By Ronald Joshua
UNITED NATIONS (IDN) – Despite instability and security challenges, ranging from human and drug trafficking to terrorism and the illicit flow of resources away from the continent, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development – now fully embedded in the development paradigms of both the United Nations and the African Union – remains the “rallying point” in Africa’s pursuit of growth.
The partnership, known as NEPAD, is particularly critical in the areas of social and economic development. The recent finalization of the Tripartite Free Trade Area agreement is an important step that would harmonize three sub‑regional blocs, which previously had their own rules and models for trade.
These were some of the upshots of a debate in the General Assembly on October 20, the final day of this year’s Africa Week at the United Nations, which focussed on: ‘Supporting an Integrated, Prosperous, People-Centred and Peaceful Africa: Towards the Implementation of Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’.
UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák in his opening remarks acknowledged the importance of NEPAD, referring to the programme first established in 2001 and then integrated into the African Union’s structure to facilitate and coordinate the implementation of continental and regional priority projects.
“NEPAD was something of a trailblazer […] Since its adoption in 2001, NEPAD has led to transformative change,” Lajčák said, noting that it predates the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and African Union’s Agenda 2063 by more than a decade. For example, he said, NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme has improved agricultural productivity on the continent, changing the lives of many African farmers.
Furthermore, NEPAD has led to big strides in the integration of African trade. The finalization of the tripartite free trade agreement this summer among the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Southern African Development Community (SADC) and East African Community (EAC) was an important step.
“The continental free trade area is no longer a distant dream. It could very soon be a reality,” he said. However, faster progress needs to be seen, not only in the two sectors of agriculture and trade, but also in infrastructure, industry, economic diversification and poverty eradication, said Lajčák.
He went on to stress that no development in Africa can take hold unless it is led from within, noting that there are many exciting developments at the national level, and African countries are also building their capacities for domestic resource mobilization, and tackling illicit financial flows.
Yet, in an increasingly globalized world, the efforts within Africa need to be supported by a revitalized partnership with development partners, including UN bodies and Member States, as well as by investment and financial and technical assistance.
Also the root causes of conflict and suffering must be addressed. “The signing of a trade agreement will mean little to a mother whose young child is very sick from malaria. Similarly, foreign direct investment is not on the mind of someone who is running from a shower of bullets,” he said.
“Africa has a very clear vision” – one which involves all layers of society benefiting from growth and development; one in which malaria or other diseases do not serve as death sentences for hundreds of thousands of people every year; one in which early warning signs of conflict lead more often to successful mediation than to violence; and one in which institutions are strong, women and youth both lead and participate, and good governance is the norm, he said.
“This vision is getting closer to reality,” he concluded.
Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD, speaking on behalf of the African Union, expressed concern that Africa’s inequality gap continues to widen, with negative repercussions for political stability, business, growth and social cohesion.
Demographics – especially youth and youth unemployment – is a critical part of the continent’s development, he said, noting that with a median age of 20, Africa must break the generation‑to‑generation poverty cycle that continued to trap many of its people.
Indeed, some 440 million people on the continent would be entering the labour market by 2030, meaning that Africa must rapidly expand its efforts in job creation, entrepreneurship development and skills training. NEPAD is engaged in several such initiatives related to areas such as infrastructure, Internet connectivity and intra‑continental trade.
Rwanda’s representative, Valentine Rugwabiza, noted that the Addis Ababa Action Agenda had established a strong foundation for the implementation of both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and cited notable socio‑economic progress made across Africa since the latter’s adoption in 2015.
Meanwhile, the recent Kigali Amendment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change had reinforced those agendas by setting environmental targets and timeframes. Agriculture is an important path for Africa’s sustainable development, Rugwabiza said, adding that an impactful transformation in that area would require strong coordination between partners in country‑led processes. Among other critical challenges are those related to peace and security, which necessitate stronger efforts in conflict prevention and responses to early warning signs of conflict.
Speaking on behalf of the African Group, Egypt’s Ihab Moustafa Awad Moustafa said the peace and development nexus was particularly evident in the two reports of the Secretary‑General: ‘New Partnership for Africa’s Development: fifteenth consolidated progress report on implementation and international support’ (document A/72/223), and the ‘Causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa’ (document A/72/269).
“As the world is pursuing the new milestone in the global partnership for development […] it is imperative to continue to place Africa at the centre of United Nations efforts to eradicate poverty,” he said, as well as to address the impacts of climate change and ensure inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.
Eradicating poverty remained the greatest development challenge for African countries, where half the world’s poor people lived. Expressing concern over the fact that – two years into the 2030 Agenda’s implementation – global hunger was again on the rise and affected some 815 million people, efforts should focus on the necessary means of implementation, including financial resources, technology transfer and capacity‑building.
“The scale must be ambitious enough to meet the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he stressed, adding that developed countries should fulfil their commitments as laid out in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, including those related to ODA.
While international support was important, he continued, African ownership of the development process was critical and “is not just a mere concept”. African countries had taken the primary responsibility for their own development, and their experience with the Millennium Development Goals had shown that significant advances had been made with African nations leading the way.
