Development Must Necessarily Be People-oriented: Akinwumi Adesina


Development is about people. It starts with people, is accountable to people, and must have positive impacts on people, says DR. AKINWUMI ADESINA.

Welcome to the Delivery Unit Exchange Conference, 2020.

Thank you very much, my dear friend and brother, President Uhuru Kenyatta, for co-hosting this event together with the African Development Bank. I admire you, Mr. President because you are ‘people-focused’.

In the same manner, my dear friend, Rt. Hon Tony Blair, as Prime Minister of the UK, focused on ‘people’. A great friend of Africa, he called at the time for a ‘Marshall Plan for Africa’.

Development is about people. It starts with people, is accountable to people, and must have positive impacts on people.

The challenge for any government is how to accelerate the delivery of results. Yes, we need economic growth, and it’s always a good sign when GDP grows, but let’s be clear: nobody eats GDP.

Growth must translate into meaningful impacts on the lives of people. What we should be measuring is not the quantum of economic growth, but the quantum of growth in the quality of life of people.

This is what President Kenyatta called ‘delivery imperative’ to close what he called ‘the empty space’ between policy and program conceptualization and delivery for people.

That is what motivated me, when I was first elected President of the African Development Bank in 2015, to sharply focus our work on the High5s: Light up and power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the Quality of Life of the People of Africa.

Focus is the foundation for success. In the past five years, our financing has impacted 335 million people.

Some of our investments included the Lake Turkana project, the largest wind power plant in Africa; the last mile electricity connectivity project now connecting over 1.2 million low-income Kenyans to electricity; and the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant in Morocco.

Our work on regional integration supported the landmark Senegambia Bridge, linking Senegal and Gambia, the 1,000 km Addis-Ababa-Nairobi-Mombasa highway linking Kenya and Ethiopia that has increased trade by 400% between both countries.

You can feel the impact of the Bank all across Africa.

We are focused on supporting governments to translate their vision into reality. That’s why the Bank has supported a few African countries to establish Delivery Units to speed up their transformation processes. We are delighted to work on this with the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair through the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

President Kenyatta is rolling out fast, with impressive results, his impactful Big 4, agenda thanks to the President’s Delivery Unit in Kenya. I commend all the Cabinet Secretaries supporting the President to deliver and close the ‘empty space’.

The key is faster, better, results. My experience, both as a Minister in Nigeria and as President of the African Development Bank, has taught me some lessons on delivery.

First, nothing gets done without a very clear vision. The more complex your vision, the less your chances of success. No one can implement what they do not understand.

Second, publish your expectations for the delivery of your vision. This creates accountability and drives an institutional sense of mission and purpose.

Third, establish a culture of accountability. Leaders are elected, but those working under or with them are not. Citizens accountability forums should be used to engage on what’s being done and what’s being achieved.

Fourth, have a rigorous way to measure results. Results power enthusiasm and enthusiasm drives attainment of visions. Public budgets should, therefore, be based on Results-Based Financing.

Fifth, ensure sustainability. We must avoid frequent policy reversals. Political electoral cycles must no longer truncate development pathways.

The Bank is currently developing a new Africa Public Service Delivery Index to rate African countries on the delivery of public services.

The Delivery Unit Exchange will offer excellent opportunities to share best practices and partnerships to improve the delivery of quality projects for transforming Africa.

Africa will rebound from COVID-19. We must now transform Africa, better, faster, with resilience.

Africa’s hope should not be deferred. Africa’s future is now!

Thank you very much.

  • Being Remarks by Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President, African Development Bank, at the African Delivery Unit Exchange Conference, November 24, 2020

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