TEDx Abidjan: Voices of hope set tone for 2015 AfDB Annual Meetings

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On the eve of the African Development Bank Annual Meetings in Abidjan, an independent Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) conference kicked off the week on Sunday, May 24 at the Sofitel Hotel Ivoire. The aim of the TEDx Abidjan event: to showcase innovative solutions and approaches to address pressing and challenging issues facing the African continent.

Drawn from sectors such as education, business, telecommunications, writing, photography and health, young people who have excelled and distinguished themselves in their respective professions challenged their peers to seize the moment and help place Africa on a growth trajectory. The TEDx dialogue, sponsored by the AfDB and focused on the theme “We are changing the world”, took place at the venue of the Bank’s 2015 Annual Meetings.

AfDB’s Vice-President and Secretary General, Cecilia Akintomide, attended the event alongside Albert Toikeusse Mabri, Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of State, Planning and Development and AfDB Governor. Akintomide said the positive energy from the young presenters represented an ideal kick off to the Bank’s 50th Annual Meetings.

“There could not have been a better way to get the Annual General Meetings started than this,” she said. “What was great about this evening was being able to reach out to young Africans, get them to know about the African Development Bank, get them inspired and engaged about what is happening in their country and the world and to show them how they can be a part a positive influence of change in their communities, country, continent and the world.”

From the field of African literature, award-winning Ivorian-born writer Edwige Renée Dro called for a new approach to capturing and disseminating African literature.

“Africa has many languages and a population of about 1 billion people. This is a large market for our literature,” he said. “The only way you get to target this audience is not by writing and communicating in English, French or foreign languages. You have to use languages that our people are familiar with. So I think we have to translate these literature into African languages so that people in our villages can read and understand.”

For his part, Ashish Thakkar, founder of Mara Group and Mara Foundation, with investments in more than 22 African countries, said, “I have never seen so much excitement about Africa.” Now is the time for Africa,” said Thakkar who settled in Uganda as a teenager. He denounced the notion that “youth are the leaders of tomorrow”, arguing that “youth are the leaders of today.”

Mobile telephony is one of the major innovations on the African continent with potential to transform financial transactions in significant ways in future. The Chief Executive Officer of MTN Côte d’Ivoire, Wim Vanhelleputte, spoke of his company’s vision to leverage telephony to transform finances in Côte d’Ivoire. He argued that in the years to come, the Ivorian economy will move from a cash economy to virtual cash economy where most transactions are done through mobile money.

Sunday’s event was sponsored by the AfDB with the goal of encouraging young people across the continent to be involved in development issues challenging their communities, countries and regions.

Akintomide was further impressed by the commitment of youth to be part of solutions to growing challenges facing the continent. “There was a lot of hope, determination, and confidence that they could make a difference on the continent. And I think it is not just talk. The continent has come a long way.”

Sunday’s event was the third edition organized by TEDx Abidjan. 

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