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President Macky Sall Changing Narratives On Development Priorities For Africa

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President Macky Sall

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

As a rotating chairman of the African Union, the President of Senegal, Mr Macky Sall, has excelled in speaking up on many development priorities for Africa. His complete understanding began during his childhood as he grew up in a family of politicians and ultimately continued pursuing a political career.

Without a doubt, he made The Path of Real Development a political slogan during his campaign for the presidency. He campaigned across the country without cutting off ties with the “23 Juin” (M23) opposition movement, rather telling them the importance of achieving development through unity. President Sall was awarded the 2020 Sunhak Peace Prize for successfully shortening the presidential term from seven to five years and reviving the economy through transparent policies.

Since his appointment as Chairman of the African Union, Macky Sall now has a wider platform to drum home “unity in diversity” across Africa and beyond. On an international platform, he fearlessly tells the African story, including the key priorities, the challenges and the future. His message for African leaders is “with one collective voice”, rallying for the continent’s sustainable development, sharpening external partners’ understanding of Africa’s priorities and also its role in the emerging multipolar world.

As African Union Chairman, Macky Sall was invited to the United Nations General Assembly last September. During his address to the gathering, Macky Sall was not shy about speaking up for Africa. The gist of his message? There is absolutely no excuse for failing to ensure consistent African representation in the world’s key decision-making bodies.

“It is time to overcome the reticence and deconstruct the narratives that persist in confining Africa to the margins of decision-making circles,” said Sall, who is also the President of Senegal. His speech was about the need to give Africa permanent seats at the UN Security Council so, as he put it, “Africa can finally be represented where decisions that affect 1.4 billion Africans are being taken.”

But that was far from the first time he called upon the global community to seek and consider African perspectives. From the beginning of his one-year term as the African Union’s chairman last February, Sall said he wanted to see fair, equitable international partnerships that welcomed African contributions instead of dismissing African priorities.

“Our continent cannot be a field which is the feast of others,” Sall said during his inaugural speech. He also has spoken up for greater African representation in the G20, which as of yet only has one African member (South Africa). Multilateralism must “serve the interests of all,” Sall argued in October, or it will suffer a “loss of legitimacy and authority.”

There have been several high praises and admirations for him. In an opinion article, the Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, NJ Ayuk, spoke positively about his tireless work, not only to insist that the global community listens to and respects African issues but also to build awareness of what those issues are.

Macky Sall has put African needs and priorities – including infrastructure development, greater access to COVID-19 vaccinations, food security, and an end to energy poverty – in front of world leaders ranging from Chinese President Xi Jinping to U.S. President Joe Biden. He has done the same at global events, including the 2022 G20 summit and the COP27 climate conference.

Sall has been particularly outspoken about Africa’s energy needs and the rights of African countries to continue extracting and capitalizing upon their oil and gas resources, even in the face of tremendous global pressure for Africa to make a rapid switch to renewable energy sources. He has firmly stated that, when it comes to the global march toward net zero emissions, Africa will not be in lockstep with the rest of the world at the expense of our countries’ well-being.

“We are in an era when Africa needs fierce advocates. Nations and international partnerships are fighting for their respective priorities, and unless African leaders are willing to stand up for what our continent needs, our objectives will be pushed aside. Sall has, indeed, taken a stand,” NJ Ayuk wrote in an opinion article.

Relating to an unwavering voice for a just energy transition, NJ Ayuk said, “African energy was not Sall’s only priority as chairman of the African Union, but he did, rightfully, use his platform to expand global awareness of Africa’s unique energy needs in 2022. He pointed out the hypocrisy of wealthy countries that harnessed fossil fuels to industrialize and grow their economies, telling developing African countries that the world’s zero-emission goals trumped their right to do the same.”

Macky Sall speaks with authority. “We will not accept that polluting countries, responsible for the situation of the planet, tell us that we are no longer going to finance fossil fuels,” Sall said in September.

He made similar remarks when he opened the MSGBC Oil, Gas & Power 2022 conference and exhibition, held Sept. 1-2 this year in Dakar. The MSGBC region comprises Mauritania, Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea-Conakry.

