Akinwumi Adesina: Celebrating Black Excellence In Leadership And Africa Development

by Duke Magazine

When it comes to outstanding excellence, black excellence suffices. Africa has for a long time offshoots notable sons and daughters who are consistently changing the stereotypic narrative of its people. Black is not only beautiful, but Black is brilliant. The graciousness is the pitch for a man who has not only imprinted his name on the golden slate of success, but also crystallizes the greatness of Black people to global prominence.

Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina is a Nigerian, globally renowned development economist and agricultural development expert, with more than 30 years of international experience. He currently sits as the president of the African Development Bank (AfFB) with its headquarter in Côte d’Ivoire, at where he is in his second term in office. 

Born in February 6, 1960 in Ibadan, Oyo State, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics (First Class Honors) from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Nigeria, in 1981. He was the first student to obtain a First Class Honors in Agricultural Economics in the history of the university. He holds a master’s degree (1985) and a PhD in Agricultural Economics (1988) from Purdue University, USA, where he won the Outstanding PhD thesis award for that year.

Adesina won the prestigious Rockefeller Foundation Social Science Fellowship in 1988, which launched him into his international career.

A bold reformer, as Minister of Agriculture in Nigeria from 2011-2015, Adesina turned the agriculture sector of Nigeria around within four years. Under his tenure, Nigeria ended 40 years of corruption in the fertilizer sector by developing and implementing an innovative electronic wallet system, which directly provides farmers with subsidized farm inputs at scale using their mobile phones.

Within the first four years of its launch, this electronic wallet system reached 15 million farmers, dramatically transforming their lives. The electronic wallet system has now gone global, and is currently being implemented in Afghanistan and several African countries.

A firm believer in private sector-led growth, Adesina radically changed the perception of agriculture in Nigeria from that of subsistence to a viable business that successfully attracted $5.6 billion in private sector investments.

He also led financing initiatives to support youth engagement in agriculture and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Ultimately, under his leadership, Nigeria’s food production expanded by an additional 21 million metric tonnes. 

Prior to his appointment as Minister of Agriculture, Adesina was the Vice President (Policy and Partnerships) of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), where he led several bold and innovative policy and finance initiatives that leveraged over $4 billion in Bank finance commitments to Africa’s agriculture sector. 

Working with African Heads of State and Ministers of Finance, leaders in the commercial banking industry and Central Bank Governors across several African countries, Adesina successfully led one of the largest global efforts to leverage domestic bank finance for the agricultural sector. 

Prior to joining AGRA in 2008, he had served as Associate Director and Regional Director for the Southern Africa Office of the Rockefeller Foundation for over a decade.

Adesina was Principal Economist for the West Africa Rice Development Association (1990-1995), Senior Economist and Social Science Coordinator for the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (1995-1998) and Assistant Principal Economist of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (1988-1990). 

A prolific writer, Adesina has authored over 70 scholarly publications on policy, agricultural development and African development issues.

He is a globally respected economist and has served as the President of the African Association of Agricultural Economists, as well as on the Editorial Board of several academic journals, including the International Journal of Agricultural Economists. He was awarded the Outstanding Black Agricultural Economist Award by the American Association of Agricultural Economists. He was a Distinguished Africanist Scholar at Cornell University, USA.

Adesina has received several distinctions and global awards.

In May 2011, Franklin and Marshall College, USA, awarded Adesina an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.

In November 2014, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Agriculture by Purdue University, USA.

In 2017, Purdue University, USA decorated Adesina with its highest honor, the Order of the Griffin, a rare honor given only to 50 persons since 1893, including to Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.

In May 2018, Michigan State University, USA, awarded Adesina an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Agriculture.

In October 2018, Adesina received an Honorary Doctorate of Management Science from the National Defense Academy, Nigeria.

In 2019, Adesina was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Alberta, Canada.

In 2010, Adesina was appointed by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, as one of 17 world leaders to galvanize international support for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

In 2019, the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres appointed Adesina as one of the 23 global leaders to help end hunger and malnutrition.

He serves globally as one of the Commissioners for the Global Climate Commission, co-Chaired by Bill Gates and former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to tackle global climate change.

Adesina also serves on the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition. 

In 2013, Adesina won the Forbes Africa Person of the Year award for his bold reforms in Nigeria’s agriculture sector. He is the first public sector Minister in Africa to win the award. 

In 2012, Adesina was conferred with Nigeria’s second-highest national honor, the Commander of the Order of the Niger, for his outstanding service to his country, Nigeria.

In recognition of his outstanding leadership, passion and dedication to accelerating African development, he was awarded the highest national honours of Senegal, Cameroon, Madagascar, Togo, Liberia ,Niger, and Tunisia respectively. 

In October 2017, the World Food Prize Foundation awarded Adesina the World Food Prize, generally known as the “Nobel Prize for Agriculture”. Dr Adesina devoted his $250,000 Laureates award to establish the World Hunger Fighters Foundation to support the youth in agriculture and to develop a new generation of world hunger fighters. 

In December 2017, Bill Gates listed Adesina’s award of the World Food Prize and his gesture to use it to support the youth in Africa as one of the seven most encouraging moments of 2017.

In December 2017, Adesina was ranked in the top 15 of the 100 most influential global leaders of multilateral development organizations.

In February 2019, Adesina was awarded the prestigious Sunhak Peace Prize in Seoul, South Korea, for his global leadership on agriculture, food security, transparency and good governance. He however dedicated his $500,000 award prize to the World Hunger Fighters Foundation that he established to fight global hunger.

In April 2019, leading reputation management firm, Reputation Poll International, listed Adesina among the 100 most reputable people in the world.

In 2019, he led the African development Bank to achieve the highest capital increase since the Bank’s establishment in 1964, when shareholders raised 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.

Adesina was named the African of the Year by the All Africa Business Leaders Awards (AABLA™) in recognition of his bold leadership and the innovation of the Africa Investment Forum, which opened up billions of dollars of investment into the continent.

He was recognized as the Forbes Africa Person of the Year 2019.

Adesina was in 2020 named African of the Year 2019 by the African Leadership Magazine. Adesina was awarded the prestigious title after receiving 60% of the votes cast by some one million readers of the magazine.

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