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Let us change the narrative on Africa in the United States -AfDB President

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African Development Bank President Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina has said that a concerted effort to change the narrative on Africa in the United States is necessary to attract increased investments into the continent.

He said the need for advocacy in the United States made having an African Development Bank office in Washington a matter of importance, and that he would be pursuing approval with the Board of the African Development Bank Group.

Meeting with African ambassadors at the chancery of the Embassy of the Republic of Congo in Washington on 1 October, Dr Adesina said: “We are a responsive and solutions bank at the heart of Africa’s development, and at the core of our work as a multilateral development bank, there is a very clear strategy to fast-track Africa’s development.”

In a comprehensive tour d’horizon of the Bank’s priority agenda, Dr Adesina began by thanking the ambassadors for their strong support for his re-election to a second consecutive five-year term last year under the leadership of their Dean, Ambassador Serge Mombouli of the Republic of Congo.

Speaking to the Bank’s core objectives, he drew the ambassadors’ attention to the UNDP’s assessment, which showed that if Africa achieved the Bank’s High 5 priorities, it would have achieved 90% of both the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Promising results at scale

The African Development Bank chief told the ambassadors that the results already spoke for themselves. In the past five years, he explained, the Bank, through its High 5s, had positively impacted the lives of 335 million people. He said that 21 million people had gained access to electricity, 76 million people to agricultural technologies to ensure their food security, and 12 million people had gained access to finance through the investee companies the Bank itself had invested in. He also revealed that 69 million people had benefitted from improved transport infrastructure, while 50 million people had benefitted from improved water and sanitation.

“This is the kind of scale on which we work,” Dr Adesina said, explaining that the desired level of development will not come about by small projects but by those of scale. 

Countering Covid

The Bank chief said the Covid-19 pandemic had made the challenge of development tougher, with 5 million Africans infected by the virus and more than 200,000 lives lost. The Bank, he explained, had moved quickly, launching a $10 billion crisis response facility to provide fiscal support to countries, and going to the international capital markets to launch a $3 billion fight Covid-19 social bond – the largest social bond denominated in US dollars ever done in the world.

Dr Adesina decried the vaccine nationalism by developed countries. He said Africa had only fully vaccinated 24 million people, a mere 2% of its population. “In Africa we have 4.4% of the population receiving one dose, and 1.8 % of the population receiving the second dose. Compare this to 70% in Europe and 56% right here in the United States, respectively,” he said. “So, while developed countries are moving to booster shots, Africa is still struggling to just get basic shots.”

An African healthcare defense system

The African Development Bank president said Africa must learn some critical lessons from this experience. “Africa cannot, and Africa must not, outsource the health security of its 1.3 billion people to the generosity and the benevolence of others,” he stressed. “Africa must ensure health security for its people with a good healthcare defense system. Another virus will come, and we cannot be in this situation where we are not able to respond or where we are the last to be able to get access to vaccines.”

Dr Adesina said Africa must develop its indigenous pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity. He said this was important not only for Covid-19, but also for other viruses to come after Covid-19. As part of efforts to revamp Africa’s quality healthcare infrastructure, the African Development Bank is investing $3 billion dollars to support pharmaceutical and vaccine production on the continent.

Debt management

The issue of debt sustainability also had resonance. The Bank president and the envoys agreed that the75% rise in Africa’s debt to GDP and the continent’s quantum $845 billion of debt was a matter of grave concern. The share of Africa’s debt from private and commercial debt has risen from 17% in 2002 to 40% today. Most of this is high yield short-term debt. 

SDRs

Dr Adesina said the recent issuance of $650 billion special drawing rights (SDRs) by the IMF offered a unique opportunity to support countries going forward. He commended IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva for her role in making this possible, as well as support from US President Joe Biden and US Treasury Janet Yellen.

While Africa is the least resourced region to tackle the continual effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the continent only stands to receive $31 billion out of $650 billion in SDRs. Dr Adesina advocated a reallocation of SDRs by developed countries to developing countries, and to Africa in particular. He commended French President Emmanuel Macron for his leadership by example in recently announcing France’s donation of 2% of its own allocation of SDRs to Africa.

