This year’s celebration of Africa Day – the annual commemoration of the 1963 founding of the African Union (AU) – is themed ‘Silencing the Guns’, to convey the AU Commission’s advocacy for peace and security as the foundation for socio-economic development.
As the African Development Bank Group joins in a continentwide celebration of Africa Day, it seems fitting to reflect on the institution’s own efforts and its successes in spurring sustainable economic development and social progress across the continent and reducing poverty over the last 56 years.
The Bank has made creation of jobs for youth a central priority.
In 2018, the Bank and partners rolled out Coding for Employment (CfE), an online platform that trains youth in demand-driven Information and Communications Technology and matches graduates directly with employers. CfE’s establishment has been proven prescient by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is accelerating the shift toward digitization of many work processes. During the week of 17 to 25 March, with the pandemic underway, the platform’s users jumped 38.5%.
The African Development Group’s High 5s to Light Up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the Lives of the People of Africa support African countries’ achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Meeting these goals will ensure achievement in Africa of 90% of the SDGs.
On the energy front, since 2015, an additional 20 million people have gained access to electricity.
Seventy-four million people have benefited from improved agricultural technologies, including 100,000 farmers who gained access to new technologies under initiatives like Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT), a Bank partnership with the Gates Foundation and others. A TAAT project in Sudan nearly doubled Sudan’s wheat production over one year by increasing farmer access to high-yielding, heat tolerant seeds.
Through 2018, Bank projects to industrialize Africa have benefited 1.2 million people, adding more than $350 million to the turnover of small and medium businesses and improving their access to finance.
The Bank has improved lives by enabling 52 million Africans to gain access to improved water supply and sanitation services through an estimated $6.2 billion in investment in water supply and sanitation services.
The Bank has advanced closer intra-African trade by financing the building of roads, ports and other infrastructure. Reducing African dependence on trade with other regions, which is a central Bank goal, will be integral to building economic resilience. That point was driven home by Bank VP Khaled Sherif during a recent webinar. “We are dealing with a set of exogenous shocks that Africa has never seen. This is not a crisis caused by the coronavirus, because the coronavirus has not spread substantially across the continent.”
The Bank’s commitment to stronger African integration is most clearly demonstrated by the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area. The AfCFTA is projected to be the largest Free trade area in the world, uniting 55 African countries and generating more than $2.5 trillion in GDP, and expanding intra African trade from its current 16% level. More than any other development, the AfCFTA embodies the ethos of Africa Day: “to bring together the people of Africa, reaffirm their faith in integration and popularize the ideal of a united continent.”
A pacesetter for African development
As membership has grown, and African economies have become more advanced, the Bank has kept pace, raising its general capital through a successful 2019 increase to $207 billion and securing a $7.6 billion replenishment, up 32%, for the African Development Fund to match greater ambitions.
The Bank, which maintains a Triple A credit rating from all three agencies, also takes a lead role in shifting paradigms, innovation and pacesetting for Africa’s development. For instance, in 2018 the Bank launched Room2Run, a pioneering $1 billion synthetic securitization of a portfolio of its seasoned private sector loans to serve as a model for other multilateral development banks and investors as they seek new ways to release much-needed capital to impact financing and catalyze private capital in developing markets.
As a result of a shift in the institution’s focus, private-sector led development has significantly contributed to Africa’s rapid economic growth over the past decade. And the Bank’s embrace of renewable energy as a path to strengthen climate and political resilience has been influential. Governments increasingly prioritize solar, hydropower and wind projects. The Bank has played a groundbreaking role in developing and floating social bonds as a tool to advance sustainable energy financing.