Nevertheless, systemic issues had affected the continent’s rates of economic growth and international support was not sufficient to bring about a significant reduction in unemployment and poverty levels, nor in advancing other goals.
The challenges facing Africa today traversed peace, security and development, he stressed, noting that “there can be no lasting security without inclusive development” and “peace, security and the rule of law underpinned by credible systems of democratic governance are prerequisites and indispensable factors and drivers of development”.
African countries had taken numerous steps to address peace and security challenges at national and regional levels, including establishing the ‘Group of 5’ Sahel force, consisting of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, as well as deploying a Multinational Joint Task Force to end the Boko Haram insurgency and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Partners must enhance their support for such peace and security activities, as no country or region could resolve those challenges alone.
Libya’s Omar A. A. Annakou, associating himself with the African Group, also echoed concerns over security and stability, and agreed that Africa would be unable to move forward in its development without addressing those crucial issues. Many countries on the continent, including Libya, continued to suffer from deteriorating security situations. Calling on Member States to urgently support African countries affected by conflict or emerging from it, he said his country suffered especially from instability resulting from transnational migrant flows, trafficking and other cross‑border issues.
“This is not a national or regional problem,” and therefore the responsibility must not fall on transit countries alone, he stressed, noting that origin and destination countries must also work to address the phenomenon’s root causes.
Sudan’s Hamid Mohamed Elnour Ahmed voicing regret that conflicts and other security issues had adversely affected the prosperity of Africa’s people, said climate change and its impacts on food security were another source of grave concern. African countries and the international community must work together to avoid the destructive impacts of that phenomenon.
Echoing support for the continued integration of the 2030 Agenda into the continent’s development plans, he said regional organizations such as the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) have an important role to play in that regard. He also called for a redoubling of efforts to establish a comprehensive, strategic partnership to fight terrorism and ensure political stability in Africa.
Delegates from Asia, Europe and other regions also expressed their support for NEPAD and reiterated their commitment to back development efforts on the African continent.
India’s Suryanarayan Srinivas Prasad said that Agenda 2063 was mutually reinforcing with the 2030 Agenda and embraced the core priorities of NEPAD. International cooperation remained a key element in Africa’s quest to achieve peace and prosperity. Africa had made rapid strides in recent years – poverty rates had fallen, infrastructure connectivity had improved and economies were more diversified, while banking, telecommunications and retail had expanded, life expectancies had increased, school enrolment had grown and more women were being elected to political office.
Providing the youth with greater opportunities for education and employment could reap Africa’s demographic dividend, he said. Trade and diaspora links as well as a shared colonial past had framed India’s relationship with Africa. The core strength of the Africa‑India cooperative relationship included efforts aimed at capacity‑building, the mobilization of financial support and the sharing of technical expertise. He noted that Africa‑India trade had doubled in the last five years, making India the fourth largest trading partner for Africa. Further, he highlighted that the African Development Bank had held its annual board meeting in India.
Russia’s Sergey B. Kononuchenko said that despite continued weak economic growth and crisis situations on the continent, African countries were demonstrating resolute commitment to achieving the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063. It was upsetting that the Secretary‑General’s report noted a 3 per cent decrease in foreign direct investment to the continent in 2016. African countries must have support in achieving the 2030 Agenda, without which there was a real threat that the progress achieved in recent years would stall.
The Russian Federation continuously provided support to Africa through inter‑governmental initiatives, and had forgiven more than 20 billion in African debt, while also using innovative mechanisms to ease African debt burden.
Further, his Government had carried out projects to ensure food security and improve industrial and transport infrastructure through international programmes and other specialized United Nations bodies. He went on to underscore that his Government was one of the first to react and respond to the Ebola outbreak.
The future of Africa was dependent on the development of the production and trade potential of the continent, he said, adding that his delegation welcomed the establishment of the Technology Bank for Least Development Countries, which was established at the behest of the 2011 Istanbul Programme of Action for the least developed countries.
This long-standing priority was confirmed in the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development and in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Sustainable Development Goal target 17.8. In December 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 71/251 on Establishment of the Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries.
Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu of Turkey, which hosts the Technology Bank, said his country’s Africa Partnership Policy fully embraced the principle of “African solutions to African issues”. Those countries and Governments had the best knowledge to address their own challenges, he said, outlining Turkey’s support in such areas as infrastructure development, humanitarian assistance and the maintenance of security and stability.
Since 2005, Turkey had multiplied its ODA to sub‑Saharan Africa by more than100 times, and it was engaged in several projects relating to macroeconomic management, health, urbanization, agriculture and education. It also collaborated with small‑ and medium‑sized enterprises to carry out sustainable development projects related to industrialization and job creation, and organized training programmes around the continent and in Turkey. [IDN-InDepthNews – 21 October 2017]
Photo: General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák addressing the Assembly’s annual joint debate on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development and the ‘2001-2010: Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa.’ UN Photo/Cia Pak
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