Optimist-in-chief: Africa’s prosperity depends on Africans to be able to move freely

Optimist-in-chief: Africa’s prosperity depends on Africans to be able to move freely

Despite general skepticism about Africa’s economic promise, Akinwumi Adesina, the chief of the African Development Bank (AfDB), who has been dubbed, “Africa’s optimist-in-chief,” believes that the future of Africa will defy everyone’s expectations.

The skepticism is fueled by all the recent negative development affecting Africa: Covid-19 pandemic; the Russia-Ukraine war and its pressure on food and fuel costs; macroeconomic challenges that have led to the devaluation of several African currencies. But, “by 2050, 25% of the world’s population will be in Africa,” Adesina said in his opening address at a recent Africa Investment Forum (AIF) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. “Africa holds 65% of the world’s uncultivated arable land and is the largest source of renewable energy in the world… The future of Africa lies in investments, not aid,” he stressed.

In his speech, Adesina also outlined grand priorities for AfDB and its partners: ramping up special economic zones for agro-industrialization; redefining the future of electric vehicles, as Africa has the world’s largest cobalt deposits and sizable lithium reserves too; and unlocking investment opportunities in renewable energy.

In interviews with journalists, Adesina also highlighted the mobility of people, as envisioned in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which he sees as a key ingredient in the future of the African economy. “I believe we cannot say we have borderless trade when we put up barriers for people to travel,” said AfDB chief who stressed that open borders are “good for travel, trade, and investment.”

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