The President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, has called for fair access to COVID-19 vaccines for Africans and said debt relief would help African economies recover faster and better from the pandemic.
Speaking at a virtual event held in his honour as the outgoing African of the Year of African Leadership Magazine, the bank president warned that so long as the coronavirus was unchecked in any part of the world, no one would be safe.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel – it just happens to be a very long tunnel. I am very positive that African economies will bounce back over the next two years, but the speed of recovery will depend on ensuring that Africa gets enough vaccines for its population,” Adesina said.
“The world must not short-change Africa on access to vaccines,” he added.
He also said significant debt relief would be key to accelerating African economies’ recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
“To recover faster, Africa will need significant debt forgiveness from bilateral and official creditors,” he said during the virtual event attended by Douye Diri, the Governor of the Nigerian state of Bayelsa, and Benoy Berry, Chairman of Contec Global Worldwide.
Adesina added: “While developed countries have been spending trillions of dollars for fiscal stimulus, Africa does not have such resources. The payment for vaccines is already adding to the already high debt burden.”
A highlight of the conversation was Adesina’s induction into the magazine’s African Leadership Hall of Fame for “raising the performance bar” in Africa.
African Leadership Magazine Chairman Ken Giami said the African Development Bank had scored some outstanding achievements in 2020 under President Adesina and had “infected” Africa with optimism.
Giami said: “ALM feels very proud of the President’s contribution as he has raised the performance bar for future African of the Year winners. Indeed, his award was a call for greater service to the people, especially at a time when Africa needed true leadership.”
Adesina vowed that the African Development Bank, in collaboration with its partners, would continue to lead Africa’s recovery and development after the pandemic, with a focus on youth, women and healthcare.
“Together, we will create new opportunities for African youth and trigger a youth-based wealth system for Africa. Together, we will ensure that we deliver financing for African women,” he said in his concluding remarks.
He stressed: “Together, we will support Africa to build world-class, quality healthcare infrastructure, while ensuring also that the continent builds its pharmaceutical and vaccine industrial production.”
African leaders who have previously won the African Leadership Magazine African of the Year award include former Liberian President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (2011); Sudanese businessman Mo Ibrahim (2012); former Vice President of Nigeria Atiku Abubakar (2013); former President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete (2014); Tanzanian businessman and philanthropist Mo Dewji (2016); and President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame (2017).