Climate

The group learned that the Bank was spearheading efforts to help Africa tackle climate change; and that it had doubled its allocation for climate finance to $25 billion by 2025 with 40% of its total financing going to climate finance. While Africa contributes less than 4% of greenhouse gases, it does suffer from it and has been found – by the International Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – to be heating up faster than the rest of the world – 10 years faster than originally projected.

“This is why the Bank is responding. We are increasingly applying more of our resources to climate adaptation,” Dr Adesina said. “Today, 67% of all our climate finance is in adaptation, which is the highest of any international financial institution in the world.” He quoted UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ recent commendation of the Bank’s leadership when he said at the UN General Assembly: “The African Development Bank has set the bar in 2019 by allocating half of all its climate finance to climate adaptation. Some donors have followed their lead. All must do so.”

Dr Adesina also spoke about the Bank’s collaboration with the Global Center on Adaptation to mobilize $25 billion for African climate adaptation.

Energy

Outlining the Bank’s efforts to light up and power Africa, Dr Adesina spoke about how the institution was harnessing the extensive sources of solar, hydro, wind and geothermal power. He highlighted the Desert to Power project, a $20 billion investment by the Bank and its partners to create the world’s largest solar zone in the Sahel. It will help to develop 10,000 megawatts of electricity and provide electric power to 250 million people.

Environment

On the environment, the Bank president spoke of efforts to protect very fragile and vulnerable regions of the continent from the impact of climate change. He talked about the Great Green Wall initiative launched by the Bank and the African Union, designed to provide an environmental defence shield in the Sahel and the Sahara against desertification.

Trade and investment

On trade, Dr Adesina said the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) represented a huge opportunity to transform Africa with a combined GDP of $3.3 trillion, the largest free trade zone in the world. He said the size of consumer and business expenditures in Africa would rise to $6.7 trillion by 2030. “Africa is no longer a continent that can be ignored,” he said. “And if you are not investing in Africa, the question I would ask is: where in the world are you investing?”

Infrastructure

The ambassadors were presented with several examples of Bank-financed infrastructure projects that were impacting development across the continent. The Bank has invested over $40 billion in infrastructure, working closely with the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

“The African Development Bank is the largest financier of infrastructure in Africa – far above the World Bank and far above any institution that you can find,” Dr Adesina told his audience. 

Investment opportunities

Dr Adesina said Africa’s massive infrastructure needs presented viable economic investment opportunities for institutional investors in Africa and those from the United States.

“This is the time to change the investment narrative on Africa in the United States,” he stressed. “The African Development Bank is developing strategic alliances and partnerships, taking advantage of the new outlook of new US administration.

“We are working closely now that the US Development Finance Corporation, The Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Corporate Council on Africa, the United States Trade Development Agency, USAID, and of course, the Department of Energy, PROSPER Africa, and the US Exim Bank to launch a new approach of working together to massively direct US capital investments to infrastructure in Africa.”

The African Development Bank president applauded the US government’s Build Back Better World launched by President Biden. He enjoined the ambassadors as African diplomatic envoys in Washington to help to make this initiative a huge success, describing it as a unique opportunity for Africa. “It is time to expand US investments in Africa at scale,” he stressed.

Africa Investment Forum

While on the subject shoring up US investments in Africa, Dr Adesina spoke about the forthcoming Africa Investment Forum, an annual forum organized by the African Development Bank, which has become Africa’s premier investment marketplace. He said it presented the perfect opportunity to attract greater US investment in Africa.

The ambassadors learned that the maiden edition of the forum in 2018 mobilized $30.7 billion of investment commitment interests to Africa – and this in less than 72 hours.

The Bank president said: “Some people used to think that Africa was not bankable, I know Africa is bankable. I just don’t know where your bank is. You should bring your bank to Africa.”

He said that in 2019 the African Development Bank mobilized $40 billion in investment interest – again, in less than 72 hours. This included a $24 billion transaction for liquefied natural gas in Mozambique and will make Mozambique the third-largest producer of liquified natural gas in the world. 

The African Development Fund 16th Replenishment

The African Development Bank president called on the ambassadors to support the 16th replenishment of the African Development Fund, the Bank’s concessional lending window, which it uses to support low-income and fragile states. He said it was desirable that the African Development Fund be allowed by donors to go to the capital market, just like the World Bank Group’s International Development Association (IDA) had gone to the capital market.

