Posted on Tuesday, 24 May 2016 11:11

AfDB Lusaka meeting off to a very Rwandan start

By Marshall Van Valen in Lusaka

AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina. Photo©ReutersThe first day of the African Development Bank's Annual Meeting in Lusaka hit on the major themes that president Akinwumi Adesina has been pushing in his first term.

While officials were presenting about the need for smart urbanisation, others were preparing their talks on nutrition, employment and agriculture, and the challenges of creating an African technological revolution.

At a press conference, Adesina, who is backing the goal of universal access to electricity in Africa by 2025 as one of his five main priorities, said: "We will never transform Africa without transforming its energy supply."

Although it is not part of the official agenda, Rwanda has become something of a conference darling.

While the leaders of international institutions like UN-Habitat and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development discussed economic growth and urbanisation, Rwanda's finance minister Claver Gatete popped up during the question-and-answer session to laud Rwanda's plans to develop cities outside of Kigali.

At the session on information technology, after African Institute for Mathematical Sciences CEO Thierry Zomahoun complained that governments are not building the ecosystem to support rapid technological growth, Gatete again took the mic to point to Rwanda's policy of not taxing communication services, as has been discussed in Nigeria.

There were lighter moments at the Lusaka meeting too, from visits from the Mulungushi International Conference Centre's (MICC) wandering impala to the evening's cocktail reception at the Intercontinental hotel.

As a mark of the networking excitement of the financiers, ministers, journalists and other attendees, the packed reception room refused to quiet down to listen to the formalities and welcome messages intended to start off the evening.

With the official launch of the Annual Meeting planned for 24 May with the reconvened guests at the MICC, the attendees promised a return to more conference-like behaviour and a refocusing on Africa's economic transformation and the themes of climate change, energy, agriculture and youth employment.

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