The State of the Africa Region event opened on a musical note with a performance by Menes la Plume, a songwriter, hip-hop artist and poet. La Plume, a refugee and activist living in Malawi, closed with a crowd-pleasing rendition of “Malaika.”
Hafez Ghanem, World Bank Vice President for Africa, welcomed the standing-room only crowd, highlighting the need for regional cooperation in tackling entrenched challenges, particularly fragility, the effects of which traverse national borders. He spoke of the importance of digital interventions in transforming African economies, sharing the story of a young Malian man who used a 3D printer to build a prosthetic hand for a girl who had lost hers as an example of young people using technology to create solutions. Albert Zeufack, World Bank Chief Economist for Africa, added that the digital revolution could add up to 2 percentage points to Africa’s growth annually, while reducing poverty by 1 percentage point.
There was a touching moment of solidarity when Hassan Ali Khayre, Somalia’s Prime Minister and a former refugee, embraced la Plume. Khayre talked about the need for credible leadership and inclusive growth, citing that as much as 50% productivity is lost if women and youth are not empowered to contribute.
Aichatou Boulama Kané, Minister of Planning of Niger, highlighted the critical role that women and communities play in making lasting change in countries impacted by fragility, while Alamine Mey, Cameroon’s Minister of Economic Planning and Regional Development, said he believes support for internally displaced persons and refugees is key to furthering the progress of host countries.
Save the Children’s Nana Apenem Dagadu underscored the importance of addressing sexual and reproductive health at the individual, community and regional levels in order to empower women and tackle some of the root causes of fragility.