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Adesina And The African Development Challenge

By Kamal Tayo Oropo
31 May 2015   |   3:41 am
WITHOUT doubt, outgoing president, Dr. Donald Kaberuka, has done well for the African Development Bank (AfDB), but matching and surpassing that is not expected to be much of a task for the newly-elected president, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, who against the backdrop of proven track record is sure to be a round peg in a round…


WITHOUT doubt, outgoing president, Dr. Donald Kaberuka, has done well for the African Development Bank (AfDB), but matching and surpassing that is not expected to be much of a task for the newly-elected president, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, who against the backdrop of proven track record is sure to be a round peg in a round hole. Yet, the task of consolidating on Africa growth rate and ensuring its inclusiveness is what cannot wait till September 1, when the new helmsman takes over the rein of leadership.

Adesina will have to guide the bank through the continent’s increasingly complex financial environment, where nations are turning to non-traditional partners like China and international financial supermarkets for survival.

African countries have increased their calls for fair trade practices and are beginning to show more interest in multilateral trade negotiations, a bargaining game, which has several implications. First, there is the need to bring ranked priorities to the negotiation table, preferably based on calculated gains and losses from various outcomes of previous attempts. Understanding the impact of various methods of trade liberalisation is important if an economy is to maximise its gains from multilateral negotiations. This is particularly critical in the negotiations on agriculture, where modalities have a large influence on the likely outcome of the process and where Adesina is popular.

Second, there is the need for countries with similar interests to unite and seek common positions on some of the issues in order to gain negotiating power. This unity has over the years proven to be the Achilles heels of various economies in African. Commitment to an umbrella group to defend their key interests may suffice under the new regime. There has also been an increase in efforts by African countries to form common positions on key issues and to maximise their gains from the negotiation process.

It is the AfDB’s fortune that its new boss, elected on Thursday during the bank’s Annual General Meeting in Abidjan, has over 20 years of experience in African agriculture, development policy and rural development. He won the Rockefeller Foundation’s Social Science Research Fellowship in 1988, which initiated his career in international agricultural development. He has worked in senior research positions in international agricultural research centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

Adesina also helped to design, inspire and galvanise support for the landmark Africa Fertilizer Summit. He was at different times consultant on agricultural development issues in Africa by the World Economic Forum, World Bank and African Development Bank, among other institutions.

One of the challenges facing African countries is how to deal with the lack of capacity to conduct research on the impact of various proposals in the negotiations on their economies. In this regard, one would expect the Adesina-led AfDB to further cement collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), in particular.

From various perspectives, based on the key interests of Africa in the ever shifting global economy, emphasis is on the relative importance of the three pillars of the agriculture negotiations, comprising market access, export competition and domestic support; non-agricultural market access as it relates to manufacturing, as well as, trade facilitation.

The Challenge Of Driving Growth
WITH abundant natural resources, fertile lands, average population density, and a growing and vibrant labour force, there was the conviction that if African leaders create a political, social and economic environment conducive to growth, and take appropriate measures to ensure that the benefits trickle down to the poor, there would be a marked improvement in living standards on the continent.

However, the continent’s promise has not yet been realised, despite flattery growth rate. This is reflected in the fact that the economic growth and performance of the region has been non-inclusive.

Various explanations have been adduced for this non-inclusive economic growth, ranging from poor domestic policies, inconsistency in policy and an inhospitable external environment, which renders most African countries as dumping ground of finished products and exporter of primary products.

Reducing poverty through sustainable growth is still the primary development challenge facing the continent.

While the recent economic growth needs to be strengthened, its sustainability may be in doubt, particularly in West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, which have been paralysed by the Ebola scourge, as well as, East Africa, where political crisis in Burundi, Central African Republic, may yet spiral out of control and throw the sub-region back to the instabilities of late 90s and early 2000s. The continent is also battling the challenge of global terrorism spearheaded by Boko Haram in the west, Al-Shabaab in the east and Islamic State (IS) fundamentalism in the north. The continued marginalisation of Africa in the global economy, and the inability to find far-reaching solutions to the problems created by political instability, brain drain, and high external debt, are also jostling for resolution.

It is increasingly being recognised that the problems facing the continent cannot be solved in isolation. Consequently, there is a need for the international community to be more involved and engaged in the dialogue on how to free the continent from the shackles of poverty. But how the AfDB helps to reposition the continent to maximize what the world has to offer is key.

Against this backdrop, it is gratifying that the continent increased participation in global economic talks reflects the combined effect of three factors: dissatisfaction with the slow pace of regional integration; the belief that trade, if well managed, could play a critical role in confronting the development challenges facing the continent; and the widespread view that multilateral trade could promote, as well as, spur regional integration efforts in the region. By increasing competition, multilateral trade liberalisation could force African governments to intensify regional integration efforts so as to reduce transaction costs through the development of regional infrastructure.