The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, on Thursday charged African leaders to invest more on the youth, their most important asset, to unleash the potential and ingenuity of the youth force for sustainable development of the continent.
Adesina gave the charge at fireside chat event of the 3-Day virtual Conference of Montreal organized by the International Economic Forum of the Americas with the theme ‘A Sustainable Recovery For People and Planet’.
A news report by Africa Press Organisation (APO) Group, indicated that the African foremost development banker engaged in discussion with Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations; and Executive Director of the UNEP, Jean Lebel, at the event.
According to the report, the President of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) moderated the discussion, which covered three areas: the current state of affairs with respect to COVID-19 and climate change, stimulus policies and recovery, and the role of the private sector in terms of recovery.
Adesina reiterated that climate change posed a grave threat to Africans, stressing that “we have to grow differently. We have to have growth that is climate resilient. Adaptation must be at the top of the agenda. The risk of actually dying from hunger is higher than the risk of dying from Covid-19.”
He also shared insights into the Bank’s plans to mobilize $25 billion for climate finance by 2025 as well as a number of Bank initiatives that are addressing climate adaptation, such as TAAT, which has provided Sudanese farmers access to heat tolerant maize and farmers in Zimbabwe, Malawi and other southern African countries as well as the Bank’s ADRIFI programme.
“The other way that one can grow back in a way that is climate resilient is by actually providing the countries with facilities that will allow them to insure themselves against exogenous climate shocks”, the AfDB President stressed.
On the issue of inequality which ran through the discussion, Adesina admitted that the pandemic had worsened inequality in many spheres, education, rural versus urban, and the differences between the genders in terms of access to education and to finance.
He explained: “You cannot grow economies without focusing on women. Women run Africa. Most of them are in the informal sector. They lack access to finance. There’s a $49 billion financing gap between them and men. That’s why the Bank launched a $5 billion initiative called Affirmative Finance Action For Women in Africa (AFAWA), so we can close that particular inequality.”
In her remarks about moving away from a linear economy and investing in nature’s infrastructure offered part of the solution, Andersen said: “Companies that jump into circularity, SDG 12, sustainable consumption and production, companies that do that, will save money, resources will be more circular, they will leapfrog, they will have a market edge, and they would have a lesser need for resource inputs. We’re seeing it in some sectors, plastics, textiles, fashion, and food.”
Expatiating on the climate change phenomenon, the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations noted that “Climate change is an existential crisis,” and one that the planet must face together, with four largest economies accounting for 55% of emissions.
Andersen pointed out that the brunt of the impact will fall on African countries as well as delta and low-lying small economies around the world, stressing that “any recovery has to have a degree of solidarity with it.”
The Conference of Montreal, which runs from 14-17 December, is an event of the International Economic Forum of the America. The theme of the 2020 edition is ‘Bridging a Disconnected World’.