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The President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, has pledged to support Liberia’s effort to diversify its economy, with a particular emphasis on the agriculture and power sectors.
Adesina, who led an AfDB delegation to Liberia last week, gave the pledge at an official dinner in Monrovia. He assured President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her Government that the Bank would do its utmost to support Liberia.
Noting that Liberia has made considerable progress in recent years including overcoming a devastating Ebola epidemic, the country still faced challenges especially with regards to the diversification of its economy. He noted that about 50 percent of the country’s population live in extreme poverty, while only two percent of the population has access to electricity.
This, despite that fact that Liberia has huge agricultural potentials, including rubber, cocoa, cassava and rice. “There was no reason for Liberia to be importing rice at over $100 million annually,” Adesina said, adding that Liberia can become fully self-sufficient in rice in less than four years.
On his programme since assuming office on September 1, 2015 as AfDB President, Adesina said that the AfDB is focused on the “High 5s” – priorities to light up and power Africa, feed Africa, industrialize Africa, integrate Africa, and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa.
He described President Sirleaf as a “jewel to Africa,” adding that she is a great source of inspiration for him personally. He described how he listened to President Sirleaf over a year ago in the hallowed chambers of the African Union during its Summit, and was convinced that women were needed in top leadership positions for Africa to make progress.
“The elegance, the poise, the human nature, the pulse of your heart were felt all over the hall. No wonder the world listens to you – we feel your heartbeat for development,” he said, as he told the President “... you are Liberia’s best gift to the world for our common good.”
During the state dinner, President Sirleaf said she believes that Adesina would replicate the transformative successes he achieved as Agriculture Minister in Nigeria in his current position as President of the AfDB.
Working with the Liberian team, President Sirleaf said Adesina as AfDB President has been very quick in responding in just six months in office, as demonstrated by his visit to Liberia.
The AfDB supported Liberia during the Ebola crisis, which claimed thousands of lives from 2014 until January 2016. The Bank more than doubled its budget support resources to over US $56 million, in addition to three other projects that provided over US $18 million in direct support to Liberia, funding for the Ebola Trust Fund, as well as various regional programs. This helped the Government to meet payments to health care workers, fund efforts to halt the epidemic, and then restore basic services
Since 1967, the Bank has financed operations to the tune of over US $1 billion. Its current portfolio in Liberia comprises 17 operations for a total commitment value of US $383 million, with the infrastructure sector that includes roads, energy, and water and sanitation accounting for 53 percent of total commitments.
The Bank approved US $200 million funding for the Côte d’Ivoire-Liberia-Sierra Leone-Guinea regional electricity interconnection project, which upon completion, is expected to increase the electricity access rate in Liberia and reduce the cost of electricity from 58 US cents per kilowatt per hour in 2013 to 15 US cents by 2020.
A US $1-million grant approved by the Bank for the youth employment and entrepreneurship project in Liberia to be launched this month, will support the creation of 40 new sustainable businesses, 40 percent of which will be women-owned, and build the capacity of 2,400 students to better prepare them for the labour market.