For Africa's 1.2 Billion people, rural communities are home to almost two-thirds of the population. For most, Agriculture is the main source of livelihood. Even though Africa contains 65% of global uncultivated land, the continent is a net importer of food - $35 Billion a year.
Djiby Mbaye grew up in Mbaye. Its one of many rural communities around Lake Guiers, Senegal's main fresh water reserve which provides 60% of drinking water needs for the capital, Dakar. But Djiby says that for decades, there was an exodus of young people, many of whom embarked on the risky adventure of heading to Spain and Italy by boat. Poor access to water and limited job opportunities took a toll.
Djiby says, "Today, things are changing dramatically." Many young emigrants are returning to the Lake Guiers region. Thanks to a loan of almost 11 Billion CFA provided by the African Development (AfDB) the hydrological conditions of the Lake has improved significantly. 50,000 people in 13 villages have access to drinking water, and water which can meet their agricultural needs. Djiby says, "Until a few years ago, I never earned more than 200,000 CFA (approximately US$335). Last year, from the proceeds of my potato harvest, I bought a car for 4 million CFA." For Djiby and many others here, the changes are truly transformational.
Today, Africa's premier development financial institution, the African Development Bank (AfDB), is aggressively spearheading its 'High-5' social development agenda with its five simple yet enormous aims to Light Up Africa, Feed Africa, Industrialize Africa, Integrate Africa, and Improve The Quality of Life the People of Africa.
Speaking of ever-increasing energy needs, African Development Bank President Dr Akinwumi Adesina, is quick to remind his audience that '"No nation has ever developed in the dark. Africa is simply tired of being in the dark. It is time to take decisive action and turn around this narrative: to light up and power Africa - and accelerate the pace of economic transformation, unlock the potential of businesses, and drive much needed industrialization to create jobs."
Which is why meeting Africa's energy and infrastructure needs is critical to the continent's economic and social transformation.
Further North in Morocco, the Noor Plant, run by the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN), made history in 2016 when it commissioned the world's first concentrated solar plant with a capacity of 160 MW. Part funded by the African Development Bank, the Noor Complex will have a capacity of 2000 MW in 2020 and reduce CO2 emissions by 500,000 tons a year.
In the first three years alone, the Noor Solar complex will employ 3,000 people during the construction phase. Many of them are young professional like Nadia Ahansal, a Maintenance and Operations Engineer at Noor. She says, "Working here is a dream come true. My husband and I are both locals. We have an opportunity to build our nation and stay close to our families at the same time."
The African Development will commit $12 Billion of its own resources to energy projects over the next 5 years. Ethiopia has taken advantage of the Bank's commitments and is running full steam ahead with an Industrialisation policy that could see it emerge as a middle-income country within 10 years. The country is investing heavily in much needed infrastructure. The recently upgraded 700 kilometer Addis Ababa - Djibouti electrified railroad will reduce the time it takes to move a container from central Ethiopia to the port of Djibouti from five days to just 10 hours.
The Derba Cement Company on the outskirts of the capital is a major beneficiary of African Development Bank funding. Until its commissioning in 2012, construction in Ethiopia moved at the proverbial snail's speed. It was not uncommon for construction projects to be delayed by as much as a year or two due to cement importation restrictions. Today, with an installed production capacity of 8,000 tons a day, Derba MIDROC is helping meet 100% of the country's cement needs, and exporting to nearby countries.
According to Haile Assegide, Derba MIDROC's CEO, "Our company has had an exponential impact on the local economy and the construction industry in general. No one has to wait for months or years for cement. Now, we deliver to a client's construction site within 24 - 48 hours."
Samuel Teklay, CEO of Satcon Construction, is one of Derba MIDROC's clients and a leading employer of labour in Addis. He says, "In the past you can never really tell when a project would be completed. It was safe to always double the amount of time required to complete a project."
Moving Derba Cement products across neighboring borders is expected to become seamless in the not too distant future as Africa, the African Union, and the African Development Bank work toward Integrating Africa. The last 200-Kilometer stretch of the TAH-4 Highway, otherwise known as the Cape to Cairo Highway, is nearing completion in Tanzania. Working closely with Tanzania's road infrastructure authority TANROADS, the African Development Bank is investing heavily in infrastructure projects including highways and one-stop border posts that will accelerate the movement of people, goods, and services across Africa.
Omari Ayubu is a truck driver who has spent many days on the road and at border posts. "The road has helped me to deliver goods much faster to the market places and saved me a lot of expenses that came from doing car repairs due to bad conditions of the older roads." He echoes the sentiments of Mohammed Bajwa, a Tanzanian businessman. "I buy goods and transport them to Dar es Salaam. Before the road was made we used to use the Singida or Arusha routes and it takes a long time, almost two or three days but now because this new road is about to be complete, we take about twelve or fifteen hours. Now I'm reaping the benefits of this road."
In country after country, the African Development Bank's massive investment in its High 5 developmental goals is showing tangible signs of transformation ... of nations, businesses and people.
Eta Muhango is a local fish entrepreneur in Monkey Bay, Malawi. As the beneficiary of a Local Economic Development Center and a Fish Landing Site funded by the African Development Bank, she could easily be speaking for millions of other African women and rural poor. "I have being selling fish for twenty years. Before the fishing-landing site was built, I lost my husband and feeding six children was very difficult. There were many days we slept hungry. The project has helped me and many women form a cooperative to help us get better prices since we bargain as a group. From the sales of the fish we process at the fishing site. I have educated four children who have now finished secondary school and I continue to take care of the needs of two children in primary school. I have also bought five goats and built a home.
This year, The African Development Bank will host its Annual Meeting in Ahmedabad from May 22-26. A senior Indian Delegation, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is expected to be in attendance.