“In this new configuration of the world, energy resources are major assets for Africa. Therefore, we must not accept that our continent is an object of world geopolitics, but an actor, aware of its natural wealth of interests, which acts on the competition instead of suffering it,” Sall said, adding that made no sense for African countries to stop exploiting their oil and gas resources while more than 600 million Africans lacked electricity.

According to him, “while remaining committed to the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement, we must continue to defend the interests of our countries in the run-up to COP27 next November in Egypt.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Sall and other African leaders fiercely defended Africa’s energy interests before and during COP27. The result? As multiple news outlets reported, African natural gas took centre stage at the conference.

Macky Sall is further described as a strong collaborator. Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, NJ Ayuk, said when he tweeted in November that Africa was fortunate to have Sall at COP27. He understands both sides of the African energy transition debate: the need for Africa to set the timing for its shift to renewables and the world’s need to address climate change.

Sall advocated ongoing natural gas production in Africa, which allows us to minimize carbon dioxide emissions while providing much-needed gas to generate electricity domestically, build our economies, and move toward industrialization. Sall also has pushed for the international community to help fund the renewable energy infrastructure Africa needs for a just transition and to provide financial support for African climate adaptation.

Climate adaptation measures have particularly been a priority for Sall. In his capacity as President of Senegal, he and the CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), Patrick Verkooijen, partnered in 2022 to unlock $1 billion in climate finance for Senegal under the Africa Adaptation Accelerator Program (AAAP).

The AAAP, Africa-led and Africa-owned, is working to bolster adaptation in agriculture, digital services, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, and jobs for young people. It was developed by the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) in collaboration with the African Union.

Sall was among the trailblazers to convene the Africa Adaptation Leaders’ Event during COP27. He also co-wrote, with French President Emmanuel Macron and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, an opinion piece for the Guardian about the AAAP. It emphasized the critical importance of increased funding from developed countries for climate adaptation initiatives in developing countries, particularly those in Africa.

“What we’ve seen is a pragmatic approach from Sall, one that recognizes the need for Africa to continue harnessing its oil and gas reserves while working diligently to move toward the transition to renewables – and to build climate resiliency into Africa’s economy,” wrote NJ Ayuk.

“When Sall’s one-year term at the helm of the African Union concludes February 5, 2023, many challenges facing Africa will hardly be behind us. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that Sall has made a vital difference in his role. Sall has said, loudly and clearly, that African voices will not be silenced. Thanks to Sall, it appears that the global community is starting to hear that message. That is a step in the right direction,” concluded NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber based in South Africa.

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Interest in Netflix Stocks Jumps 131% After Oscar Nominations

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Interest in Netflix stocks

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Interest in Netflix stocks went up by 131 per cent, with signing-up to the streaming platform increasing by 166 per cent after sweeping 15 nominations across numerous categories at the Academy Awards nomination announcement.

On January 24, 2023, Oscar nominations were released, and an analysis of Google search data by AskGamblers showed that Netflix sign-up exploded over to double the average search volume in one day, an unprecedented increase in movie fans looking to stream some of the most popular titles.

Netflix’s most nominated film is All Quiet on the Western Front, a German film set during World War I. The film was nominated nine times in categories such as Best Picture and Best Cinematography. Other feature-length titles from Netflix, such as Blonde, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio and The Sea Beast, also gained nominations, as well as two documentary short films.

“The Academy Awards are the pinnacle of the awards season, with many filmmakers and studios hoping for recognition from the Academy in this latest nomination announcement.

“With 15 nominations given to films produced by Netflix, it will be interesting to see if these searches translate into sign-ups to the platform and if Netflix will receive even more new customers if they win big during the ceremony in March,” a spokesperson for AskGamblers commented on the findings.

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Lavrov Yet to Begin Choosing between Illusions and Reality for Africa

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Sergey Lavrov Africa

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

In late January, four African countries – South Africa, Eswatini, Angola and Eritrea – officially hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He went visiting these African countries as part of laying the groundwork and testing the pulse ahead of the forthcoming second Russia-Africa summit set for late July in St. Petersburg.

