African Development Bank decentralizes structure and reframes key issues

Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank. Photo by: AfDB

NAIROBI —  The African Development Bank is decentralizing its structure and repackaging how it tackles key issues in development, as part of implementing it’s new 10-year strategy, bank representatives said this week at their Business Opportunities Seminar in Nairobi, Kenya.

Bank President Akinwumi Adesina, formerly Nigeria's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, is pushing to bulk up local offices, reframe the continent’s agriculture sector around commercialization, and target unemployment through vocational and technical training.

The new strategy, which runs from 2016 to 2025, is called the “High 5” Agenda. The key priorities in the strategy include electrifying, integrating, and industrializing the continent, ensuring food security, and improving the quality of life for Africans.

The bank is moving forward on its projects amidst a backdrop of decreased funding, Valerie Dabady Liverani, division manager of AfDB’s Resource Mobilization and Partnerships Department, told Devex. Luckily, it recently signed a framework agreement with the European Union, currently valued at about $512 million.

“This, for us, is a landmark, because it allows us to get access, in very tough economic times, to grant financing for projects,” said Dabady Liverani.

Here’s a rundown of some of the immediate practical changes to bank priorities.

1. Decentralizing bank operations to regional offices

AfDB is localizing, moving its structure away from its headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, to enhance the capacity of its five regional offices. The rationale is for sector specialists to be more accessible to clients at the local level. Offices can tailor their approaches to the specificities of each country, Dabady Liverani told Devex. Responsibilities will be devolved to regional director generals and deputy director generals.

For example, the Nairobi office has been receiving many employees from headquarters in the last few months, who are having their roles decentralized, she said during one of the seminar’s presentations.

“It means we can design interventions that are more responsive,” Patrick Kanyimbo, AfDB’s principal regional integration officer, told the audience.

2. Refocusing agriculture around commercialization

“Agriculture should be seen as a business,” said Dabady Liverani. This means a focus on agro-processing, and more broadly, looking at strengthening and integrating the commodity value chain. AfDB aims to see a move away from subsidence farming, which is not well organized or integrated, said Dabady Liverani.

The continent imports around $35 billion per year, according to the bank. These net imports are slated to increase to about $111 billion by 2025. To prevent this sharp increase, efforts need to be made to bring African products fully to market, she said.

For instance, Africa’s share in global production of cocoa beans is 73 percent, in comparison to 16 percent in ground cocoa.  

“I think of Hershey’s bars, or Mars bars, which are obviously well known. There is no reason that the country that exports the most cocoa in the world, Côte d'Ivoire, shouldn’t be branding its own chocolate bars,” she said.

AfDB’s Agriculture and Agro-Industries Department is supporting Angola, Senegal, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria with design and finance of agro-Industrial zones or agricultural growth poles, which are simultaneous, coordinated investments to support self-sustaining industrialization. This includes projects such as the $100 million DRC Bukanga Lonzo agro-Industrial park and the $120 million Cote D’Ivoire agricultural growth poles.

3. Moving into skills training to counter youth unemployment

The bank is also prioritizing tackling the continent’s crippling youth unemployment problem through technical and vocational trainings, including a specific strategy on jobs for youth.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, the bank will launch an Enabling Youth Employment Index, which will measure employment outcomes and policies at the national level. It also put in place a Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation fund to mobilize resources and promote investments for youth entrepreneurs. In 2018, the bank will launch an innovation lab to incubate enterprises and provide support, with a focus in areas where youth are migrating from their homes, giving them a reason to stay.

For more of Devex’s coverage of the AfDB, check out our data series on bidding for contracts with the bank.

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About the author

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    Sara Jerving

    Sara Jerving is Devex's East Africa Correspondent based in Nairobi. She is a reporter and producer, whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Vice News, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Nation magazine, among others. Sara holds a master's degree in business and economic reporting from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was a Lorana Sullivan fellow.