A Dialogue with Honorable Dr. Akinwumi Adesina

Adesina

Photo: Honorable Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, AfDB

On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, Corporate Council on Africa hosted the webinar series on “Navigating the Impact of COVID-19,” featuring Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB). The discussion was introduced by Corporate Council on Africa President and CEO Florizelle Liser and moderated by Peter Sullivan, Managing Director and Head of the Public Sector Group for Africa, Citi Bank.

Dr. Adesina urged that, as we navigate COVID-19, we leave no one behind, calling for greater partnerships between multilateral institutions, more investment in healthcare systems in Africa, and more attention to underlying inequalities.  “Our collective humanity is at stake,” he stated, “… we are all weak and vulnerable.”

Adesina discussed the objectives and impact of the AfDB’s $10 billion COVID-19 Response Facility, stating that it could help countries with resources equivalent up to 2.8 percent of their GDPs. This would help mitigate approximately $22 billion to $88 billion GDP loss in Africa and the need for $158 billion in additional financing.  The Facility provides countries with liquidity, stabilizes their economies, provides resources to buy medical supplies, and protect jobs. The $10 billion Facility will allocate $5 billion to assist AfDB countries through a non-concessional window, $3.1 billion for countries accessing the African Development Fund window of the bank, and $1.4 billion to support the private sector.

Dr. Adesina addressed the underinvestment in Africa's healthcare sector stating that “the eye that cries, needs to see too.”  In order to address this issue, the AfDB, with the support of Citibank , launched a $3 billion COVID-19 social bond and facility, provided a $2 million grant to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and offered $73 million to support regional economic communities in Africa.

Over the longer term, Africa needs to strengthen its “health infrastructure sector defense" and to develop its own pharmaceutical industry. He stated that as a bank, the AfDB has a comparative advantage in infrastructure development and must help develop high quality African-focused healthcare infrastructure. Going forward, he sees a unique opportunity for U.S. businesses to work with AfDB in quality healthcare infrastructure on the pharmaceutical side.

Dr. Adesina described his outlook as one of “considered or prudent hope,” pointing out that the investment fundamentals in Africa are still strong. 

Adesina believes that investment in primary healthcare infrastructure is fundamental for addressing public health needs as well as investment in secondary healthcare such as centers of excellence and mobile health. He emphasized the importance of food security by highlighting the AfDB's Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) Facility, a platform used to deliver technology to farmers, and the importance of regional strategic reserves to supply food. He further advised that given current oil shocks, African countries need to diversify their economies, and he called for an increase in social protection programs and COVID-19 testing.

Ms. Liser closed the discussion by acknowledging the key role that AfDB plays in providing resources for the Africa public and private sector.