The first such summit was held in Sochi in October 2019 under the motto For Peace, Security and Development, attracting a large number of African representatives.

As Russia prepares to strengthen its overall corporate economic profile during the next African leaders’ summit, many Russian policy experts are questioning bilateral agreements that were signed, many of them largely remained unimplemented, with various African countries.

At the prestigious Moscow-based Institute for African Studies, well-experienced policy researchers such as Professors Vladimir Shubin and Alexandra Arkhangelskaya have argued that Russia needs to be more strategic in aligning its interests and be more proactive with instruments and mechanisms in promoting economic cooperation in order to reap the benefits of a fully-fledged bilateral partnership.

“The most significant positive sign is that Russia has moved away from its low-key strategy to vigorous relations, and authorities are seriously showing readiness to compete with other foreign players. But, Russia needs to find a strategy that really reflects the practical interests of Russian business and African development needs,” said Arkhangelskaya, who is also a Senior Lecturer at the Moscow High School of Economics.

Currently, the signs for Russia-African relations are impressive – declarations of intentions have been made, important bilateral agreements signed – now it remains to be seen how these intentions and agreements entered into these years will be implemented in practice, she pointed out in an interview.

The revival of Russia-African relations has to be enhanced in all fields. Obstacles to the broadening of Russia-African relations have to be addressed more vigorously. These include, in particular, the lack of knowledge or information in Russia about the situation in Africa and vice versa, suggested Arkhangelskaya.

While answering questions from the “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin” television programme on December 25, 2022, Lavrov explained that Russia’s motto is the balance of interests. “This balance is the core of our foreign policy. It is the only approach that has prospects in international affairs,” he reiterated, so Russia should balance its interest (not to describe them as enemies) with other external players in Africa.

Lavrov has been in the ministerial seat these several years and, of course, seems to be up to the existing challenges and the comprehensive policy tasks in continental Africa. In Pretoria, Lavrov held discussions with South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor. While talking later about the Russia-Ukraine crisis at the media briefing, Lavrov said Moscow appreciated “the independent, well-balanced and considerate approach” taken by Pretoria. South Africa has refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia has been hit by unprecedentedly stringent sanctions and suffers from isolation.

South Africa has now assumed the chairmanship of the BRICS, a grouping that includes Brazil, Russia, India and China. It will, however, host joint maritime drills with Russia and China from February 17 to 27, off the port city of Durban and Richards Bay. Some experts say the BRICS grouping, especially in the emerging new geopolitical world, throws many challenges to the United States and European-led global governance structures.

In August 2023, South Africa will host the BRICS summit. In this context, the sides expressed confidence that Pretoria’s upcoming chairmanship of this group opened up new opportunities for its future development, including in the context of expanding the partnerships between the five BRICS countries and African states.

Currently, South Africa has little trade with Russia but champions a world view – favoured by China and Russia – that seeks to undo perceived U.S.-hegemony in favour of a “multipolar” world in which geopolitical power is more diffuse.

Nevertheless, Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor called for greater economic cooperation between South Africa and Russia at the start of her meeting with Lavrov. “Our countries share growing economic bilateral relations both in terms of trade and investments,” she said. “It is my view that both countries can and must do more to develop and capitalize on opportunities to increase our cooperation in the economic sphere.”

Besides that, as indicated above, however, Lavrov mentioned peaceful space, high technology, smart cities, and nuclear energy as promising areas of collaboration with South Africa. Pretoria expresses readiness to collaborate, but the question is how to build a supply chain and financial services for collaborative projects in the face of Western sanctions imposed on Russia.

The two are members of BRICS, a grouping of major emerging economies, although they remain relatively insignificant markets for each other: Russia ranked as South Africa’s 33rd-largest trading partner in 2021, with two-way flows amounting to just $1.46 billion. In comparison, South Africa’s trade with the United States was $10.2 billion in 2021.

