Nothing could have prepared the world for the onslaught of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. Spreading rapidly across the globe following its outbreak in Wuhan, China, the virus hit African shores, spreading to every country and threatening disruption to the economic transformation and gains of the last decade.
At the Bank, 2020 has been dominated by the fight against COVID-19. We took bold and swift action to support countries confronted with the disease and innovation in teleworking and technology resulted in COVID-19 disaster relief and mitigation packages, fiscal support to governments and the successful conduct of the Bank’s first virtual Annual General Meetings which saw the re-election of President Akinwumi Adesina at its helm.
Indeed, 2020 has confirmed the African Development Bank’s stability and resilience.
Bank President Akinwumi Adesina attended the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London, hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Shortly before this, President Adesina participated in the UK Parliamentarians’ Symposium and opened the London Stock Exchange listing session at the invitation of the Chairman of the London Stock Exchange Group, Don Robert. A few days later, the Bank president received an honorary doctorate from the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta, Nigeria, honouring his work in agriculture and food security in Africa. The Bank published its African Economic Outlook 2020 report, showing stable economic growth of 3.4 percent in 2019, rising to 3.9 percent in 2020 and 4.1 percent in 2021.
At the 33rd African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, malnutrition in Africa, a scourge to be eradicated by 2025, was addressed. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited African leaders and multilateral organizations, including the African Development Bank, to a meeting to discuss ways to ensure peace in Africa. Hanan Morsy, the Bank’s Director of Economic Policy, Forecasting and Research, was named one of Egypt’s 50 most influential women. Ireland became the Bank’s 81st member country, and the Executive Council of the African Union endorsed President Adesina for a second term as head of the Bank.
In Johannesburg, Bank President Akinwumi Adesina was honoured as African of the Year. About ten days later, he visited the Mother and Infant hospital in Bingerville, southeastern Côte d’Ivoire, founded by Ivorian First Lady Dominque Ouattara. The Bank took its first preventive measures faced with the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, adopting teleworking, video conferences instead of face-to-face meetings, suspension of visits to the Bank’s buildings and cancellation of all travel, meetings and conferences. To support its member countries in combating the pandemic, the Bank listed a $3 billion dollar social bond on international financial markets.
The African Development Bank made news with its first corporate bond issue on the London Stock Exchange. Five days later, it announced the creation of a $10 billion rapid response fund to assist regional member countries in fighting the spread of COVID-19 on the continent. The Bank also began virtual meetings to assess the pandemic’s impact on Africa and propose potential solutions.
Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former president of Liberia, paid tribute to President Adesina for his enlightened leadership and courageous initiatives to accelerate Africa’s development and support the continent during the coronavirus crisis. In Malawi, a water and sanitation project funded and supervised by the Bank won the prestigious Prince Talal International Human Development Award.
The African Development Bank unveiled a strategic roadmap to help African countries address the nutrition and food security impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bank joined the NASDAQ Sustainable Bond Network, one of the world’s largest issuers of social impact bonds. The financial rating agency S&P Global Ratings confirmed the Bank’s short- and long-term credit rating of “AAA/A-1+” with a stable outlook. Strong ratings were also given by the NGO Publish What You Fund, which ranked the Bank 4th out of 47 active development institutions worldwide in its Aid Transparency Index (ATI).
The Bank joined the World Trade Organization and other multilateral development banks to reduce trade finance gaps caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Bank issued a supplement to its flagship African Economic Outlook 2020 report forecasting a 3 percent growth in the continent’s economic growth in 2020 in spite of COVID-19. The month was marked by the sad news of the death of Ivoirian Prime Minister Amadou Gon Coulibaly, to whom Bank President Akinwumi Adesina paid a heartfelt tribute. The Babacar N’diaye 2020 Africa Road Builders Trophy was awarded to Egyptian President al-Sissi Abdel Fattah. To round off the month, high-level consultations were held in Antananarivo, Madagascar, on the reconstruction of the ADF-15, the gateway to concessional rate loans for Regional Member Countries.
Bank President Akinwumi Adesina was unanimously re-elected for a second five-year term at the end of the Bank’s virtual Annual Meetings. Côte d’Ivoire, which hosted the event, then passed the baton to Ghana, which will host the 2021 Annual Meetings. The G7 summit was held in Biarritz, France, with the president of the Bank and several other African leaders attending virtually.
The Bank’s president was sworn in for a second term, with several African heads of state attending a virtual ceremony. During the ceremony, Akinwumi Adesina indicated he would build on collective achievements to create a stronger and more resilient bank. The Bank will be among the leading partners in the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), Africa’s largest agriculture conference. Additionally, the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN) initiative called on African leaders to ensure that nutrition financing is included in response and recovery plans for the COVID-19 pandemic. The African regional office of the Global Centre on Adaptation (GCA), co-chaired by former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, was opened in Abidjan.
The African Development Bank was named best bond issuer in 2020 at the 2020 GlobalCapital Bond Awards. The Bank and several partners took advantage of the last quarter of the year to launch the Women in Ethics and Compliance in Africa network, an initiative that brings together African women executives and leaders involved in the fight against corruption and non-compliance in business and commercial activities. Kenyan lawyer Christine Agimba and Norwegian diplomat Arve Ofstad were appointed members of the Management Board of the African Legal Support Facility, established by the Bank in 2010. The Bank was named 2020 Development Finance Institution of the Year at the African Solar Industry Association Awards (AFSIA) in recognition of its growing solar energy presence in Africa.
The Bank’s Board of Directors and the founding partners of the African Investment Forum 2020 (AIF) approved postponing the event until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the Bank actively participated in the Finance in Common summit held virtually as part of the Paris Peace Forum. The ratings agency Moody’s confirmed the African Development Bank’s “AAA” long-term debt rating. In Paris, CEMAC, with the Bank’ blessing, held a roundtable to raise 3.4 billion euros to finance integrative projects. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was guest speaker at the 2020 Kofi Annan Eminent Speakers’ Lecture hosted by the African Development Institute.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke at Africa Delivery Exchange 2020, and former ministers and advocates Youssou N’dour and Graça Machel attended the 2020 Civil Society Forum, also held virtually.
The 2020 edition of the African Economic Conference (AEC) took place virtually from 8 to 10 December. The COVID-19 crisis pandemic was at the heart of discussions. The conference focused on responses to and the impact of the pandemic on the continent, and how African countries can collectively recover.
Faced with the challenges presented by the pandemic, the leaders of four regional development banks – the African Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank – have made a commitment to work together to rebuild in the post-COVID-19 era.
At Nobel Week 2020, Bank President Akinwumi Adesina said Africa’s recovery from the pandemic would depend on the continent’s ability to mobilize resources. The Bank’s head also participated in a virtual conference in Montreal, the International Economic Forum of the Americas. The Bank approved the Lusophone Compact Guarantee Program (LCGP) for the amount of 400 million euros, intended to stimulate private sector development in Portuguese-speaking African countries.