When making public appearances, Adesina has all the qualities of a technocrat, but this masks evidence of a deep personal connection with his mission which becomes particularly apparent when he speaks on the issue of Africans migrating to Europe.
“The situation of migration is one that I find particularly emotionally heart-wrenching. When I went to Gorée in Senegal, I stood there at the door of no return, and this was where everyone used to go from involuntarily.
“Today you look at our young people, and the heartland of Africa bleeds as people leave voluntarily in search of what they can find in Europe, and many die in the Mediterranean. It’s a very distressing thing and something which must change. We are going to take leadership on this.”
Adesina says that the institution will be working with the European Union and other African countries on more concrete proposals for dealing with the crisis.
“The challenge still remains that we’re growing but not growing enough to create jobs…it’s like a jobless growth situation we’ve had.”
It is clear that many of the projects the bank will undertake over the next five years will be ranged against this problem – from enabling Africa’s industrialization to replicating Adesina’s successful Nigerian agriculture overhaul.
If he can make a significant dent in joblessness over the course of his five-year term, he will have done well.
But as he crisscrosses New York for a week of meetings to make that happen, Adesina knows that the AfDB’s remit – and the extent of his influence – is ultimately what he makes of it.
“[We want to] light up and power Africa, feed Africa, integrate Africa, industrialize Africa and improve the quality of life,” he says with a grin.
This series is concluded.