Despite Gains in Reducing Poverty, Fuelling Growth, Africa Still Needs International Funding, Training to Overcome Development Challenges, Speakers Tell General Assembly
International support remains fundamental to help Africa overcome its myriad development challenges including lack of funding and capacity, as the continent strengthens its commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, the General Assembly heard today.
Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad‑Bande (Nigeria) said that African countries have recently made substantial progress since signing up to two abovementioned agendas. Strides have been made in fighting poverty, boosting the economy, and empowering women. Still, Africa will need to increase its gross domestic product (GDP) by 11 per cent annually over the next decade to close its financing gap.
Discussing its agenda item on the “New Partnership for Africa’s Development: progress in implementation and international support,” and sub item “2001‑2010: Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, Particularly in Africa,” the Assembly had before it two related reports of the Secretary‑General (documents A/74/193 and A/74/301).
The Assembly President welcomed the creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which, as the largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), covers a market of 1.2 billion people and GDP of $2.5 trillion. Strengthened cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations is critical in supporting peace operations on the continent and protecting security gains, particularly in the Horn of Africa and Sahel regions, he added.
Mr. Muhammad‑Bande also stressed the need to promote inclusion in the future development plans of the continent, spotlighting the importance of engaging civil society, empowering young people and women. “Investing in women’s empowerment is a direct investment into the development of societies as a whole,” he emphasized.
The representative of Zambia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, echoed the sentiments of many speakers in welcoming the transition of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) into the African Union Development Agency. The Agency will focus on boosting efforts to implement the Agenda 2063 by promoting regional integration and strengthening national capacities. Lack of financing and capacity, however, continue to be real problems, he said, expressing concern about the decline in official development assistance (ODA) and the possibility of commodity price volatility and the imposition of trade tariffs.
South Africa’s delegate said that illicit financial flows have for decades robbed African people and countries of their resources. “It is done deliberately by those who have the means but who seek to avoid any responsibility and nwallaccountability,” he added. Underscoring the massive potential of Africa’s youth “who no longer consider themselves to be victims of circumstances”, he urged Governments and the international community, “to stand behind these young people and exploit their talents and ability to innovate.”
The representative of the Democratic Republic of Congo, speaking on behalf of the African countries of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), focusing on health and the fight against malaria, expressed concern that people are developing resistance to certain malaria drugs. Urging the international community to implement a surveillance system to track such resistance, he also said that producers of long‑lasting insecticide and mosquito nets must transfer their technologies to African States.
Kenya’s representative said that in September, his Government, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), rolled out the world's first malaria vaccine in a phased programme which will be piloted in eight counties. The free vaccine can prevent 40 per cent of malaria infections and severe malaria by more than 30 per cent among infants aged six to 24 months. While the disease’s prevalence has decreased in recent years, it remains one of the top 10 causes of death in the country, he said.
The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the United Nations must indeed assist in upgrading health systems and ensuring equitable access to health services in Africa. He also urged those who have not fulfilled their financial assistance commitments to step up their efforts.
Several delegates highlighted how their Governments are collaborating with African countries to boost the continent’s economy and ability to achieve sustainable development. India’s representative, noting that his country’s development partnership includes implementation of 181 lines of credit worth approximately $11 billion, commended the formation of the African Continental Free Trade Area as another opportunity to bolster economic ties.
The representative of the United States said her Government is working with African partners to bring forward fair and reciprocal trade agreements, avoid debt traps that have left countries worse off and do more to improve the underlying business climates. “Not all countries investing in Africa have followed this model of engagement,” she emphasized, adding, “their bottom line is economic dependency and not self‑reliance.”
The representative of the Russian Federation, emphasizing his Government’s recent support to African partners to cope with natural disasters and the Ebola outbreak, also noted: “We have written off African debt to the tune of $20 billion.”
Italy’s delegate said that despite her country being one of Africa’s main development partners, African ownership is fundamental to finding long‑term solutions in Africa. In that regard, she welcomed positive developments including the Ethiopian Prime Minister being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the formation of a new Government in Sudan and the peace deal reached in Central African Republic.
Also speaking today were representatives of Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Sierra Leone, Myanmar, Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia and China.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 22 October, to discuss the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.
TIJJANI MUHAMMAD‑BANDE (Nigeria), President of the General Assembly, said that African countries have taken action for sustainable development by signing up to two important agendas, namely the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Agenda 2063 of the African Union. The continent’s nations have made progress on several key issues, including poverty eradication, economic growth, and the empowerment of women. In agriculture and food security, over 40 African States have engaged in the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, which provides a policy framework for agricultural transformation, wealth creation, food security and nutrition and economic growth for all. The Agricultural Technical Vocational Education and Training for Women Project works to increase women’s access to formal and non‑formal training in the agri‑food sector.
