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Year in Review 2021: African Development Bank Group maintains strategy for building the continent’s resilience and recovery in the face of Covid-19

Against the challenges of an ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the African Development Bank’s efforts to support Africa’s most vulnerable over 2021 yielded strong results. The pandemic had a negative impact on African countries, and the Bank was instrumental in building greater economic and health sector resilience across the continent. It committed to support the development of domestic vaccine manufacturing on a regional hub model and is following up on that commitment. The Bank has also been a leading voice for the redistribution of IMF special drawing rights, which offer low- and middle-income countries greater space to manage the public debt that they have accrued over the past two years.

The Bank’s African Economic Outlook, released in March, projected, with caveats, that real GDP in Africa would grow by 3.4% in 2021, and still more in 2022, underpinned by a resumption of tourism and a rebound in commodity prices.

Still, persistent challenges remain. These include holding on to gains made over the last decades in reducing the number of Africans living below the poverty line. This is in the face of the continuing impacts of the pandemic. Management of public debt is another challenge.

Here is a look back at the year’s highlights:


African Development Bank Group President, Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina, was appointed “Champion” of the African Great Green Wall Initiative. In this role, Dr Adesina continues to  mobilize political and economic support for the initiative.

Along with 10 African heads of state and government, Dr Adesina received an award for strong leadership during the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.


The Seventh G5 Sahel Heads of State Summit took place in Chad. Development partners pledged to commit to the region’s stability and socio-economic development.

The African Development Bank presented its new Gender Strategy for the 2021-2025 period. This strategy is transforming the continent’s key sectors into sources of opportunity accessible to women and young people, regardless of their origin, offering them equal access and control over productive resources.


African heads of state and government, together with the UN Secretary-General and heads of multilateral financial and development institutions, called for an extension of the G20’s debt service suspension initiative.

Canada and the African Development Bank signed an agreement to establish a special transformative fund for concessional lending to climate change projects with a gender component.


Dr Adesina participated in the European Union-Africa Green Investment Forum. He said the energy, agriculture, and infrastructure sectors offered key investment opportunities as Africa recovers from Covid-19.

The Bank Group President also attended the 2021 Leaders’ Climate Summit. He warned that Africa is at “ground zero” of the climate crisis.


The mandate of the African Legal Support Facility was extended from 2022 to 2036 at the annual meetings of its Management Board and Governance Council.

The African Development Fund, the African Development Bank Group’s concessional financing window, was ranked second among 49 international agencies for the quality of its development assistance. This was according to the fifth edition of the Quality of Official Development Assistance report, published on the 25th of May 2021.

Dr Adesina received an honorary doctorate from Makerere University in Uganda.


For the second consecutive year, the African Development Bank Group held its Annual Meetings in a hybrid format due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Shareholders showed their support for the institution’s proposed plan to combat the pandemic.

The African Climate Change Fund, hosted by the Bank, launched the third call for proposals on gender and climate resilience on the continent.


Fitch Ratings affirmed the African Development Bank Group’s “AAA” long-term debt rating with a stable outlook.

The Bank issued a second benchmark bond for $2.75 billion.


Leaders of international institutions attending the G20 Compact with Africa Summit noted the disparity in the global economic recovery and the unequal access to vaccines. They called for strategies to accelerate Africa’s economic recovery.

At the Africa-Singapore Business Forum 2021, Bank Group President Adesina said the pandemic should not dampen investor interest in Africa.


The 4th Africa Resilience Forum was held to address the triple challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic, conflict, and climate change.

At the UN Summit on Food Systems, held on the side-lines of the UN General Assembly, Dr Adesina, declared that “zero” hunger can be achieved in Africa by 2030. UN Secretary-General António Guterres praised the African Development Bank’s leadership on climate adaptation, and said it was an example for others to emulate.

The African Development Bank, the Green Growth Knowledge Partnership and the World Wildlife Fund, launched an initiative to integrate natural capital into development finance in Africa. The goal, they stressed, was to integrate natural capital into economic development policies, finance, and investment in Africa.


Dr Adesina said the African Development Bank would include the African Continental Free Trade Area in its national and regional integration strategies.

The Bank consulted with African health ministers as part of the development of a strategy to improve access to health services in Africa by 2030.

International Credit Rating agency, Moody’s Investors Service affirmed the African Development Bank’s long-term “AAA” rating with a stable outlook.


The African Development Bank’s 2021 Annual Development Effectiveness Review summarized the Bank’s response to challenges facing African countries, particularly the health crisis caused by Covid-19.

At the global climate summit, COP26 in Glasgow, UK, between 31 October and 12 November, the African Development Bank launched its Climate Change and Green Growth Framework. Egypt will host COP27 in November 2022.

Following commitments made at the Joint Finance Summit, the African Development Bank and the French Development Agency signed a €2 billion partnership (2021-2026) and co-financing agreement to mobilize additional resources for high-impact projects in Africa.

Construction began on the Rosso Bridge, a regional integration infrastructure project that will eventually boost trade between Senegal and Mauritania.


The 2021 Africa Investment Forum was postponed indefinitely because of health concerns related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Through its unique Market Days event, the forum annually brings investors together for substantial project investment deals. This year’s event was scheduled to take place in Cote D’Ivoire’s capital Abidjan.

The African Economic Conference was held in Cabo Verde from 2 -4 December. It focused on “Financing Africa’s Development Beyond Covid-19.” Participants made strong recommendations for crucial economic and governance reforms to enable Africa to emerge from this critical phase.

The mid-term review of the African Development Fund took place virtually from 7-9 December. It was an opportunity for the Bank’s executive directors and other stakeholders to assess the impact of the Fund’s operations in 37 of the continent’s most vulnerable countries.

Nobel Laureate Esther Duflo, who gave the 2021 Kofi Annan Eminent Speaker Lecture, warned that countries could not rely solely on innovation to address climate change. She said changing consumption habits would also be critical. The MIT Professor and Bank President Akinwumi Adesina agreed that GDP was at best an incomplete measure of countries’ wealth.   

The Bank’s Board approved a $210 million loan to launch the first phase of its Nigeria Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zone Program. Under its Feed Africa Strategy, The Bank will establish processing zones in 18 African countries, including Nigeria, concentrating production, processing, storage, transport and the marketing of commodities in one location to achieve significant efficiencies.

African Development Bank Group

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