AS you were away partying or praying during the Christmas holiday, and reveling on New Year’s night, the pan-African development bank, African Development Bank (AfDB), was releasing a series of reports and updates reviewing 2016.
In September, the AfDB also marked the first year of its new president Nigeria’s Akinwumi Adesina, who took over from Rwanda’s Donald Kaberuka in September 2015.
The AfDB perhaps does the most meaningful work of any multinational financial institution in Africa, especially the type that impacts the small people. But it puts its money in “boring” areas that don’t get headlines, and it is also a typically plodding African organisation that has not mastered how to create dazzle and sizzle.
But in a continent where most headlines about governments and leaders are about incompetence, corruption, election theft, mass murder of opposition supporters, or obsequiousness to China or the West, wading through AfDB’s painfully old-school website provides part of the answer as to why Africa doesn’t fall apart – some people are actually doing game-changing work.
Calling 2016 “a transformative year”, AfDB notes the challenges faced and “significant progress” made.
We hightlight 22 of the insights, gems, and obscure facts from the reports:
•In 2016, the continent’s growth rate slowed down due to a difficult global environment.
•The Bank supported some of its biggest member countries as they dealt with falling commodity prices, approving a budget support worth US $1 billion to Nigeria to help the country deal with declining oil prices.
•Algeria’s industrial and energy support programme got a €900-million loan and Phase II of Egypt’s economic governance and energy support programme was funded US $500 million.
•Africa will have more than 800 million urban residents in 2030 and the figure is expected to multiply to 1.2 billion by 2050. In light of this population explosion, the continent’s rapid urbanization and the growth of megacities comes with a corresponding demand for infrastructure.
•In December, the Bank approved financing for a €769-million project to improve urban transport in Abidjan.
•The Bank approved US $245 million in loans and grants to Uganda and Rwanda to finance a transport project that will boost regional trade and reduce traffic congestion between Kampala (Busega) City and Mpigi.
•Accra received a US $83.9-million (UA 60-million) loan for an urban transport project to contribute to integrated transport and urban development solutions in the Greater Accra Region.
•The year ended with donors pledging to support the structural transformation of African economies and the Bank’s High 5 priorities by agreeing on US $7.06 billion over the next three years to support development projects and programmes in the 38 lower income African countries supported by the African Development Fund (ADF).
•By 2025, Africa aims to feed its fast growing population with its own production. To help that goal, the AfDB has deployed US$5.5 billion in investments in the agriculture sector over five years to 2015, its Development Effectiveness Review released before Christmas showed.
•The Bank trained three million people on better farming practices, put 20,000 food marketing and storage units into use.
•Constructed 4,000 kilometres of feeder roads, offered 150,000 microcredit loans, irrigated and built other water systems on 181,000 hectares of farmland.
•Given that 7 out of 10 Africans earn a living from the land, agriculture can create economic growth spread more evenly across society, and extending deeper into rural areas, and helping more women, who make up 70% of farmers. The Review pointed out that agriculture can create jobs for the 10 million young Africans entering the labour force every year.
•Africa imports twice the food it exports, and agriculture yields in Africa are only one-quarter those of China. African agriculture makes up a mere 5% of global trade.
•Improving the lot of farmers and farming is crucial to the sustainable growth and development of Africa: 80% of the typical household budget is spent on food, while 40% of food produced spoils after the harvest, due to bad or nonexistent roads or lack of storage.
•Agricultural development in Africa must be reoriented to factor in climate change: 65% of Africa’s arable land is now degraded, and moisture and fertility losses in African soils are worsening.
•In the latter respect, the Bank says as part of its contribution to reducing vulnerability to drought, it helped plant over 64 million trees to boost the land’s hardiness in the face of climate change, and bringing agriculture experts together to collaborate, such as the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which helps family farms across 18 African countries.
•Its Africa Food Crisis Response Programme fast-tracked relief that raised US$1.0 billion and led to better harvests.
•The New Rice for Africa initiative boosted the hardiness, nutrition and yields of rice and improved the livelihoods of almost a quarter of a million subsistence farmers.
•The Congo Basin Forest Partnership, reduced deforestation and degradation by producing millions of trees and agroforest saplings, involving almost 50,000 people in producing and processing non-timber forest products and creating 46,60 hectares of community forest plantations.
•The AfDB crows about its leading role during the Feeding Africa conference in Dakar in October 2015, helping craft a plan to transform Africa’s agriculture sector. Part of the plan involves setting up a risk-sharing facility, and to raise US$3 billion to finance women farmers, and develop diaspora agriculture bonds based on remittances flows.
•Looking ahead, the AfDB says its “gearing up” to deliver under a new strategy running through 2025 to invest US$24 billion, to boost overall investment through equity, debt, risk and other financial means.
•Its new Feed Africa strategy aims to end poverty, hunger, and malnutrition by 2025 and make the continent a net food exporter.