“We have equity in the African Development Fund of $26 billion. But we can go to the capital market and raise an additional $33 billion that we can use to scale up support for African economies, especially low-income countries,” Dr Adesina told the ambassadors. “Your advocacy with donor countries, especially the United States Treasury, and the mobilization of strong support for this is crucial.”

A physical presence in Washington

Finally, the African Development Bank chief said the need for advocacy and for changing the narrative on Africa in the United States made having an African Development Bank office in Washington a matter of importance, and he would be pursuing approval of this with the African Development Bank Board. “It is very important that Africa’s voice be heard. It is very important to have the mindset on Africa change,” he said.

Dr Adesina concluded by emphasizing that “Africa was not begging for help. Africa is an investment destination for the United States, and it must be respected by all, as the frontier of investment in the world.”

Enthusiastic support

The African ambassadors showed enthusiastic support for the Bank’s agenda and commended Dr Adesina for his leadership. They decried the imposition of vaccine passports by developed countries, which was found to be discriminatory against travellers from Africa. They agreed on the need to change the mindset of Africa as a welfare continent that only received but rather one that had a lot to offer.

The ambassadors thanked Dr Adesina for his guidance and welcomed the continued technical support of the Bank, which they felt would make up for the technical expertise that they did not necessarily have in the areas of the Bank’s comparative advantage. There was broad agreement that a Bank office in Washington was timely.

The group said they were engaging with the new administration in Washington and found that there was a new mood in Washington – an interest in doing business with Africa. 

MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.

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Sergey Lavrov: ‘If you want peace, always be ready to defend yourself’

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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave an exclusive interview to Sputnik on Thursday, February 2. The conversation took place at a time of heightened international tensions over the conflict in Ukraine.

Mr. Lavrov has answered questions posed by the General Director of Rossiya Segodnya International News Agency, Dmitry Kiselev (photo), on the most pressing issues regarding Russian foreign policy and the international agenda.

Key statements made by Russia’s FM Sergei Lavrov in his interview to Sputnik:

Moscow did not turn to Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) partners with a request for assistance in connection with the special operation in Ukraine. “We have not made such a request to anyone. We proceed from the fact that we have everything necessary to solve the tasks of the special military operation, to end the war that the West started through the Ukrainian regime even after the coup d’etat.”

It seems that the West will supply Kiev with modern military equipment together with foreign combat crews. “All types of weapons that have already been partially transferred, and especially those that have been announced, according to experts, it is impossible for Ukrainians to work on these systems, trained or having passed some two-month or even three-month courses. There are systems, according to specialists, that cannot be trained for in the foreseeable future, and if they are supplied, then most likely it will be done together with combat crews.”

The more long-range weapons are supplied to the Kiev regime by the West, the further they need to be moved away from Russian territory.

Russia wants the conflict with Ukraine to end, but the time factor is not the main issue.

The United States deprives nations of the right to remember their own history; their task is to melt everyone into “Americans”.

The US conviction of its own superiority and infallibility is the main reason for Russia’s current confrontation with the West.

The West is hoping for a strategic defeat for Russia so that it cannot recover for decades.

Nobody is trying to convince Kiev to return to negotiations with Moscow; Zelensky himself does not feel like an independent figure, he is being manipulated.

The presumption that Russia refuses to negotiate on Ukraine is a lie.

The West is now “eyeing” Moldova for the role of “next Ukraine”; its president is ready for almost anything.

The West, on an almost “daily” basis, forces developing countries, including those in Africa, to implement sanctions against Russia;

The ideas of different countries increasing trade in national currencies are emerging because of US actions, which violate all the boundaries of decency with the US dollar.

Relations between Russia and China are superior in quality to a military alliance; they have no restrictions, limits or taboo topics; China already began to reduce dependence on Western financial mechanisms.

Nuland made a confession, rejoicing at the explosions on the Nord Stream pipelines; her words reflect the direct participation of the United States in the terrorist attack.

The United States “crushed” the European Union under itself, depriving it of the last signs of independence.

Lavrov says he is for peace, follows philosophy ‘if you want peace, always be ready to defend yourself.’

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More Americans believe US provides ‘too much support’ to Ukraine

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A growing portion of Americans think that the U.S. is giving too much support to Ukraine, as the Biden administration and other western allies have taken steps in recent weeks to escalate their backing of the country in its war against Russia, notes ‘The Hill’.

