The Strides of Akinwumi Adesina through the Light Up Africa Initiative

The name of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina is known to many Nigerians simply as the former Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria but he has set himself apart in the service of the entire continent of Africa, since the time he took over the helm of affairs as the President of the African Development Bank.

Dr. Adesina is US trained, with a PhD in agricultural economics from Purdue University, where he received the Outstanding PhD Thesis award. He worked for a decade with the Rockefeller Foundation, New York, has been a close collaborator of Bill and Melinda Gates and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Adesina is well known all across the US where he has developed, over decades, strong partnerships, cutting across universities, Foundations, government agencies and private sector and investment funds. 

He was awarded the World Food Prize in 2017 by the World Food Prize Foundation based in Des Moines, Iowa, for global leadership in food and agriculture, especially for Africa. The Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence wrote a personal letter to Dr. Adesina to celebrate his award of the World Food Prize and said of him “Dr. Adesina, your leadership embodies the American virtues of hard work and self-determination. From your upbringing in challenging circumstances to your academic training at Purdue University, your life experience and dedication inspires many people around the world. On behalf of President Donald Trump, I extend my heartfelt congratulations as you receive this important award. The United States is committed to food security, and will like to continue to work with leaders like you to find innovative ways to end global hunger. Thank you for your commitment and contributions for making the world a better place”. 

Bill Gates celebrated the award of the World Food Prize to Dr. Adesina and called Adesina’s donation of his $250,000 laureate cash award to set up a Fund to support young people in Africa in agriculture, as one of his seven memorable moments of 2017. 

He was named African of the Year by Forbes Africa, twice, in 2014 and 2019, respectively. He was named the African Person of the Year by the Africa Leadership Magazine, in an open and competitive poll across Africa, garnering 60% of votes.  

Adesina was awarded the globally prestigious Sunhak Peace Prize in 2019 for his global leadership on promoting global peace and good governance. He also donated his $500,000 laureate cash prize to establish the World Hunger Fighters Foundation, to advance his drive to end global hunger and develop the youth to become hunger fighters. 

Dr. Adesina was listed among the 100 Most Reputable People in the World in 2019 by the Reputation Poll.

Since his election as President in 2015, Dr. Adesina has led the Bank to impressive giant strides. Armed with a sharp vision for a much improved quality of life for Africans, he launched 5 priorities (High 5s) for Africa’s accelerated development.

The High 5 priorities – Light Up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Integrate Africa; Industrialize Africa; and Improve the Quality of Life of the People of Africa- are rapidly transforming Africa and have received massive support all across Africa and globally. 

An independent analysis by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has shown that achieving these High 5s will allow Africa to achieve 90% of the Agenda 2063 and the SDGs.

In the area of Light Up and Power Africa, 18 million people were provided with access to electricity, through this initiative. One of the laudable projects that has been done in Morocco under this initiative is the  Moroccan Solar Programme (NOOR), which aims to develop a total power generating capacity of at least 2000 MW by 2020. The first project under this programme was the Ouarzazate complex, with a total capacity of 580 MW, spread over four plants. The first plant (160 MW) was commissioned in January 2016 and the others became operational in 2018.

The project in Morocco aims to develop two solar power plants (NOORMI and NOORMII) with a cumulative capacity of up to 800 MW, under a public-private partnership (PPP). The plants will be connected to the national grid and will have a total annual output estimated at 1,886 GWh, thus guaranteeing electricity supply for more than 2 million Moroccans (almost 6% of the total population) and helping to avoid the release into the atmosphere of greenhouse gases equivalent to 0.7 million tonnes of CO2 per year. The project will help to improve the security of power supply in Morocco (where electricity is used by 99% of the population).

Equally, under his leadership, the bank’s Africa50 alongside other developers supported Egypt in the construction of a 37-square-kilometer Benban solar park so large that it can be seen from space, with over seven million photovoltaic panels, and funding of $4 billion. The park will be the largest in the world upon completion.

Similarly, the bank approved a 225 million euros loan to finance Egypt’s Electricity and Green Growth Support Program (EGGSP). The funding, provided in a challenging global context, will help meet the Government of Egypt’s financing requirements in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and support a sound electricity infrastructure base, a key enabler for the private sector and for the country’s competitiveness.

The Bank launched the “Desert to Power Initiative” aimed at developing 10,000 Megawatts of solar power all across the 11 countries in the Sahel region of Africa namely Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Chad. The initiative will turn Africa into a renewable energy powerhouse.

This is expected to provide electricity for 250 million people, 90 million of these via off-grid systems. The $20 Billion investment when completed will be the world’s largest solar zone. It has been strongly supported by all the Presidents of the countries in the Sahel.

With the General Capital Increase, the Bank plans to support African countries to achieve even more remarkable impacts in the next 8 years by aiding not less than 105 million people will get access to electricity.

Under Dr. Adesina’s leadership, in less than five years, the Bank’s investments have benefitted and impacted a total of 333 million Africans – an impact unprecedented since the Bank’s establishment in 1964.

Dr. Adesina has put the Bank on a global pedestal as a globally respected institution. Under his leadership, the African Development Bank has been aggressively accelerating the development of the continent. The Bank, under his leadership, has become much closer to countries on the ground.

The Executive Committee of the Africa Union, consisting of all 55 African countries, unanimously endorsed Dr. Adesina as the sole candidate for re-election for a second term as President. 

Also, all 15 Heads of State of the ECOWAS region unanimously endorsed him for re-election. Recently 14 former heads of state and government of Africa applauded his remarkable leadership at the Bank and endorsed him for re-election as President.

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