It is estimated that Africa will need to increase its gross domestic product (GDP) by 11 per cent annually over the next decade to close the financing gap, he continued, noting that efficient domestic resource mobilization can address a substantial portion of this shortfall. African nations have made great strides towards bridging this gap with the creation of the largest free trade areas since the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The African Continental Free Trade Area will cover a market of 1.2 billion people and a GDP of $2.5 trillion. International support in the form of technology transfer, capacity‑building and official development assistance (ODA) commitments will help ensure that “we leave no one behind,” he said.
Cooperation between the African Union and the United Nations is crucial as well, he continued, emphasizing the need to work together to support peace operations on the continent and protect security gains, particularly in the Horn of Africa and Sahel regions. “We must therefore provide sustainable and predictable financing for peace operations,” he added. Stressing the need to promote inclusion, he underscored the need to engage civil society and ensure the full participation of women in the economy. “Investing in women’s empowerment is a direct investment into the development of societies as a whole,” he said, also adding: “Few things make better economic sense than gender equality and women’s empowerment.” The creation of decent jobs for young people is also a key tool for conflict prevention. Urgent measures are essential to improve climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, he added.
ABDULLAH ABU SHAWESH, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that the lack of adequate resources remains the primary constraint facing African States. Despite these challenges, the continent has strengthened its commitment and actions in the socioeconomic development framework. The Group urges those who have not fulfilled their financial assistance commitments to step up their efforts. While African countries have taken numerous and significant national and regional steps to address peace and security challenges, in order to prevent and resolve conflict at the earliest stage, the United Nations system must support African regional and subregional organizations in their efforts to help African countries achieve the goal of a conflict‑free continent in the coming years.
The Group also maintains the needs for the United Nations to support African regional and subregional organizations in supporting the efforts of States to achieve the goal of a conflict‑free continent, he said. Many African countries have successfully reduced malaria incidents, but much work remains to be done. The Group welcomes the World Health Organization’s (WHO)s Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016‑2030 as a framework for continued global efforts against the disease. The United Nations system must assist in upgrading health systems and ensuring equitable access to health services in Africa, as the health and well‑being of the population lie at the heart of inclusive and sustainable development.
NAGARAJ NAIDU KAKANUR (India), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that international cooperation remains a critical element in Africa’s efforts to achieve greater peace and prosperity. India views the new African Continental Free Trade Area as another opportunity to boost its trade and economic ties with Africa. India’s development partnership includes implementation of 181 lines of credit worth approximately $11 billion in more than 41 African countries, he said. Thirty‑five African leaders have visited India in the last five years alone, demonstrating the close links between them. The philosophy underlying India’s partnership with Africa is the empowerment of the continent for a future founded on the principles of inclusiveness, sustainability, respect for all and peace.
ABDULLAH ALRASHIDI (Kuwait) welcomed the Secretary‑General’s report on the progress African States have made in development. Kuwait hopes that the people of Africa can enjoy increased prosperity. Development is one of the best ways to ensure peace within countries, demonstrated by the Kuwaiti Fund for Development, which supports sustainable development in Africa. The Fund currently cooperates with more than 52 African countries. In addition, he said, in 2013, Kuwait participated in the third Afro‑Arab Summit on development. Furthermore, the Emir of Kuwait has launched humanitarian prize to reward research in the areas of health care and education in Africa.
MOHAMMAD YOUSUF ABDULLA MOHAMMAD BASTAKI (United Arab Emirates), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said countries must continue to work to combat malaria. It is incumbent upon United Nations agencies and other international organizations to work on rolling back malaria, consistent with the 2030 Agenda. Given the prevalence of malaria among pregnant women and young children, efforts should focus on these two groups, he said, perhaps through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) or other United Nations agencies. The United Arab Emirates takes great pride in its efforts to defeat the disease, delivering support in a number of countries, primarily through WHO. Success in ending malaria is possible, he added, and the United Arab Emirates will continue its support of these efforts.
VITAVAS SRIVIHOK (Thailand), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the recent entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the recent transformation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) into the African Union Development Agency to help accelerate implementation of the Agenda 2063. “We will continue to further deepen and strengthen our cooperation in the spirit of South‑South and Triangular Cooperation,” he said. Thailand recognizes that achieving the 2030 Agenda is fundamental to ensuring healthy lives and well‑being “for all at all ages”. He also recognized the “indispensable role” of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, noting that Thailand recently announced a renewed pledge of $4.5 million for the 2020‑2022 period. “We remain committed to sharing our knowledge, experiences and lessons learned with other malaria‑endemic countries,” he added.
MARIA ANGELA ZAPPIA (Italy) said that the African Continental Free Trade Area represents a major step towards the realization of a people‑centred Africa. Italy is one of Africa’s main socioeconomic development partners, assisting with training and capacity‑building programmes. “We are increasingly focusing our efforts on the protection and assistance of the most vulnerable groups such as migrants, refugees and internally displaced persons, and within these groups, to those who mostly suffer in humanitarian crisis, especially women,” she added. Noting various recent positive developments, she welcomed the Ethiopian Prime Minister being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the formation of a new Government in Sudan and the peace agreement reached in Central African Republic. “These are just some recent examples that show how African ownership was key in finding sustainable and long‑term solutions,” she said. Italy stresses the need to boost cooperation between the African Union and United Nations and recognizes the legitimate aspirations of Africa to have greater representation in the Security Council.
