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COVID-19 is a ‘wake-up command’ to address Africa’s challenges – Tony Blair

The former UK prime minister addressed a virtual audience on the topic Building Back Better in Post COVID-19 Africa: The Role of Technology and Governance, as part of the Kofi A. Annan Lecture Series


ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, November 17, 2020/ — We have the same problems but what we also have is vastly increased urgency – Blair; Agriculture offers Africa its best opportunity for industrialization…the key is how does Africa raise productivity, develop the integrated technology in rural areas? – Adesina

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the challenges and opportunities of Africa’s development landscape, former British prime minister Tony Blair said on Monday in a lecture organized by the African Development Institute in Abidjan.

“We have the same problems but what we also have is vastly increased urgency…not so much a wake-up call but a wake-up command,” Blair said.

The former UK prime minister addressed a virtual audience on the topic Building Back Better in Post COVID-19 Africa: The Role of Technology and Governance, as part of the Kofi A. Annan Lecture Series. The series, launched by the African Development Bank’s African Development Institute in 2006, has covered a range of African and global development topics, including economics, finance, regional integration, human development and the environment. The lectures have been a forum for eminent persons to share policy insights on development challenges in Africa.

Over 4,500 delegates from across the globe including Government Officials, Governors and Executive Directors of the Bank Group, the Bank’s Senior Management, and leading experts and heads of institutions tuned in to the lecture.

In opening remarks, Rabah Arezki, Chief Economist and Vice President for Economic Governance and Knowledge Management of the Bank described the task ahead as “vast and challenging.”

Blair, in his first ever virtual lecture, outlined three aspects which in his words would make a big difference to Africa: investing in industrialization, accelerating technological innovations, and building capacity for institutions to get things done. “There are components to the Bank’s High 5 priorities. All of those things which define the challenges that Africa has – all of those are now given added urgency by Covid and its impact,” Blair said.

To build back better, West Africa, for instance, could capitalize on its rich source of cotton for garment production and the textile industry. Elsewhere on the continent, Africa was already leading in the digital technology space which can be scaled up.

“Around the world you are seeing governments use technology effectively…I know this is a great ambition of the African Development Bank. This is critical,” Blair said.

Blair highlighted the four Ps of government delivery – prioritization, policy, personnel and performance management. On prioritization, Mr. Blair called on African governments to identify and focus on their comparative advantages, and focus on delivery…focus on key transformative projects and manage expectations,” Mr. Blair said.

“In the end, only Africa can do it, we are partners in Africa’s story…in Africa’s progress,” Blair said.

Blair’s speech was followed by a conversation with Bank Group President Akinwumi Adesina, who said the lecture series brought global and national perspectives to the development issues discussed.

“We need to constantly push the frontiers of dialogue in the public sphere,” Adesina said. “Nothing is more topical today than the challenges posed by Covid-19. The pandemic has upended economic growth,” Adesina noted.

Agreeing with Mr. Blair about the importance of the culture of delivery, Adesina said agriculture offered Africa its best opportunity for industrialization. “The key is: how does Africa raise productivity in agriculture…how does it develop the integrated infrastructure in those rural areas…that will allow the creation of new economic sources of prosperity out of what it has?” Adesina asked.

Although the Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) initiative had allowed it to reach millions of farmers with agricultural technology and is boosting yields in wheat, there is still the need to scale up. “We have a lot of pilots…The name of the game is scale,” Adesina said.

Adesina cited other key interventions by the Bank, including a $10 billion COVID-19 Response Facility to provide budget support to African countries and its innovative $3 billion COVID-19 social bond, to save livelihoods.

After leaving office, Blair launched the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, which works to equip leaders to build open, inclusive and prosperous societies in an interconnected global world.

Speaking after the seminar, Prof. Kevin Urama, Senior Director of the ADI said the priorities are well mapped out for Africa to build back better. The African Development Institute (ADI) has been at the forefront of accelerating capacity development, technical assistance and policy dialogue on the continent.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Development Bank Group (AfDB).


  1. Iwe Tony, it is a wake up call to address your health challenges. You are the ones dying like flies there. Sort out your problems first, our problems in Africa are to do with leadership, corruption and poor policies not covid

  2. Blair is a war criminal responsible for millions of deaths of Iraqi civilians….

    Where you see Blair , his neo con Zionist backers have an agenda….

  3. I wonder how much THIS MORON B-LIAR was paid to speak at this lecture…he is backed by big corporations this vermin!!

  4. Why do we even entertain this war criminal here in Africa? In his own country the UK he could not even hold a book signing ceremony because the people there are angry over the lies he told over the war in Iraq. During the Sierra Leone civil war Tony Blair wanted to court marshal the Brigadier General who saved people’s lives when he disobeyed orders to only evacuate Europeans. Today this ma can talk about Africa so that he can claim credit for the work that has been done only by Africans.

  5. Aha napapa sana. I thought it was in his own country where people have and are currently dying like flies due to covid which was started in China. So how does Africa become the focus. We don’t want your vaccines here. We know your agenda. Give the vaccines to the upnd diasporans. It is time they paid you back for hosting them by being used as Guinea pig.

  6. At times it is important to listen between the lines or muzadia pula. Lets not be blinded with pilfered moneys by over pricing of items. Piecemeal agriculture polices are useless. It is agriculture that can bring about industrial revolution in Zambia for example. Our biggest problem in Zambia is that we politize agriculture when we know that it is life and death without food. In Zambia we only have traditional agriculture system.
    How many commercial farms has the PF Government created since 2011? None. It has been piecemeal traditional agriculture system where when you export two bags, there is hanger in the country!

    Lets not politicize agriculture. We need to take it with the seriousness it requires. Agriculture is the first step to industrialization and other industries will…

  7. He has valid points. You listen to Lungu and PF who waged a war on its people through gassing and “ritual killings” banning opposition gatherings and opposing mouth pieces. ADB is doing well, we need to commit to long term projects that will keep bringing in money in the long run, unlike project “give all the borrowed money to cadres”. In turn our cadres buy expensive alcohol and sports cars. The other day a watched a video of a cadre showing off with stacks of money and boasting that he has a VWGolf and only drinks Henikeni.

  8. Jd November 18, 2020 At 1:29 pm

    “His profile is clean,those are just racist allegations……”

    If that is the case , why is he vilified in his own country , the UK ????

  9. Everyone should watch ‘Blair’s million$.’ This man gets more than $10,000 just for speaking for an hour. Some s i l l y people have spent this money for Antony Gordon Blair to say what everyone already knows. Blair is disgraced in the UK. No one listens to Blair witch project.

  10. We’re sick and tired of these lectures. Such hypocrisy! All of a sudden, he has a heart for Africans but when he was in power, he quashed Mugabe and his land restoration policy, pushing Zimbabwe mercilessly against the wall. He can blindfold some, but not all of us – we know that western interests have always been and continue to be at the center of their game whenever they’re dealing with Africa.

    My advice to Tony Blair: how about you stop talking and just listen to us for a change? Let us rule our destiny, like you ruled yours. We know better what is good for us and what we want. Meanwhile, give us back what you owe.

  11. Tony Blair had the opportunity he could Build Back Better in Iraq. He works for the Rockefellers now, through JPMorgan Chase. And no one elected him to envision Africa’s future.

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