Over 3,000 delegates have converged in Lusaka for the 51st Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) taking place in the Zambian capital from May 23 to 27, 2016.
The 2016 edition of the Annual Meetings that are being held under the theme, "Energy and Climate Change" and are expected to be graced by Presidents Edgar Lungu of Zambia, Idriss Deby of Chad, Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, among other high profile delegates.
The meetings started on productive note with a number of issues being discussed, which are aimed at finding lasting solutions to the continent's economic agenda.
African Economic Outlook 2016
Among the highlights of the day was the release of the 2016 African Economic Outlook report that emphasised the need for prudent policy reforms in view of the rapid urbanisation.
According to the report, as Africa witness rapid urbanisation, policy reforms will be necessary for the urbanisation to advance economic development through agricultural productivity, industrialisation and services stimulated by the growth of the middle class.
The report released by the AfDB, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Centre and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), says while urbanisation has potential to transform African societies, lack of urban planning may lead to costly urban sprawl, hence the need for reforms to mitigate the impact.
The report also says tailoring national urban strategies to specific contexts and diverse urban realities, such as decentralisation, capacity building and increased transparency, remain key.
"Better matching formal real estate markets with the housing demand by clarifying land rights, managing the growth of intermediary cities, and improving the provision of infrastructure remains critical. Investments also need to be accompanied by productive formal employment, especially for the youth and sufficient public goods," the report says.
The African Economic Outlook report further notes that stepping up investment in urban infrastructure and improving connectivity with rural areas are critical in advancing development. The continent's average growth is expected at 3.7 percent this year, with growth expected to pick up to 4.5 percent in 2017. Although next year's projected growth will be determined by the recovery of commodity prices and the rebound of the world economy.
Opening Press Conference
Another highlight of the day was the news conference where AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina announced that the AfDB Group will unveil its new agenda for the continent's economic transformation - The New Deal on Energy for Africa 2016-2025, the Strategy for Jobs for Youth in Africa 2016-2025, and plan for Africa's Agricultural Transformation.
Prominent in the new agenda is the Bank's commitment of US $12 billion in the energy sector to unlock Africa's energy potential.
Adesina said as Africa aspires to achieve economic growth through industrialisation and agricultural productivity, initiatives that will support access to electricity for the sectors remain key. Hence the Bank's commitment to invest US $12 billion in the energy sector.
It is anticipated that the initiative will help countries such as Zambia that are grappling with an energy crisis.
Adesina said additional funding from the private sector, including pension funds, and international finance institutions will be required to accelerate the goal of achieving access to electricity to transform the continent's economies.
"We shall work with other countries to request them to dedicate a fair share of their gross domestic product (GDP) to the energy sector... Pension funds have a lot of money that can finance power projects on the continent, at the same time, a lot of money is being moved out of the continent through capital flight so that money needs to be brought back into the continent to support infrastructure projects," Adesina said.
As part of its 'High 5s' agenda, the Bank will launch jobs for Africa Youth Initiative to respond to the unemployment crisis among the youths in the continent. This will be done by supporting skills development in agriculture and information communication and technology (ICT), among other initiatives.
It is envisaged that 25 million jobs will be created for youths in the next 10 years.
"We want to reduce on illegal immigrants to Europe and beyond as most of the immigrants seeking employment and end up dying on the way because most of them use [dangerous routes]," he said.
Towards Nutrition Security
Another important highlight of the day was the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, which outlined a vision for a new high-level effort and shared new data strengthening the economic case for investment in nutrition across Africa.
The panel comprising Adesina and other influential leaders, philanthropists, and business gurus looked at how Africa can achieve nutrition security through increased investments and public-private partnerships with investments in the sector having the potential of adding US $83 billion to GDP growth
"To empower people out of poverty, we must first invest in the gray matter infrastructure that will truly fuel this progress--the minds of our children. Nutrition is not just a health and social development issue, nutrition is an investment that shapes economic growth for all African nations," Adesina said.
Highlighting the critical need for political leadership to take action and invest in these opportunities, John Kufuor, former President of Ghana and co-chair of the Global Panel, outlined intent to create the African Leaders for Nutrition (ALN), which aims to bring together Heads of State, Finance Ministers, and leaders from key sectors across the continent to champion and increased investment in nutrition.
"The African Leaders for Nutrition will be an opportunity for Heads of State and ministers to use their voices to commit, their actions to invest, and their positions to truly lead. Not only is it about health, but it is also about economics," he said.
Kofi Annan, Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, also said agriculture remains critical in defeating malnutrition.
"One of the most critical steps we can take to achieving nutrition security is to transform the continent's agricultural sector, because it's not just about the amount of food that we grow, it's also about the type of food that we eat. We need agriculture to be nutrition-smart," he said.