Africa is a continent of tremendous opportunities, endowed with and characterised by a young, dynamic and vibrant workforce, massive renewable energy potential, abundant biodiversity resources, rapid regional integration and innovative solutions designed to unlock the continent’s vast natural capital.

This is according to African Development Bank group president Dr Akinwumi Adesina, addressing a diverse audience of diplomats, investors, academics, politicians, and media at Chatham House. In his presentation, “Envisioning Africa’s Economic Prospects,” he explained the reasons behind his optimism and passion for Africa.

Adesina outlined the resilience of Africa’s economies despite global challenges, noting that the continent remains the second-fastest-growing region after Asia.

He cited the Bank’s African Economic Outlook Report, which shows the the continent’s 3,7% economic growth for 2024, increasing to 4,3% in 2025. The report which was launched during the Bank’s May Annual Meetings in Nairobi revealed that 15 countries achieved real growth rates of at least 5 percent, and half of the world’s 20 fastest-growing economies are in Africa.

However, he said achieving strong economic prospects and resilience will require overcoming some significant headwinds, including tackling climate change and rising debt, and through critical global financial reforms.

“As Africa’s economic resilience is bolstered, unlocking its economic prospects requires ensuring structural change of its economies, raising the productivity of agriculture, provision of electricity, accelerating infrastructure investments, supporting faster pace digitalisation, unleashing economic and job opportunities for women and youth, and driving industrialisation through greater mobilisation of the private sector,” he stated.

Addressing infrastructure and agricultural production, Adesina shared successes like the Bank’s flagship Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) program, which has helped 13-million farmers to increase crop productivity. In Ethiopia, the distribution of 65 metric tons of heat-resistant wheat has led to self-sufficiency in wheat production, covering 2,2-million hectares.

The event, attended by over 150 guests in person and hundreds more virtually, included diplomats from more than 18 African countries, the Commonwealth Secretariat, international financial institutions, private and corporate investors, startups, civil society, students and academics from some of the UK’s leading academic institutions and international media houses.

Adesina acknowledged challenges such as youth unemployment, poverty, debt vulnerability, and political instability but dispelled perceptions of Africa as a risky investment destination. He referenced a 14-year Moody’s Analytics study showing Africa’s low infrastructure loan default rate at 1,9%, compared to between 4,6% and 12,4% in other regions around the world.

He reiterated the Bank’s advocacy for an independent African credit rating agency to counteract misperceptions that lead to underinvestment due to excessive risk premiums. Quoting the United Nations Development Program, Adesina said fairer credit ratings for African countries could save at least $75-billion annually in debt service payments.

“The trajectory for Africa will be much stronger as we tackle these challenges, as well as improve security and expand more concessional financing and private sector financing,” he emphasised.

Adesina recalled the Bank Group shareholders’ recent approval of a $117-billion callable capital increase, raising the Bank’s total authorized capital to $318-billion to preserve its AAA credit rating and enhance its lending capacity. The approval announced during the just concluded 2024 annual meetings of the Bank will align the institution with the changing global financial architecture and enhance its support for the continent.

“We’re going to be bigger, bolder, and better,” he declared, predicting Africa’s rise as a pivotal global region. Africa can no longer be ignored. I fully expect Africa to be the pivotal continent in the world, given its economic prospects.”

He said that the future of energy transition for a world primarily powered by renewable energy will depend on Africa, which accounts for 25% of global biodiversity and contributes substantially to providing key minerals. According to African Development Bank estimates, Africa’s natural capital stood at $6,2-trillion in 2018, with mineral and fossil fuel resources alone valued at $290-billion and $1,05-trillion, respectively.

He said Africa must work out how to tap the potential of its youth, turning this asset into an economic dividend.

“We are supporting universities of science and technology, expanding training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, centers of excellence in biotechnology and material sciences, as well as technical and vocational training. We have committed $700-million to education and skills development, which has supported 4 000 tertiary education and training facilities, and provided 1,7-million African youths with access to science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, providing critical digital skills in computer coding.”

He added that the African Development Bank is also focusing heavily on women. “The African Development Bank’s flagship initiative, Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA), is de-risking financial institutions to lend to women. It is working with 169 financial institutions in 43 countries and has so far approved $1,7-billion in financing for 18,300 women-led businesses. Our goal is to mobilide $5-billion for women-led businesses.”

He also mentioned the Africa Investment Forum, founded by the Bank group and seven other partners, saying it continues to provide a transparent platform for investors interested in Africa to meet, assess projects, evaluate risks, seek counter-risk mitigants, as well as address political risks to investors. Since the establishment of the Africa Investment Forum in 2018, it has attracted investor interests in Africa worth over $180-billion.

He expressed optimism that Africa’s prosperity is within reach and it will emerge as a pivotal continent: “Africa is critical to the future of the world. It’s a vision Africa deserves and it’s a vision we’ll achieve.”