World Bulletin/News Desk
The World Economic Forum (WEF) for Africa meetings wrapped up Friday in Nigerian capital Abuja with participants – including investors and world governments – promising to invest some $68 billion in development projects in Africa.
Speaking at a closing press conference, WEF Managing Director Phillip Rosler said the funds would go towards critical sectors, such as infrastructure, energy, agriculture, education and public health.
The pledge was led by a $12-billion commitment by China, made by Chinese Prime Minister Li Kequiang, who said his country would increase credit lines to Africa by $10 billion and boost the China-Africa Development Fund by $2 billion, bringing the latter up to $5 billion.
"To put all the monies together that were committed by the Chinese and others, we have about $68 billion in coming years for Africa and the African people," Rosler told the news briefing.
Rosler described the three-day event – held under the banner "Forging inclusive growth, creating jobs" – as one of the most successful in the WEF's history, judging by the over 1500 delegates from some 80 countries who attended the event.
The large turnout of Nigerian, African and global participants, he noted, came despite Nigeria's current security challenges.
Another measure of the event's success, he continued, was the considerable media coverage that accompanied it, with "more than 48,000 articles [written about the event] from these three days in Nigeria, in comparison to last year, which had 16,000 [articles written about it]."
This, he added, "is a proof that Africa is very important to the people of the world. We not only want to create a future of interest, but we are committed to improving the state of Africa."
He said the fact that the forum was held despite a recent spate of militant attacks in Nigeria was a sign of world solidarity with Africa's most populous country.
"We will not allow the terrorists to dictate the African agenda. And this is the main message from this WEF [meeting]," he said.
"We will make sure that all these projects are successful in Africa," he added.
This week's event featured high-profile discussions and debates on means of easing the extreme poverty in Africa by reducing inequality and creating more job opportunities.
In her closing remarks, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala thanked the event's roughly 1050 attendees, including several heads of states and governments, for their show of solidarity with Nigeria.
She also expressed appreciation to nations – including the U.S., the U.K., France and China – that expressed willingness to help locate dozens of schoolgirls abducted last month by the Boko Haram militant group.
Okonjo-Iweala also voiced appreciation for assistance offered by the United Nations through its special envoy for education, Gordon Brown, who announced a $10-million matching grant for Nigeria's Safe School Initiative and to support northern Nigeria's education sector.
President Goodluck Jonathan, she said, had met the conditions for the grant by matching it with an additional $10 million to activate the project.
"The international community has rallied around us to ensure that we bring back our girls," Okonjo-Iweala asserted.
"During the rally to bring back our girls, there has been added interest by investors to invest more into Nigeria, she said.
"And this will help us create more jobs and ensure inclusive growth," the minister added. "Our commitment to bring back our girls is unwavering."
Also speaking on the abducted girls, Brown, a former British prime minister, said the Safe School Initiative – which will involve 500 schools in its pilot phase – would help raise school enrollment in Nigeria.
The message, he stressed, was that "Africa is growing and no terrorist will stop the progress of Africa."
"We have been talking with Nigeria's president on what will be done to bring back our girls and also the safe school project," said Brown.
"We are determined to give all the support to the Nigerian government to bring back these girls," he added.
"If your child goes to school and is abducted, it's the worst thing that will happen to that child," the former PM asserted. "We will do everything in our power to get the girls back."
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