Reports have also pointed to the negative effects of Russia’s opaque transactions with South Africa under the Zuma administration. “There is a split in the South African establishment between the ruling ANC party and the opposition, which is fiercely against Russian-South African collaboration. There are fears that the country’s frenetic anti-Russian media campaign may gradually tip the scales against Moscow. Nonetheless, for the time being, South Africa is interested in broadening its foreign relations, particularly through the BRICS,” a Researcher at the Institute for International Studies at MGIMO, Maya Nikolskaya, told local Russian daily Kommersant.

Maya Nikolskaya underlined the fact that 2022 was generally not an easy year for Russian-African relations. The majority of African countries found themselves under tremendous pressure from the West. However, Moscow still has great potential in Africa: Russia is a major grain exporter, and in turn, “Moscow is interested in new sales markets, so building alternative value chains is in the interests of both parties,” the expert explained about Russia’s relations with South Africa.

On his second stopover in the Kingdom of Eswatini, Lavrov expressed deep wariness about the Western dominance and situations guided mostly by the orders of the former colonial powers. “We understand the painful feelings of the US and Europe, as the structure of international relations is changing, becoming multipolar, polycentric. We cannot change our Western friends and make them polite, behave democratically,” Lavrov said at a news conference following talks with the Kingdom of Eswatini’s top diplomat, Thulisile Dladla.

Reports indicated that the King of Eswatini Mswati III, has been invited to the Russia-Africa summit to be held this year in St. Petersburg. And Moscow plans to deepen its interaction with Eswatini in the area of Russian grain supplies, the construction of irrigation systems, energy and mineral resources mining. “We stated that efforts should be focused now on the economic sphere, which by its indicators so far lags far behind other areas of our cooperation, above all the excellent level of political dialogue,” the Russian top diplomat said.

About 50 Swazi nationals are receiving military education at Russian Defence Ministry colleges, further agreeing to step up cooperation in the field of security. Tongue-twisting Lavrov repackaged a long list of projects in nearly all sectors, including industry, agriculture, information communications technology, digital, education, culture and many others. With a small population of 1.2 million, Eswatini is a tiny landlocked country in Southern Africa.

During the media conference, he made references to his previous tour in Africa (Egypt, the Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Ethiopia) and also to the Arab League headquarters. He also discussed BRICS at length, particularly proposals for its expansion, as well as its role in the global economy, globalization and global finance. “BRICS is not planning to shut the door to the rest of the world. On the contrary, we would like to cooperate with all countries as much as possible, equally and based on a balance of interests. The BRICS countries’ approach to global affairs is winning the sympathy of more and more countries across the world, including in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” he asserted.

Wrapping his “business-as-usual” meetings in Eswatini, Lavrov referred to countries such as China, India, Turkey, et cetera that are emerging together as a new multipolar world. But these countries have good economic footprints in Africa. For Russia to recognizably play dominating role similar to China, India and Turkey, it has to make a complete departure from frequent rhetorics and work seriously on its economic policy dimensions in Africa.

The Kingdom of Eswatini, officially renamed from Swaziland in 2018, is a constitutional monarchy with the current constitution in force since February 8, 2006. The country is a member of the British-led Commonwealth. Eswatini, with an approximate population of 1,2 million (2021), is bordered by South Africa and Mozambique. It has had diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation since November 19, 1999.

Upon his arrival on January 24, Lavrov and his delegation were welcomed by his Angolan counterpart, Tete Antonio. On the next day, he held an in-depth discussion with President João Lourenço. According to the transcript, the focus was on the preparations for the next meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation and Trade in Luanda in late April. Both, however, outlined steps to advance strategic partnerships across all areas.

With Minister of External Relations Tete Antonio, there were questions relating to the launch of Angola’s AngoSat-2 satellite and which allows continuing cooperation in the peaceful exploration of outer space and other high-tech areas. Lavrov and Antonio have ultimately agreed to expedite the coordination of several new intergovernmental agreements, including those on the opening of cultural centres and on the nuclear power industry, humanitarian missions and merchant shipping.

