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Speech Delivered by Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank at the Joint High-Level Meeting of the United Nations and the African Development Bank Group, United Nations General Assembly Summit, September 22, 2019


Your Excellencies Heads of State and Governments, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the Deputy UN Secretary General, Heads of UN Agencies, Honorable Ministers, Ambassadors, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

Good afternoon!

 I wish to thank my Dear sister, the Deputy UN Secretary General, Amina Mohammed, for co-hosting this event with me, organized by the United Nations and the African Development Bank. And we are grateful to your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, all of you the leaders for joining us here today.

When leaders arise, challenges are surmounted, impossibilities give way to possibilities, and hopes and aspirations for the future are brought forward to today. As I look around this hall today, I am encouraged that the leaders are here.

In my language, we say that “elders cannot be in the open market and the head of the baby slumps on the back of the mother”.

At current pace, Africa is not likely to meet the SDGs. As the UN Secretary General, Mr. Guterres told me when we met “if Africa does not achieve the SDG, the world will not achieve the SDGs”.

 It is clear: “the head of the baby is slumping on the back of the mother”. We need you, the elders: our leaders.

The clock is ticking, the seconds are passing very fast. Yet, we still have time left on the clock. We can still close the gap and deliver the SDGs.

I am fully convinced that with a change of pace, driven by a greater sense of urgency, and global collective responsibility, Africa can still achieve the SDGs.

It is this race against time, and a determination to do all we can to help Africa, that drives us at the African Development Bank.

And we have the right plan and it is working. The Bank’s High 5 priorities - Light Up and Power Africa, Feed Africa, industrialize Africa, integrate Africa, and improve the quality of life for the people of Africa – are already helping to fast-track the SDGs and the Agenda 2063 in Africa.

The United Nations Development Program has clearly shown that achieving these High 5s will allow Africa to achieve about 90% of the SDGs. So, the faster we deliver on the High 5s, the faster we will reach our goal and desired destination.


Your Excellencies let me share with you some of the progress being made. In the past four years, the Bank has helped to connect 16 million people to electricity across the continent. We are investing well over $15 billion to ensure that Africa is lit up – investing in every single country.

The Bank has launched the Desert to Power Initiative to help provide universal access to electricity across the 11 countries of the Sahel. I wish to thank President Kabore and all the Heads of State of the G5 Sahel countries for their remarkable leadership and support just last week when the initiative was presented to the G5 Sahel Presidents in Ouagadougou.

The initiative has the goal of providing access to electricity for 250 million people, 90 million of them through off-grid systems.



The Bank’s Feed Africa agenda has helped to provide, in just four years, agricultural technologies to 70 million farmers assuring food security - a critical SDG goal.

The Bank’s investments in hard infrastructure, including roads, highways, ports and airports are also helping to improve transport connectivity, which is critical for trade, investments and economic activities.

Over the past four years, we’ve helped to provide 55 million people with access to improved transport, by investing in quality infrastructure.

Today, the Senegambia Bridge connects Gambia and Senegal - a dream since 1974, realized this year, with the Bank’s full funding. The capacity of the Walvis Bay Port in

Namibia has been doubled, which will drive trade in the SADC region. The 1,000 km highway connects Addis to Mombasa, boosting bilateral trade by 400%.

Together with Africa50, we’ve mobilized $500 million to build the road and rail bridge to link the two Congos- DRC and Congo Republic.

From Lomé deep seaport, to modernization of the aircraft fleets of Air Côte d’Ivoire and Ethiopian airlines, modern international airports in Ghana, Lomé and Senegal, the Bank is helping to integrate Africa - making the dream of the African Union’s Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa a reality, day-by-day.

We are working hard to ensure the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area. That’s why the Bank provided $1 billion to AFREXIM Bank to support trade finance and $630 million to ABSA and First Rand Bank to support trade finance for 20 countries. And we’ve rolled out a $1 billion facility to support small and medium size enterprises that dominate trade.

The Bank’s investments have helped to provide improved water and sanitation for 31 million people in just four years. And the Bank provided $103 million to support Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, who suffered from devastating cyclones.

To support more countries, the Bank has set up an Africa Disaster Risk Insurance Facility that pays premiums for countries to insure themselves against extreme weather events. It works: it has supported  Niger, The Gambia and Madagascar. What’s needed now is for the global community to scale up this facility to be able to support the most vulnerable countries, including the small island states.



To drive access of women to finance, the Bank is implementing the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) to leverage $3 billion in new financing for women. With strong support of President Macron and the G7 Heads of State, we successfully raised $251 million for the initiative at the G7 Summit.

 Without any doubt when women win, Africa wins!

And, the youth must also win. The Bank is implementing a ‘Jobs for Youth in Africa’ Initiative to help countries create 25million jobs for the youth over ten years.

To achieve their dreams, and those of their countries, there is a great need for more private sector investments. The Africa Investment Forum - launched last year by the Bank - helped to mobilize $38.7 billion of investment interests in less than 72 hours.



So much has been achieved in a short period of time together with you, the leaders in this room.

In partnership with the UN and the African Union Commission, we can achieve even much more together, to fast-track the SDGs [PAUSE..]

 Excellencies, here is how…

 With the UN-Women, we can scale up financing for women. With the FAO, WFP and IFAD, we can help scale up food security efforts. With the African Union Commission, ECA, UNIDO, World Bank and IFC, we can help scale up the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones.

With UNDP and UNHCR, we can help deliver more in fragile areas. With ILO, we can scale up skills and jobs for the youth.

And with the UN Secretary General, and you, Madam Deputy UN Secretary General, and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, we can help mobilize global financing to scale up the disaster risk insurance facility for Africa to build a more resilient Africa, and solve the challenge of the drying up of the Lake Chad Basin.


Your Excellencies,

 Yes, the SDGs are daunting. Yet, so much is being achieved that should inspire us. Our collective determination to achieve should become like a torrent that propels us. The SDGs are within our reach, they just require that we stretch ourselves more as we race towards the final laps.

Let’s make Africa stand tall.

I have every confidence that with you the leaders - the elders - here today, the head of the baby will no longer slump on the mother’s back.


Thank you very much!


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