LUSAKA 2016, the African Development Bank Group annual meetings which officially opened yesterday, has come at a time the continent is faced with one of the biggest economic challenges ever experienced in the modern era, threatening to reverse the major strides the people of Africa have made over the years.
A combination of the commodity prices rout on the international markets, a blistering drought and unfavourable trading conditions on the world stage, have caused a major economic upheaval in many African countries, pushing some of them to the brink of bankruptcy and political turmoil.
This banking extravaganza being held in Zambia is the AfDB Group’s largest annual event and its biggest showroom window to the world. No wonder it has attracted over 3,000 delegates and observers, including several Heads of State.
The conference has attracted many of the world’s luminaries, including technocrats, policy-makers, experts, opinion-makers as well as political pundits who have been lured here by the massive potential of Africa and the unconquerable spirit of its people.
After being unfairly dubbed the ‘‘dark continent’’ characterised by military coups, wars, famine, poverty and bad governance, many of the non-African delegates to the conference must have been captivated by the rebranded image of a new Africa, an awakening giant.
Themed ‘‘Energy and climate change’’, the meeting hopes to focus on the bank’s priorities, which is to light up and power the continent to another economic level.
Many agree that Africa cannot develop without industrialisation and it cannot industrialise without energy. It is, therefore, imperative that the bank must finance Africa’s industrialisation programme by focusing on renewable energy which is widely and naturally available but needs money to produce.
Africa also needs to be food secure. It must use its greatest resource – human and land – to grow food for its ballooning population and sell the surplus to the world to earn foreign exchange. It must use the land effectively and sustainably to create employment for the millions of its youthful generation in order to rid the continent of the offshoots of squalor, political instability and home-grown terrorism.
Africa and its people are today riveting their eyes and ears on the AfDB Group meeting in Lusaka, holding their breath, and hoping for a resolution to some of their engrained challenges of poverty and under-development which are the causes of the thousands of young Africans making the perilous voyage over the Mediterranean Sea to Europe as migrants in search of jobs, wealth and a good life.
To succeed in its mandate to finance Africa’s development as a trajectory to prosperity, the bank needs to invest in what its Chief Executive Officer Akinwumi Adesina describes as ‘‘gray matter infrastructure’’ education – to empower and pull African people out of poverty and under-nourishment.
Dr Adesina says: ‘‘Nutrition is not just a health and social development issue; nutrition is an investment that shapes economic growth for all African nations. When the growth of our children is stunted today – the growth of our economies will be stunted tomorrow. But when Africa’s children are nourished and can grow and earn to their full potential, we will be able to unleash the potential of the entire continent.’’
Indeed Africa needs to develop to its full potential. And the AfDB Group annual meeting must build on the foundation laid by our forefathers and push Africa to another level. This is the only way the bank can justify the millions of dollars it is spending on its annual general meeting.