Eritrea was Lavrov’s final working station. With an estimated population of 5.8 million, it is located on the Red Sea, in the Horn of Africa region of Eastern Africa. Russia and Eritrea have had diplomatic relations since May 1993. President Isaias Afwerki has ruled Eritrea with an iron fist since its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Eritrea was one of the countries that voted against a UN resolution condemning Russia over the situation in Ukraine in March 2022.

In April 2022, Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh Mohammed made a visit to Moscow. Both Lavrov and Mohammed reaffirmed Russia’s strategic interest in making coordinated efforts aimed at building a logistics hub along the coastline. During their meeting, Lavrov promised Moscow’s contribution towards stronger stability and security in the Horn of Africa.

As far back in 2018, Lavrov spoke extensively about economic cooperation. According to him, Russia’s truck maker KAMAZ was already working in Eritrea, supplying its products to that country, as was Gazprombank Global Resources, which was building cooperation in the banking sector. In the same year, 2018, concrete talks were held to build a logistics centre at the port of Eritrea, which makes the world’s class logistics and services hub for maritime transportation through the Suez Canal and is definitely set to promote bilateral trade.

According to the transcript posted on the website, Lavrov said: “we cooperate in many diverse areas: natural resources, all types of energy engineering, including nuclear and hydroelectric energy, and new sources of energy, infrastructure in all its aspects, medicine, the social sphere, transport and many more.”

Still that same year, Eritrea was interested in opening a Russian language department at one of the universities in the capital of the country, Asmara. Lavrov further indicated: “We agreed to take extra measures to promote promising projects in the sphere of mining and infrastructure development and to supply specialized transport and agricultural equipment to Eritrea.”

As always, Lavrov’s discussions with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki focused on “strengthening bilateral relations as well as regional developments of interest to the two countries.” He, however, reaffirmed Russia’s unconditional commitment to fulfilling all of its obligations under export contracts to send critical food supplies to African countries in need, including under the package agreements reached with the participation of the United Nations.

Isaias Afwerki further listened carefully as Lavrov listed a huge number of proposals, including those relating to the economy, mining, information and communication technologies, agriculture, infrastructure projects, the possibilities of the sea and air ports of Massawa, as well as Russian proposals for the development of industry in Eritrea. “All these are topics for the upcoming consultations between our ministries of the economy. We agreed to start them soon and give them a regular character,” he convincingly assured.

In summary, Lavrov’s trip to Africa, which has become a renewed diplomatic battleground since the Ukraine war began, has taken him to Angola, Eswatini and South Africa. As previously, not a single development project was commissioned in any of those African countries he visited. It was the usual diplomatic niceties, “dating and promising,” but at least with a bouquet for the bride.

During his four-African country visit, Lavrov did not hold meetings with any youth and women groups, nor did he address a gathering of African entrepreneurs. He did not visit any Russian-funded project facility sites to first-hand assess developments and progress there, nor any educational establishment, especially those dealing with international relations. His meetings were state-centric and mostly office-centred. Throughout his speeches, not a single reference was made to the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). While exploring more opportunities, there was absolutely nothing on Covid-19 and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines or practical proposals to develop vaccines for other deadly diseases across Africa.

Lavrov left Moscow the next day after his three-hour media conference, summing up foreign policy achievements and the way forward on 18 January. During that conference, Africa only appeared at the bottom of the discussions. And yet Africa is considered “a priority” in Russia’s policy. Lavrov made a sketchy response about Africa and then reminded the gathering of the forthcoming summit planned for late July 2023. He, however, mentioned that there were drafted documents to reset cooperation mechanisms in this environment of sanctions and threats and in the context of geopolitical changes.

“There will be new trade and investment cooperation tools, logistics chains and payment arrangements. The change to transactions in national currencies is underway. This process is not a rapid one, but it is in progress and gaining momentum,” he told the gathering in quick remarks, then swiftly closed the media conference that day.

