Akinwumi Adesina; Renowned development economist in Africa

In August 2020, history was made at the African Development Bank. For the first time since 1964, a single candidate obtained 100% of the votes of the shareholders, regional and non-regional to be re-elected, president. This record holder was the Nigerian Akinwumi Adesina.

In four and a half decades, Adesina went from being a student whose “ mathematics was poor ” to being a world-renowned development economist with an extra feather to her hat – the Outstanding Black Agricultural Economist award from the American Association of Agricultural Economists.

The renowned economist who often sees an elegant bow tie was born to a Nigerian farmer in Ibadan, Oyo state. He did his primary and secondary education in his village before attending the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife), Nigeria, to obtain a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics with high honors in 1981, first student to receive this distinction. by the university.

Forbes reports that Adeshina was once told by an academic at her university that he could never enter Purdue University, Indiana, to further his education because his “math was poor” but Adeshina was not discouraged.

He went on to and was admitted to Purdue University, where he not only earned his Masters (1985) and PhD in Agricultural Economics (1988), but also won the Outstanding Doctoral Thesis for his research work.

Outside the conference room

Right after earning her doctorate, Adesina won the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation Social Science Fellowship in 1988 and began her career working with the Foundation as a senior scientist that same year.

He was Deputy Principal Economist at the International Crops Research Institute of the Semi-Arid Tropics from 1988 to 1990; as Senior Economist at the Association for the Development of Rice in West Africa in Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire from 1990 to 1995; and as Principal Economist and Social Sciences Coordinator at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture 1995-1998.

He became the Rockefeller Foundation Representative for the Southern Africa region from 1999 to 2003, then Associate Director for Food Security until 2008. He joined the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in 2008 as Vice President (Policy and Partnerships), leading several initiatives that mobilized more than $ 4 billion in bank financing commitments in the African agricultural sector.

In 2010, Adesina was named by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as one of 17 world leaders to spearhead the Millennium Development Goals. In September 2016 again, Ki-moon appointed Adesina to serve as a member of the core group of the Scaling Up Nutrition movement.

He became Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture in 2010 until 2015, when he was elected presumed President of the African Development Bank by the Bank’s Board of Governors at its annual meeting held in Abidjan, in Ivory Coast.

As Minister of Agriculture, Adesina is credited with introducing an innovative electronic wallet system, to provide farmers with subsidized agricultural inputs on a large scale using their mobile phones. This electronic wallet system reached 15 million farmers in 4 years and continued to be implemented in several other African countries, including Afghanistan.

He has led funding initiatives to support youth engagement in agriculture and small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and has successfully attracted private sector investment in agriculture of over $ 5.6 billion. dollars. It was a rosy time for Nigerian farmers as food production increased by an additional 21 million metric tonnes.

Akinwumi Adesina left all of this for his next challenge when he took over the AfDB on September 1, 2015, as the first Nigerian to head the development bank.

On October 31, 2019, Dr Adesina led the African Development Bank to achieve the largest capital increase since the Bank’s inception in 1964, when shareholders increased the general capital of the bank by 125%. This increased the bank’s capital by $ 115 billion, from $ 93 billion to $ 208 billion, a historic achievement for Africa.

On December 6, 2019, Dr Adesina was named African of the Year by the All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA ™) in recognition of his innovative contributions to the Africa Investment Forum, which opened the continent to billions of dollars in investment.

On August 27, 2020, after a rather difficult year to push back allegations of corruption, Adesina was unanimously re-elected as President of the AfDB.


Adesina has received several awards and honors that continue to affirm her as a worthy development economist. While still Minister of Agriculture, in 2013 Forbes also named him African Man of the Year for his reform of the Nigerian agricultural system and for introducing more transparency into the fertilizer supply chain, a system that had been gravely rife with corruption for years. He was the first public sector minister in Africa to win this award.

In recognition of his dedication to accelerating development in Africa, he received the highest national honors from Senegal, Cameroon, Madagascar, Togo, Liberia, Niger and Tunisia respectively; and the second highest national honor in Nigeria, the Commander of the Order of Niger.

Akinwumi Adesina also received what is commonly referred to as the “Nobel Prize for Agriculture” from the World Food Prize Foundation in October 2017.

The New African Magazine in 2015 also cited him as one of the 100 Most Influential Africans and in October 2019 Dr Adesina received the Emeka Anyaoku Lifetime Achievement Award of Outstanding International Icon by the Hallmarks of Labor Foundation.

Adesina is also the recipient of several honorary doctorates in Nigeria and the United States. Some of them include Franklin and Marshall College, USA; Purdue University, United States; Afe Babalola University; Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta; Adekunle Ajasin University, Nigeria; Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria; Michigan State University, United States; National Defense Academy, Nigeria; and the University of Alberta, Canada.

In April 2019, leading reputation management company, Reputation Poll International, ranked Dr Adesina among the Top 100 Most Valuable Individuals in the World. On February 29, 2020, he was also named African of the Year 2019 by African Leadership magazine, after garnering 60% of the votes cast by one million readers of the magazine.

It was because of these many acknowledgments that a cloud of dust was raised when allegations of corruption were made against Adeshina as he was completing his first term as AfDB President.

Corruption allegation scandal

In January 2020, allegations of corruption were brought against Akinwumi Adesina. According to whistleblowers, the AfDB president had given contracts to friends and appointed relatives at the bank.

Adesina described the allegations as attempts to tarnish his reputation and after an internal review by an independent panel, he was cleared of all corruption charges in April.

Being one of the major shareholders of the AfDB, the United States decided that it was not satisfied with the internal review of the Bank’s ethics committee and, through the United States Secretary of the Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, they insisted on a new investigation. The insistence on further investigation continued to hang like a black cloud over Adesina in the run-up to the August 2020 elections where he was to be re-elected for another 5-year term.

A panel of three experts was reconstituted to deepen the investigation, made up of former Irish President Mary Robinson, Gambian Chief Justice Hassan Jallow and Leonard McCarthy, former Vice President of Integrity at the World Bank. Their conclusions were no different.

“The panel agrees with the committee in its conclusions regarding all allegations against the president and concludes that they have been properly considered and dismissed by the committee”, their relationship was ending.

The final check handed to her not only confirmed all of her past recognitions as a person of integrity, but also paved the way for the 60-year-old Adesina to stand as the sole candidate in the election.

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