The President of the African Development Bank or AfDB, Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina says the bank will give maximum support to Liberia to assist the country’s diversification agenda, focusing on agriculture and other areas, including power.
Dr. Adesina headed a delegation here last week on an official visit to Liberia. He assured President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her government at a state Dinner held at Bella Casa Hotel in Sinkor that the AFDB will do everything possible to support Liberia.
Earlier, during the state dinner on Thursday night, March 10, President Sirleaf said what Dr. Adesina brought to the table as AFDB President was the fact that he has had transformative success in his home country Nigeria as Agriculture Minister.
She said Dr. Adesina knew some of the constraints already and knew what he did to be able to address those constraints to the place where he could say that agriculture has really been transformed. Working with the Liberian team, President Sirleaf said Dr. Adesina as AFDB President has been very quick in responding in just six months of office, as demonstrated by his visit here in Liberia.
President was exceptionally delighted that Dr. Adesina visited at the time frame that he had assured her, on grounds that he demonstrates “a huge commitment which he brings to our effort to enable us move in that direction.”
Dr. Adesina recalled that since 1967 when AFDB started operations in Liberia, the bank has financed operations to the tune of over US$ 1 billion; and the overall current portfolio in Liberia comprises 17 operations for a total commitment value of US$ 383 million, with the infrastructure sector that includes roads, energy, and water and sanitation accounting for 53 percent of total commitments.
Yet he acknowledged that challenges still remain and there were more to be done here, citing examples that only two percent of the Liberian population has access to electricity, while about 50 percent are living in extreme poverty.
Additionally, he said Liberia has huge agricultural potentials – from rubber, cocoa, cassava and rice; and there was no reason for Liberia to be importing rice at over $100 million annually. He, therefore, called President Sirleaf to attention in making Liberia fully self sufficient in rice, expressing confidence that it can be done and it would take less than four years.
In response to challenges across Africa, he indicated that the AFDB has now sharply focused its work on five top priorities for Africa, referred to as “the High 5s,” to light up and power Africa; feed Africa, industrialize Africa; integrate Africa; and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.
According to Dr. Adesina, the bank has approved US$200 million financing for the Cote d’Ivoire-Liberia-Sierra Leone-Guinea regional electricity interconnection project, which upon completion, is expected to increase the electricity access rate in Liberia and reduce the cost of electricity from 58 US cents per kilowatt per hour in 2013 to 15 US cents by 2020.
Already, the bank’s president said, in December US$ 1 million financing was approved for the youth employment and entrepreneurship project in Liberia, noting that the project - expected to be launched this month, will support the creation of 40 new sustainable businesses, 40 percent of which will be women-owned, and build the capacity of 2,400 students to better prepare them for the labor market.
He described President Sirleaf as a “jewel to Africa,” saying further that she is a great source of inspiration for him personally. He said having listened to President Sirleaf over a year ago in the hallowed chambers of the African Union during its Summit, he was convinced that indeed, for Africa to move forward, women are needed in top leadership positions.
“The elegance, the poise, the human nature, the pulse of your heart were felt all over the hall. No wonder the world listens to you – we feel your heartbeat for development,” he said, as he told the president “... you are Liberia's best gift to the world for our common good.”
By Winston W. Parley-edited by George Barpeen