President Nwanze concluded his brief statement at the plenary session of the 35th Annual Meeting of the Governors of the Islamic Development Bank with the above quote. During the entire trip in Azerbaijan, together with his other colleagues, the President shared IFAD’s vision that agriculture is the main employer and job creator for the women and men who we serve. Our goal is to achieve food security and sustainable economic development by investing in agriculture and rural development. To do so we need to create vibrant rural economies and build the right business environment based on partnership between the public and private sector, while keeping people at the centre. He continuously underscored that IFAD’s goal is to transform subsistence smallholder farmers into small entrepreneurs. All along he conveyed messages of hope and prosperity for the rural poor people.
Upon his arrival at Baku airport late at night, the President was greeted by the Dr Ahmad Mohamed Ali, President of the Islamic Development Bank and Mr Bahram Aliyev, Vice-minister of Agriculture of Azerbaijan. Leaving the VIP room heading to their respective cars, the two international financial institutions chiefs walked out hand in hand engrossed in conversation.
What were they saying to each other? The entourage speculated that they were discussing how to stage a ‘coup d’état’ to end rural poverty.
On 22 June the President met Ismat Abasov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Agriculture. Their discussion focused on agricultural related issues and more specifically on role of agriculture to ensure food security and a catalyst to generate income in rural areas in Azerbaijan.
“I am pleased that Azerbaijan, is placing so much emphasis and priority to agriculture”, said Nwanze.
Nwanze and Abasov held a joint press conference which was attended by 7 public and private TVs, 9 news agencies and newspapers journalists.
In the afternoon, the President paid a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Artur Rasizada. During this meeting, the Prime Minister and President talked about the new project which IsDB and IFAD are jointly designing.
Prime Minister Rasizada expressed his satisfaction regarding IFAD’s operations in Azerbaijan and showed interest in the new project to the extent that he committed to do his utmost to make sure the project can be presented to the December session of IFAD’s Executive Board.
With his tight schedule in Baku, Dr Nwanze managed to also give two interviews one to CNBC TV and another to Reuters.
Dr Nwanze’s second day in Baku was dedicated to the Islamic Development Bank 35th Annual Meeting of the Board of the Governors.
Early in the morning, he delivered a brief statement to the Plenary session which was attended by 56 Ministers of finance, many of them also IFAD Governors and over 600 delegates from governments, international, regional financing and research institutions.
The President made a strong case for IFAD, stressing the need for Arab OPEC countries to re-engage with IFAD. He also talked about re-energizing IFAD’s partnerships with Arab Gulf states multilateral and bilateral financing institutions. His passionate intervention was much appreciated by the audience and the Senior Management of IsDB.
As some of you will remember, once a Japanese journalist who was interviewing the President in Japan described him as “the loudest shouter for the poor”. During his Azerbaijan trip and especially in his keynote address at the IsDB meeting, he continued to advocate in the most passionate way for the poor rural women and men that IFAD serves.
As someone who has the privilege of traveling with the President, what I’ve observed is that his “shouting” and advocating for the poor rural people is not falling on deaf years.
On this trip, the President had just finished delivering his brief statement to the plenary session and was on his way to get something to eat when we received a call from President Ilham Aliyev’s office. We were told, the Head of State was waiting for Dr Nwanze in the next 15 minutes.
Dr Nwanze saw this as another opportunity to advocate for the Azeri rural poor people, this time with the highest policy maker level of the country. Nwanze jumped in the car accompanied by Nadim Khouri, Director of Near East and North Africa Division and Abdelkarim Sma, the Country Programme Manager for Azerbaijan.
The audience given to IFAD President reaffirmed the Azeri leader’s support to agricultural development in rural areas and the key role played by IFAD in that regard. The two leaders discussed issues related to agricultural development in rural area and food security.
The President Aliyev highlighted the importance of agriculture, a relatively labour-intensive sector as opposed to the capital-intensive oil sector dominating the economy of Azerbaijan. He spoke about the opportunity that Azerbaijan’s climate diversity offers to agriculture of his country and the issue of irrigated farmland.
Dr Nwanze expressed commended Azerbaijan’s leadership on their socio-economic achievements. During their conversation, Dr Nwanze briefed President Aliyev onIFAD’s operations and activities in the country.
Back from the meeting with the Azeri President, the President delivered a keynote address at the Ministerial Symposium on food security.
In his statement, he shared with the audience IFAD’s experience in the field of agriculture and its on-going contributions against food insecurity. The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion which was moderated by Sami Zeidan, senior anchorperson of Aljazeera news network.
Nwanze in answering the questions posed by governors and delegates continuously made a strong case for smallholder farmers.
At the conclusion of the symposium, in true spirit of partnership and cooperation, in the presence of IsDB governors and participants, the IsDB and IFAD President together with Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Alkarim Al-Arhabi signed a memorandum of understanding whereby IsDB andIFAD will co-finance Yemen-Economic Opportunities Programme.
We ended our day with the President giving a one-on-one interview to the Azeri Trend News Agency and Nadim Khouri was interviewed by CNBC TV Arabic.
The President’s visit to Baku presented a unique opportunity for IFAD to pursue its advocacy efforts with key Arab OPEC delegations. The visit also raised awareness about IFAD’s work and contribution to the global efforts to eradicate rural poverty. The visit strengthened IFAD’s relations with the Government of Azerbaijan and raised our profile among IsDB and Arab OPEC constituencies.
I must say, that the visit to Baku was not only successful but it was an amazing one.