By Meresia Aloo, Snr ALM East Africa Correspondent
Nobody else could have set the tone higher at the IWA world water Digital Congress other than the globally renowned development economist and agricultural development expert, Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina.
The man who wears many hats and a recipient of multiple international honours and awards joined other global leaders at the IWA virtual event which commenced on 24th May to end on 4th June 2021.
The event comes days after marking, “World Africa day”, and is aimed at playing a transcendental role in providing an innovative and comprehensive overview of the latest developments and solutions for sustainable management of water resources.
The 12-day virtual conference featured Keynote speakers, with 32 hours of presentations from scientists, academics and sector thought leaders.
It is hoped that the 12-day conference stimulates Industries and scientific communities to establish and foster common-ground, practical and achievable solutions that will help tackle the Water Challenge.
Speaking at the event, Dr. Adesina described Water as a source of life, which humans cannot do without its existence. Dr Adesina, notably called Africa’s optimist-in-chief, noted that more than 70% of the earth’s surface has been covered by water, with 98% of it being salty and about 3% being freshwater. Addressing the attendees of the event, Dr Adesina warned of water scarcity which according to his predictions, would reach dangerously high levels by 2025. He says urgent action needs to be put in place to protect the continent of Africa.
“Water scarcity is predicted to reach dangerously high levels by 2025, and that is only four years from now. Urgent action is therefore required to turn the tide in Africa’s favour”, he told the attendees of the virtual conference.
In line with United Nations Sustainable goal number 6, “ensuring sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”, the African Development Bank through its President announced that the bank will work very closely with United Nations and a range of other partners to achieve the goal 6 by sustainably building and protecting Africa’s water resources, delivering services, and building resilience. He called on African Countries to respond proactively to the prospects of water stress by adopting new ways of managing water and strengthening water governance.
It is noteworthy, that In the just concluded graduation ceremony that took place in Makerere, Uganda, Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina’s global advocacy for Africa and his inspiring work as president of the AFDB, earned him conferment of Honorary Doctorate of Letters (Honoris Causa) from the iconic institution.
According to the university, the honour was in recognition of his distinguished contribution to science, research, and academic leadership; reforms and thought leadership; catalyzing Africa’s social and economic progress; and partnerships, networks and advocacy for development.
While at the event, Dr. Adesina recounted how a phone call from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni some 20 years back, led to one of the country’s most famous inventions. The country’s president had sought his advice on how to deal with the country’s banana glut, a conversation that led to a solid relationship with Makerere University’s food technology department. Through his support, the department was expected to develop a method that would transform bananas into shelf-stable flour which would then be used to prepare the local staple food widely known as matoke.
Addressing the ceremony, Dr Adesina called for more investment in science and technology to cope with the fourth industrial revolution which has been marked by advances in artificial intelligence, big data, robotics, nanotechnology, and biotechnology.
In his special way, the chancellor sent his appreciation, noting Adesina’s excellent contributions to the African continent at a time when Africa is still struggling to battle the negative effects of the Covid 19 pandemic. He urged him to ‘hang in there for Africa’s sake. “We thank Dr Adesina for the excellent work he is doing to uplift the African People and for honouring us with his presence today. As African countries struggle to overcome the huge negative effects of Covid 19. I am sure we will find a vital and sympathetically, in the African development bank” said. Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Ezra Suruma.
In what was a busy week for Dr Adesina, a few days prior to the Makerere University graduation, Dr Adesina was in Paris for the global “Great Green Wall Investment Summit’, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, an event which was, among other things, aimed at discussing climate change and desertification in Africa.
Other global leaders who attended the summit included His Royal Highness Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, and several African Presidents. While attending the event, AFDB’s President Dr.Adesina assured President Macron and other global leaders of his full support in building the Great green wall project that will take approximately five years to complete.
Dr Adesina emphasized the importance of rebuilding from the negative impacts of Covid 19 adding that the move will help in recalibrating and prioritizing growth that will then protect the environment. He added that Great Green Wall will be part of Africa’s environmental Defence system- a shield against the onslaughts of desertification and degradation. The future of the Sahel Region of Africa shall highly depend on the Great Green Wall and without the green Wall, in the face of climate change and desertification, the Sahel region might just not survive.
Dr Adesina is restlessly and tirelessly advocating, and putting in place structures for an emerging Africa – that would take its rightful place in global geopolitics. A true African optimist-in-chief, we can only wish him more wins, and even more tireless work to move the continent development forward. Please ‘hang in there for Africa – Dr Adesina’, as the continents, needs you now more than ever.