ 33,000 by 2023. “That is the kind of quantum leap that we need,” Adesina said: “We must ask ourselves, when will we make the shift that South Korea made, from being a country that was once on the low end of the development ladder to the rich, industrialised nation that it is today.”

“I am optimistic about Nigeria. I am optimistic about Africa. I believe in Africa,” he added.

Adesina said: “Africa needs the right policies, investments, infrastructure, logistics, and financing…We must make sure that this is driven by a highly skilled, dynamic, and youthful workforce.” He was addressing the audience of ministers and other senior government officials, former state governors, business leaders, academics, and media at The Guardian event.

The World’s Breadbasket

Adesina said Africa could play a leading role in resolving not only its own challenges but global ones. “While we must deal with bread-and-butter development issues, we must think strategically as we set ourselves on a path to becoming wealthy nations. Our countries must become great contributors to global wealth and development financing for others.”

He highlighted the African Development Bank’s interventions to drive inclusive development in Africa, including boosting food security.

The African Development Bank has invested about US$ 8bln in agriculture over the past seven years, improving food security for 250 million people across the continent. In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which disrupted wheat and maize supplies to Africa, the Bank rapidly approved a US$ 1.5bln emergency food production facility for countries across the continent.

“Today, this facility is supporting 20mln farmers in 36 countries to produce 38mln tonnes of food valued at US$ 12bln. This is 8mln tonnes above the 30mln tonnes of food Africa was importing from Russia and Ukraine,” Adesina said.

“But even as we do this, we must do more than simply producing more food and agricultural commodities,” Adesina added. “The export of raw commodities is the door to poverty. The export of value-added products is the highway to wealth.”

The African Development Bank and its partners have provided US$ 1.6bln to develop 25 Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones to support private sector processing and add value to commodities across 15 countries.

With partners, the Bank this month launched a US$ 3bln Alliance for Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones to support the development of these zones in 11 more countries.

Ahead of the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference starting on November 30 in Dubai, Adesina said the African Development Bank will amplify Africa’s calls for climate justice and greater investment in climate action, including adaptation.

The Bank has launched a US$ 1bln Africa Climate Risk Insurance Facility for Adaptation to scale up climate risk insurance for African countries.

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