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Give Africa a High 5!

Check out the list of the top folks in the continent’s who’s who listing, high-fiving Africa!

cover pix2Edgar Chagwa  Lungu, President of Zambia, host nation of the African Development Bank (AfDB) 2016 Annual Meetings; Idriss Deby Itno, President of Chad and Chairperson of the African Union; Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda; Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of Nigeria; Carlos Agostinho do Rosario, Prime Minister of Mozambique and Kassim  Majaliwa, Prime Minister of Tanzania.

Representing Africa’s leadership, the distinguished sextet had cause for cheer. Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the AfDB Group had just regaled a packed hall at the Opening Ceremony of the African Development Bank Annual Meetings with the institution’s achievements as well its quaintly-named High 5s agenda for transforming Africa.

Impressed, the dignitaries on the high table needed little or no persuasion to leap onto their feet and join the ecstatic Bank boss in the classic, celebratory high five salute. The wave of excitement washed into the auditorium as raised palms everywhere clashed in solidarity with the leaders, building infectious optimism all round, in preparation for the task of proffering solutions to the continent’s development challenges at the 40 disparate seminars scheduled for the Lusaka 2016 meetings.

It is okay to be all cheers and ambitious, said African Union Chairperson, Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno rather ominously a while later, bringing everyone back to earth.  Worried that Africans have spent much of the post-colonial period at such talk shops, he called for a paradigm change and shift into action. “It’s time we stopped talking and started doing the hard work of developing Africa,” he charged, taking advantage of his exalted position and duty as AU chair. President Deby Itno nonetheless praised the Bank’s efforts and pledged African leaders’ continued support for the pan-African institution. “Note that we heads-of-state will be by the AfDB’s side,” he assured.

President Lungu’s address recalled Zambia’s long history of engagement with the Bank, welling up memories of the first time the Southern African country hosted the Annual Meetings way back in 1973. The president acknowledged the Bank’s support for his country’s infrastructure development and encouraged it to do even more, especially now that traditional sources of assistance are drying up due to global economic slowdown while the  prices of commodities on which Zambia and most developing countries rely, are tanking.

The Zambian leader couldn’t be more pleased with the theme of the meetings— Energy and Climate Change. “It is paramount that energy matters are comprehensively addressed,” he said.  Zambia, like many African countries, is experiencing excruciating power shortage, which is undermining economic growth and threatening all the gains of the past decade. The country is also the suffering the effects of climate variability in its agriculture as El Nino-induced drought continues to ravage crops. The same is true of the conditions in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Botswana. For Mr Lungu, the meetings couldn’t have come at a better time.

All said, Africa’s hope in a brighter future is not misplaced. Dr Adesina demonstrated the continent’s potential with the life story and triumph of 19-year old Sierra Leonean whiz kid, Kelvin Doe. Starting out at the tender age of 11, Kelvin made his own battery from waste products from his rural town to power his radio set. Developing the “local technology,” he soon extended the service to folks in his community to the acclaim of his compatriots. The wonderkind caught the attention of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who invited him over for a short fellowship.

For Dr Adesina, Kelvin’s inventiveness and resilience is the metaphor for Africa’s aspiration to greatness. The High 5s may just be the rostrum for launching the continent, after many false starts, into global reckoning in the 21st century.

By Joni Akpederi

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