By Jimoh Babatunde
PRESIDENT Muhammad Buhari captured what Dr Adesina Akinwumi represents in his congratulatory message to Adesina when he won the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate in Des Moines, the capital city of Iowa, United States of America.
President Buhari said: “By dint of hard work, persistence, diligent efforts and God’s sufficient grace, you have risen above many limitations to emerge as a notable figure and a true champion. Your life story mirrors the resilience of the African spirit and doggedness for which Nigerians are well known”.
Yes as a child of destiny, Adesina’s father wanted him to study medicine but God had a plan for him as he never fulfilled his father’s wish, but God’s, by studying and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics (First Class Honours) from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Nigeria, in 1981.
Recalling how he began the journey that brought him to the limelight and the pride of Nigeria, Adeshina, who is today, President of the African Development Bank, said “my father wanted me to be a medical doctor. I was just 14 years old then.
“Whenever I wanted to take the exams, he would fill the form, with medicine as my first choice, veterinary medicine as my second choice and dentistry, as my third choice. But every time I applied, they would say, ‘sorry, your grade did not make it to medical school, we will take you for agriculture’. My father, who grew up as a poor farmer, would say no! I tried three times and each time I was taken for agriculture.”
After several attempts, his father gave a nod of approval and said “Go, God desperately wants you in agriculture’. Today, he is a globally respected economist and has served as the President of the African Association of Agricultural Economists, as well as on the Editorial Board of several academic journals, including the International Journal of Agricultural Economists.
He was awarded the Outstanding Black Agricultural Economist Award by the American Association of Agricultural Economists. He was a Distinguished Africanist Scholar at Cornell University, USA.
Dr Adesina holds a master’s degree (1985) and a PhD in Agricultural Economics (1988) from Purdue University, United States of America, where he won the Outstanding PhD thesis award for that year. Dr. Adesina won the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation Social Science Fellowship in 1988, which launched him into his international career. A bold reformer, as Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria from 2011 to 2015, Dr. Adesina turned the agriculture sector of Nigeria around within four years.
Under his tenure, Nigeria ended 40 years of corruption in the fertiliser sector by developing and implementing an innovative electronic wallet system, which directly provides farmers with subsidised farm inputs at scale using their mobile phones. Within the first four years of its launch, this electronic wallet system reached 15 million farmers, dramatically transforming their lives.
Adesina, who sees himself as an ordinary Nigerian being used as an instrument by God for whatever he has in mind to do for the ordinary people, believes Africans should fast track development. “I am a very accountable person, God does not waste talents, He gives you the same oxygen to do small things and big things. So anywhere we find ourselves, let us recognize that we are an instrument in God’s hand to do a good thing.”
This explains his philosophy of work that has seen the African Development Bank Group achieve the highest capital increase since its establishment in 1964 when on October 31, 2019, shareholders from 80 member countries raised the general capital from $93 billion to a historic $208 billion.
As President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Adesina launched in 2015 a bold strategy to transform the lives of Africans which he called the High 5s: to Light Up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Integrate Africa; Industrialise Africa, and Improve the quality of life of the people of Africa. The High 5s have delivered unprecedented results for Africa and have already impacted the lives of 335 million Africans.
He launched the Africa Investment Forum, AIF, in 2018 to attract global capital to support Africa’s accelerated development. The Africa Investment Forum is a multi-disciplinary platform that advances private and public-private partnership, PPP, projects to bankability. It also raises capital and accelerates deals to financial closure.
It is an initiative of the African Development Bank in partnership with Africa 50, Africa Finance Corporation, African Export-Import Bank, Development Bank of Southern Africa, Trade and Development Bank; European Investment Bank and the Islamic Development Bank as founding partners.
The unique investment forum has become the premier investment marketplace for Africa, with the last AIF boardroom sessions attracting $32.8bn in investment interest. Under Dr Adesina’s leadership, the African Development Bank led efforts to rapidly protect Africa in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 by launching a $10 billion crisis response facility to support African countries.
The Bank also launched a $3 billion Fight-COVID-19 social bond on the global capital markets, the largest ever U.S dollar-denominated social bond in world history. As a man of integrity, many were shocked when his character was impugned ahead of his re-election in 2020 when he was accused of corruption and abuse of office by some whistle-blower staff of the institution.
Adesina kept his polished posture with charismatic confidence enough to unsettle traducers. He denied all charges as “attempts by some to tarnish” his reputation. The Board of Governors’ Ethics Committee examined the 15-page petition of “impunity and bad governance” touted by the “Group of Concerned Staff Members of the AfDB”.
After fact-checking the Whistle-blowers’ allegations, Adesina’s defence, the process, findings and recommendations of the Ethics Committee, the independent panel states in conclusion: “The panel concurs with the committee in its findings in respect of all the allegations against the president and finds that they were properly considered and dismissed by the committee.”
Today, we present to you Adesina Akinwumi, a child of Destiny as Our Man of the Year.