In an exclusive forty-minute interview, ten days ago, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina the new President of the African Development Bank told me that he’s impatient to see Africa’s development efforts yield tangible results for its people.
The interview, published by this newspaper last Monday, was conducted a day before the World Economic Forum on Africa, kicked off in Kigali.
On the second floor suite at the Kigali Serena hotel where the interview took place, a long line of dignitaries waited outside to have a word with the Nigerian economist.
Finally, security ushered me inside the suite, the door was closed and it was just the three of us; eight months ago, I was in Abidjan when Dr. Adesina beat tight competition to win the race of succeeding Rwanda’s Dr. Donald Kaberuka.
It was my turn to interview him. I had plenty of questions. Forty minutes later, I had all the answers and not a single doubt in my mind that the AfDB interview panel got the right man for the job.
“I am impatient for results,’ he told me. “I am impatient with Africa’s high youth unemployment. I am impatient with our electricity challenges. I am impatient with hunger on the continent. I am impatient with poverty among our people.”
Everyone at the Bank knows about his impatience for results and the past eight months of his leadership have been spent on drawing up a strategy that will deliver results as fast as possible.
Dr. Adesina plans to unleash the Bank’s vast resources on Africa’s challenges and deliver tangible results to help better lives across the continent.
The Passion with which he spoke about barriers to African development was energizing. His five-goal agenda whose successful execution, he believes, will unlock Africa’s true development potential is one that many African countries would relate with closely.
It includes lighting-up Africa, feeding Africa, industrializing Africa, integrating Africa and improving the quality of lives.
But perhaps his most exciting projects is an initiative that will see the Bank invest in creating millions of jobs to counter Africa’s current youth unemployment challenge.
He says of the ten to fifteen million young people entering the labour market annually, only three million of them get jobs. “With that I think Africa today has an unemployment crisis which we urgently need to fix,” he said.
Dr. Adesina is also a self-confessed big fan of President Paul Kagame whose result-oriented leadership approach he noted, has transformed Rwanda in a space of two decades, to become a model story for Africa.
“I admire Kagame’s leadership very much,” he told me. But he’s not alone in that, which is why a thought struck me the other day.
For decades, Africa has been searching for a leadership model that works; now that we have sighted one in Rwanda, why not propagate its principals in the academia?
Harvard University has the John F Kennedy School of Government. Establishing a ‘Paul Kagame School of Leadership’ at the University of Rwanda is equally possible.
Such schools should encourage reflection on words like ‘impatience’ which could be bad in certain contexts but can be quite impactful in leadership, especially if leaders deliberately chose to be intolerant to the things that slowdown progress, results or development for that matter.
In comparison, there are words like ‘bureaucracy’ well known in conventional public management; the art of internal processes, from one table to another, steps of getting things done, as inherited from the colonial system complete with an education system that trains one to become a trained bureaucrat.
However, ‘impatient leaders’ crush bureaucracies to deliver faster results by building systems with fewer processes. Such leaders tend to be pragmatic relying on the great results to justify their methods.
Rwanda for instance had to crush previously prevalent bureaucracy to build the current system that enables investors to register a business in just six hours through the one stop centre model which countries in the region are now adopting.
In the interview, Dr. Adesina told me that he intends to crush the bureaucracy at the AfDB by decentralizing power from its headquarters in Abidjan and scatter it across Africa where he will set-up regional directorates headed by Director Generals with full decision making authorities.
“That is our blueprint. That way, we shall cut on the bureaucracy and take the Bank closer to countries,” he told me. Using football metaphors, Adesina said the Bank will recruit strikers and deploy them forward, to score goals for Africa.
As the AfDB Annual Meetings open in the Zambian capital Lusaka, tomorrow, Dr. Adesina will be beseeching African Leaders in attendance, to deal with barriers to African development with more impatience to create jobs, end poverty and better lives of Africans.