AfDB President moves forward to implement Sustainable Development Goals

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African Development Bank Group President (AfDB) Akinwumi Adesina wasted no time Friday moving forward to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) officially endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly that same day. "The SDGs must work - and they must work for Africa," he said in a joint statement with other heads of Multilateral Development Banks.

The new goals are an international agenda for multilateral development banks (MDBs) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to end poverty, boost prosperity and protect the environment.

AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina with Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin.

So Adesina held a series of meetings Friday and laid the groundwork to help deliver on those goals. He met with the heads of major foundations including Bill Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. The core areas discussed were agriculture, youth unemployment and energy.

Adesina discusses agriculture, youth unemployment and energy with Bill Gates in New York.

Before joining the AfDB, Adesina served as Nigeria's Minister of Agriculture so it is an area he knows a lot about. His vision is to build a new framework for agriculture in Africa. He talked about agro-industrialization as the wave of the future for the 54-nation continent and said it is a move that will quickly diversify economies, reduce the food import bill for countries and improve export earnings.

It will have a direct impact on employment too, he noted. "It makes no sense today that Africa is exporting raw cocoa beans. We should be exporting cocoa products," he said. "When you export raw materials, you're exporting jobs."

The foundation leaders whom Adesina met with are already working on some of his key focus areas like fast-tracking access to energy. The Rockefeller Foundation has an ongoing project to electrify rural villages in India and that is just one example of what the foundation can help the AfDB do in Africa.

When it comes to energy, Africa has enormous potential. But, he cautioned, "There is no market for potential. We can't sell potential. We can't power homes with potential. We have to unlock that potential," which can be done by joining forces with organizations that have already had success.

Also on Adesina's agenda, making women and gender equality a priority. On his behalf Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, AfDB's Special Envoy on Gender, announced a lifesaving initiative at an event sponsored by UN Women and the United Kingdom's Department for International Development. It is a new financing facility that provides safe, environmentally friendly cookstoves to women at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Many are often forced to resort to dangerous cooking methods and use hazardous equipment to feed their families.

"President Adesina actually lost a friend in childhood because she was killed through a kerosene stove because there was petrol used in it instead of the kerosene it required," Fraser-Moleketi said. "Hence, his passion around this initiative"

Adesina is in New York City until early next week. He is on his inaugural trip to the annual UN General Assembly meetings as head of the AfDB.