Under the theme “The next 50 years: The Africa we want,” the African Development Bank opens on Monday its 49th annual meetings in Kigali, Rwanda, hoping to come up with concrete plans to foster sustainable economic growth across the continent, tackle climate change and the culture of corruption and waste that has stunted African development in the past.
Over 3,500 delegates — which have taken up virtually every available bed in the Rwandan capital’s hotels — will debate AfDB President Donald Kaberuka’s efforts to engage the private sector, boost job creation especially for young people and women and spark infrastructure investment to facilitate exports.
Ahead of the week-long meeting, the bank’s board approved last Friday an ambitious governance strategy framework and action plan to guide its operations over the next five years through more effective public sector and economic management, better governance, and increased investment by improving the business climate.
Here are our four picks for hot topics to be discussed in Kigali:
1. 50th anniversary. After half a century of leading development efforts in Africa, the AfDB will highlight in Rwanda its accomplishments over the last 50 years, in particular how the institution has evolved to become the continent’s premier development finance organization and knowledge broker on development issues, while acknowledging the need to remain dynamic and innovative in its actions to tackle development challenges. Looking ahead to the future, the bank hopes to be able to provide more long-term solutions to these challenges, rather than some short-term fixes that didn’t work out so well in the past.
2. Return to Abidjan. Ten years ago, the AfDB decided to relocate its headquarters from Abidjan to Tunis due to the conflict in the Ivory Coast. The move was supposed to be only temporary, but it took longer than expected. Now the bank says it is pushing through with the move back to Abidjan, with considerable implications for investment in upgrading facilities, staffing and procurement.
3. Africa50. One of the most expected announcements in Kigali will be the launch of Africa50, a $3 billion infrastructure fund that hopes to raise money from regional and non-African pension funds, insurance groups, sovereign wealth funds and institutional investors. Infrastructure development in the continent over the past few years has been led by China, but this year Beijing is expected to mark a major shift in its aid policy toward Africa by investing $2 billion for the first time through AfDB and a fund open to all bidders — not just Chinese companies — in response to criticism over China’s perceived “neocolonial” policy in Africa.
4. Gender. The AfDB approved last January its first-ever gender strategy, a major milestone that aspires to promote inclusive growth through gender equality, especially in fragile states and by strengthening the role of women in agriculture. The strategy wants to harnessed the virtually untapped development potential of African women by promoting their full participation in politics, more access to knowledge and equal opportunities in areas like land tenure. However, whether these lofty ideals will actually translate into concrete actions in a continent where gender-specific challenges like child marriage continue to be rampant, remains to be seen.
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