Dr Akinwumi Adesina, the new President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), says he will in the incoming years focus on tackling Africa's chronic power shortages to unlock its economic potential.
Adesina, a former Nigerian agriculture minister, said this at his swearing in as AfDB's eighth president on Tuesday in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
He said unlocking the continent’s economic potential would help in ending its vulnerability to fluctuations in commodity prices.
"Though it boasts nearly a billion people, sub-Saharan Africa consumes about as much power as Spain, with less than five percent that number, due to poor generating capacity and limited transmission networks.
"Two-thirds of Africans have no access to electricity.
"The lack of reliable power grids is a major obstacle to industrialising the continent's economies at a time when Africa hopes to make a transition from commodities producer to a manufacturing hub and challenge Asia where labour costs are rising," he said.
Adesina said the International Energy Agency, noted that Africa required an additional 450 billion dollars in power sector investment, to halve blackouts and achieve electricity access for all in urban areas by 2040.
He said Africa could easily be growing at double-digit GDP rates if we solve this problem of energy.
The 55-year-old, former Nigerian agriculture minister, said energy poverty on the continent has to be solved as a matter of urgency, as a matter of scale.
"This is going to be my most important priority, because Africa has to industrialise.
"We have to add value so that Africa does not expose itself to the continued volatility of global prices for commodities," he said.
The AfDB president said Africa need to mimic China and other Asian countries' use of an abundant supply of cheap labour to take advantage of globalisation and attract investment.
"As wages rise in China and elsewhere in Asia, Africa can offer a competitive edge with its cheaper workforce.
"Wages in China have increased by over 10 per cent annually over the past decade, according to China's National Bureau of Statistics," he said.
Adesina said there are lot of opportunity in Africa today and urgent need to take advantage of these wage differentials, especially in terms of light manufacturing, textiles, footwear and others.
Adesina, a development economist with a doctorate from Purdue University in the U.S., was elected in May to head the AfDB for a five-year term.