Nevertheless, African leaders are consistently asked to support Russia against Ukraine. Since the symbolic October 2019 gathering in Sochi, extremely little has happened. With high optimism and a high desire to strengthen its geopolitical influence, Russia has engaged in trading slogans, and many of its signed bilateral agreements have not been implemented, including all those from the first Russia-Africa summit. The summit fact files show that 92 agreements and contracts worth a total of $12.5 billion were signed, and before that, several pledges and promises were still undelivered.

Since his appointment in 2004 as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov has succeeded in building high-level political dialogues in Africa. But, his geopolitical lectures have largely overshadowed Russia’s achievements in Africa. Throughout these several years of his official working visits to Africa, unlike his Chinese counterparts, Lavrov hardly cuts ribbons marking the completion of development projects in Africa.

However, he needs simultaneously to understand how to approach development ideas inside Africa. These ideas could offer Russia hopes for raising its economic cooperation to a qualitatively new level and ultimately contribute to the building of sustainable relations with Africa. The new scramble for Africa is gaining momentum; therefore, Russians have to face the new geopolitical realities and their practical existing challenges. But in a nutshell, Russians seem to close their eyes to the fact that Africa’s roadmap is the African Union Agenda 2063.

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Participants to Explore Future of Alternative Energy Solutions at MEE

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Middle East Energy MEE alternative energy solutions

By Adedapo Adesanya

Middle East Energy, the leading energy industry event in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, will make its anticipated return to the Dubai World Trade Centre on March 7—9, 2023, to guide energy transition conversations across the globe.

The event, which is the 48th of its kind, is organised by Informa Markets, the leading global exhibitions organiser. It will bring together buyers and sellers from across different countries to explore the latest advancements in energy products and solutions.

The programme will provide opportunities to network with international energy suppliers, discover products and solutions that are changing the energy landscape, and build long-lasting business relationships.

Speaking on this, Mr Ade Yesufu, Exhibition Manager, Middle East Energy, said, “Over the years, Middle East Energy has supported the global energy community to find solutions that empower the rapid acceleration of electricity consumption across the Middle East and other parts of the world.

“This year, the aim is to advance the conversations in light of the current global reality and changes in the energy industry. This event also brings together the highest level of decision-makers and international partners to connect and discover innovative products and solutions that can deliver cleaner energy and supply sustainable power.”

With over 800 exhibiting companies representing 170 countries and a 20,000+ global audience, participants will explore insights on the future of alternative energy solutions that will help in delivering more efficient and effective power systems.

This edition of Middle East Energy will focus on five key product sections that are leading the way in the energy transition: Smart Solutions, Renewable & Clean Energy, Backup Generators & Critical Power, Transmission & Distribution, and Energy Consumption & Management.

Middle East Energy will also feature strategic conferences and content arenas focusing on the latest technologies and products to provide a platform for knowledge sharing, support relationship building, and uncover solutions to some of the most pressing challenges posed by the energy transition.

These include CEO roundtables, technical sessions, and the Intersolar Conference, which will bring together global policymakers, utilities, developers, financiers, and technology leaders across three days to create the blueprint for a successful energy transition across the Middle East and Africa.

The confirmed panellists include: Licypriya Kangujam, an 11-year-old climate activist; Mr Raphael Mworia, Commercial Director, KETRACO – Kenya Electricity Transmission Company Ltd; Mr Abraham Serem, Acting Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, KenGen – Kenya Electricity Generating Company; and Mr Abdulaziz Al Naim, CEO, Saudi Power Company;

Others include Dr Joseph Oketch, Director – Electricity and Renewable Energy, Energy & Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Kenya; Mrs Leila Benali, Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, Kingdom of Morocco; Mr Azhar Hussain, Principal Investment Officer, International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Other conferences include The Technical Seminar, an interactive forum for the world’s leading energy experts and technical minds to discuss and explore the innovations and technologies driving the energy transition and Intersolar Middle East, a gathering of solar and renewable energy industry professionals in the MEA region to discuss the transformative dynamics of renewable energies around the world.

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