“At the end of the day development is about people” – President Adesina at UN meetings in New York

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Adesina addresses Africa Leadership Forum

African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina urged participants at a Heads of State dialogue on the African Urban agenda on Thursday in New York to work towards a slum-free Africa, a continent where half its population is urbanized. He announced the establishment of an urban municipality development fund to support the urban agenda, and confirmed that the AfDB was firmly behind the Habitat 3 agenda, where the world will come together to discuss the new urban agenda in Quito next year.

Speaking at the same event, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for African cities to be sustainable, balancing social, environmental and economic considerations. He emphasized that urbanization could be a powerful force for African transformation, while failure in urban design could lead to an increase in poverty.

Expressing strong support for SDG Goal 11, which commits the planet to make cities sustainable, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the Africa Union, agreed that sustainable urbanization is critical for African Development. She pointed out that today, in Africa, 33 cities have a population in excess of 1 million, while cities like Cairo and Lagos are poised to become mega-cities making the nexus between transformation, urbanization and industrialization a central issue. She added that that cities should be cultural, educational and economic hubs, while at the same time peri-urban agriculture needed to be modernized to feed urban populations.

Speaking earlier in the day at the Africa Leadership Forum, Adesina said: "Today, Africa is not industrializing. Actually, the opposite. We are de-industrializing" and that must change. He suggested the 54-nation continent could reverse that trend by breaking its entrenched dependence on export economies. "When it comes to products like oil, gas, agriculture and minerals," Adesina said, "Africa should move to the top of the global value chain in terms of processing and adding value to everything it produces."

He spoke for close to an hour addressing a forum of leaders in business, government and development including Peter Kumpalume, Minister of Health in Malawi; Cristina Duarte, Minister of Finance and Planning in Cape Verde; Hage Geingob, President of Namibia; Olajobi Makinwa, Head of Transparency and Anti-Corruption at the UN, among others.

Adesina made it clear that as the new head of the Bank he plans to carry the torch and push forward the vital and unfinished business of the previous President, Donald Kaberuka. Adesina said two of those priorities are bolstering the importance of gender equality, along with further improving healthcare across the continent. "Ninety percent of all the people dying of malaria globally are in Africa," he said. "That is not acceptable."

While he said the AfDB has done outstanding work in areas like infrastructure development and strengthening fiscal security, there is still more to be done to boost economies and further improve the lives of people in Africa. "At the end of the day development is about people," Adesina said. "We need to make sure the critical business of human capital and social development are prioritized."