About a quarter of Americans, 26 percent, think the U.S. support of Ukraine is ‘too strong’, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. It is a percentage of people that has steadily grown since the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year and has jumped 6 points since September.

The U.S. has sent billions of dollars to Ukraine to support its military in the war against Russia. In a $1.7 trillion spending package passed by Congress late last year, lawmakers included around $45 billion in funding for Ukraine and NATO allies. But the spending levels have come under attack by some Republican lawmakers, who argue the country is opening its pockets at unsustainable levels for Ukraine.

Then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that House Republicans would not provide a “blank-check” for support of Ukraine if his party took control of the House — which it did. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) said on Twitter that President Biden needed to understand the U.S. wasn’t an ATM (automated teller machine).

And as some prominent Republicans have started to sour on the support levels, the poll of 5,152 people, with a margin of error of 1.7 percent, found that Republican voters are following along. A total of 40 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents think the U.S. is providing ‘too much support’, according to the poll. That is up from 32 percent in September and from 9 percent in February 2022.

While Republican attitudes have dimmed on Ukrainian support, they have also come to view the Russian war as less of a major threat to the U.S.

Just 29 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents think the war is a major threat.

In March 2022, Republicans were more likely to see the invasion as a direct threat to the U.S., but now Democrats are more likely to hold that opinion, with 43 percent holding that belief.

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Former CIA analyst: ‘A costly and prolonged cold war now seems a certainty’

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‘No one knows how the war in Ukraine will end, but there is one post-war certainty: there will be a prolonged and costly Cold War between the United States and Russia,’ – predicts Melvin A. Goodman, a former CIA analyst, now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.

He writes: In an interview with David Ignatius of the Washington Post, who has been doing the bidding of the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency for several decades, Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the importance of a “long-term goal of deterrence.” Ignatius took this to mean that the Biden administration will make sure that Russia “should not be able to rest, regroup and reattack.”

In addition to this year’s record defense budget that found the Congress providing $45 billion more than the Pentagon requested, a so-called “emergency” provision will lay the foundation for adding scarce resources to defense spending in the coming year. This provision will allow multiyear, noncompetitive agreements to produce such ordinary weaponry as rockets and munitions.

According to the Washington Post, the Pentagon will now have a way to replenish its stockpiles that will provide a “new golden age” for military contractors.

The Biden administration’s gift to the military-industrial complex rivals what the Reagan administration provided in the 1980s and ensures the country’s rich market for weapons sales. Nearly half of the record defense spending of $858 billion goes to military contractors.

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees made sure that these spending spigots remain open by naming individuals with ties to the weapons industry to a commission that will review the Biden National Defense Strategy. The chairwoman of the commission, former Representative Jane Harman, protected Lockheed-Martin when she served on the Hill and currently is on the board of a military contractor that recently received a seven-year $800 million contract from the Pentagon.

The increased defense spending and the new emergency provision coincide with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s creation of a new committee — the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. In view of the recent rise in anti-Asian violence in the United States, it can only be hoped that Democrats appoint members to the committee who understand the domestic consequences of hyping the threat from China at this particular time.

Our China policy is not working, and the exaggeration of the China threat comes just in time for the hawks in the political aviary who fear that the severe deficiencies of the Russian military in Ukraine is making it more difficult to exaggerate the Russia threat. I’ve been calling attention to the exaggeration of the Russian threat for the past 50 years.

But the policy community, the bipartisan congressional community, and the pundit community can’t let go of the idea that the Soviet Union and Russia present a ‘threat to the national security of the United States’.

The Biden policy ensures a robust military presence on the Russian border that will worsen Cold War 2.0. There will be prolonged and unnecessary increases in defense spending, and the absence of a diplomatic dialogue in those important areas where there is Russian-American agreement.

These areas include a variety of arms control and disarmament issues, such as stopping the proliferation of nuclear weaponry and limiting the use of space in the military competition as well as dealing with insurgencies and terrorism; environmental degradation; and future pandemics.

It is hard to imagine any Russian government willing to pursue diplomatic solutions with a United States that has sponsored a NATO with more than 30 members; a military base in Poland; a regional missile defense in Poland and Romania; and the use of Romanian military facilities close by Russian forces and the Black Sea.

This serious turning point is being ignored by the policy community as well as the pundit and academic communities.”

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