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US Congressional Delegation visits the African Development Bank
On August 31, a delegation from the United States Congress visited the African Development Bank and met with Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina as part of a multi-country visit to West Africa. Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) led the congressional delegation, which also included Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), Representative Terri Sewell (D-AL), Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA), and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA).
The highlight of the visit to the AfDB was a meeting with President Adesina and his Senior Management team. The two sides discussed Africa’s economic outlook, the AfDB’s High 5 strategic priorities to promote growth and development, as well as US business interests in Africa.
Both parties agreed to work more closely together to tackle many of the development challenges on the continent, in particular enhancing cooperation to address fragility, improve rural communities’ access to power and clean water, and to continue to strengthen their partnership to address the terrorism threat.
“I know the US is very concerned about the issue of security − as it should be − but the message I want to suggest is for you to think of this in the form of a disaster triangle. What I mean by that is that in every area where you have the three factors of extreme rural poverty, a very high level of unemployment among young people, and climate and environmental degradation, you always have terrorism,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President of the AfDB.
He urged the delegation to consider the three areas in future engagement of the United States in Africa.
“Combining efforts to radically transform economic opportunities in rural areas is critical to addressing the issue of security. The other one is creating a massive amount of jobs. Once the rural areas become zones of economic misery, they just become zones for people to recruit. As you think of the US policy engagement in Africa, think of those two,” he stressed.
The President spoke of the Bank’s ongoing initiatives to create jobs and empower women and youth.
President Adesina also used the opportunity to send the Bank’s heartfelt condolences on the ongoing catastrophic flooding in Houston and other places in Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey.
He thanked the US Government for its investments in the Bank over the years, recalling that the US has been a very active member of the Bank since 1976. In particular, he highlighted the strong role the US Government has played in supporting the African Development Fund (the concessional arm of the Bank, which supports low income African countries).
The US Government, he noted, has contributed approximately US $4.79 billion to the African Development Fund, making it potentially the largest investor historically in support of the ADF’s work to reduce fragility and strengthen economic resilience on the continent.
Adesina assured the delegation that the US Government was investing in the right institution and the right continent, noting that the AfDB was Africa’s voice when it comes to development priorities.
“If you take a look at the way people talk about Africa, sometimes they are too negative for me. If you look at the growth rate, we used to have a growth rate of well over 5% for more than 10 years, but because of the declining commodity prices, growth rate slowed down. It is going back up now. The point I want to make is that Africa’s economies are very resilient,” he added.
He described Africa as a frontier market, stressing that the Bank was working to fast track the continent’s development through its High 5s strategy.
Adesina emphasized the need for greater support from the US.
The head of the Delegation, Senator Christopher Coons, assured the Bank of continued strong partnership with Africa, commending Adesina for his leadership.
Senator Coons emphasized that US policy toward Africa enjoys broad, bi-partisan support. He said the continent can expect core US development programs in health, energy, trade promotion and youth leadership to continue.
He highlighted the significant role the US Congress plays in setting the priorities of the country, assuring that there is no drastic shift in US policy for Africa.
“We have spent time in Ghana, time in Nigeria, and now in Côte d’Ivoire. Across these three countries, we see enormous opportunity. Yes, the media – particularly in the United States − plays up some of the tragedies and challenges in some places in Africa. We intend to work closely with our African partners now in confronting them. Like you, we also see greater opportunity,” he stressed.
He pledged the US Government’s resolve to being a better partner, a better investor and a stronger ally for the countries of Africa.