ALIE KABBA (Sierra Leone), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said that his country appreciates the support the United Nations and international partners have given to Africa in NEPAD’s implementation. Sierra Leone has aligned its national development plan with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2063, demonstrating the country’s determination to implement the global and continental development frameworks. However, the lack of funding continues to hinder the full potential of the 2030 Agenda and the Agenda 2063. Although African States should take the lead on mobilizing resources, international partners must increase their support, he said. Global efforts will complement the efforts of Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation, and the Roll Back Malaria campaign, to reduce malaria morbidity and mortality by at least 40 per cent in the next year.
LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the African Union Development Agency will catalyse efforts to implement the Agenda 2063 by promoting regional integration through the coordination of continental and regional projects, and by strengthening the capacities of African countries to realize the Agenda 2063 goals through various projects and policies. He noted that Africa’s efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda has translated into progress, including the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area in May 2019. Notably, African Union member States have agreed to increase their contributions to the humanitarian assistance fund by 2 per cent, he said.
The African Group appreciates the support it has received from the United Nations and other international partners, but lack of financing and lack of capacity continue to be problems, he said, calling on international partners to increase their support to close these gaps. In addition, the Group is concerned by the possibility of greater commodity price volatility and the imposition of trade tariffs, which would have a particularly negative impact on Africa’s economic outlook, as well as the decline of ODA, he said, urging international partners to reverse this trend. Concerned about the risks of climate change, he called for strengthened cooperation to mitigate its ill effects. The root causes of the continent’s increasing debt burdens must also to be addressed. “But we — the international community — are not powerless in the face of these concerns. Let's make sure that together we take concrete actions to reduce the risks that these issues pose,” he said.
HMWAY HMWAY KHYNE (Myanmar) welcomed recent developments directed towards the realization of the NEPAD initiatives. Such commitment made by African leaders, commendable as they are, will not be enough to overcome the many difficulties Africa is presently encountering, she said. The poverty rate on the continent, especially in sub‑Saharan Africa, is still high. The recent economic climate in Africa is not very encouraging, as the year 2018 was characterized by a slowdown in economic growth, she noted, emphasizing the need to redouble efforts and “demonstrate that Africa remains a viable development partner in the world”. South‑South cooperation remains a key instrument to assist African development. The trend of increased economic and technical cooperation between Africa and other developing regions in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean is particularly important. “Myanmar, like many countries in Africa, lagged behind in development due to internal armed conflicts,” she said. Drawing lessons from the post‑independence history of the country, “we strongly believe that peace and stability are most crucial for achieving development,” she continued. Durable peace, security and sustainable development in Africa are intertwined and interrelated.
SOFIANE MIMOUNI (Algeria), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said that the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area in the summer 2019 was a milestone, creating the world’s largest free trade area. Given the increasing vulnerability of African countries to climate change and its devastating impact on agriculture, as witnessed in Malawi and elsewhere following Cyclone Idai in March 2019, the international community should increase investment in resilience‑building to strengthen Africa’s capacity to withstand climate‑ and weather‑related shocks, he said. In terms of infrastructure, the Trans‑Sahara Highway will facilitate seamless road transportation over a distance of 5,000 kilometres from Algeria to Lagos, opening up more than 400 million people to the Mediterranean. Algeria has also completed 2,700 kilometres of the optic fibre line from Algeria to Nigeria. The drop in international assistance to Africa is concerning, he continued, but the increase in the foreign direct investment flows to the continent by 11 per cent in 2018 testifies to the continent’s investment attractiveness.
HODA ELENGUEBAWY (Egypt), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said that NEPAD is strengthening development efforts and giving advisory support to States within the African Union in the area of international development. Egypt has been working to strengthen development on the continent, presiding over the African Union. The creation of the African Continental Free Trade Area will strengthen regional and international trade and create attractive markets, she continued. Approximately half of the fastest‑growing economies in the world are in Africa, but more must be done by regional and international partners to strengthen resources and capacity at local, regional and international levels. In November, Egypt will host the African Investment Forum, with over 2,000 development partners involved attending, including investors. However, terrorism and organized crime are growing around the world. The international community must boost efforts in conflict resolution to strengthen economic and social development. Peer review mechanisms and dialogues are critical in this area.
MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOB (Indonesia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that the Agenda 2063 is a solid launching pad to materialize the aspirations of the continent. “Indonesia and African nations share a long history,” he added, noting that the volume of trade between Africa and Indonesia reached $8.8 billion in 2017. Investments between Indonesia and Africa continue to grow with Indonesian companies setting up operations on the continent in pharmaceuticals, textile, energy and food. To further accelerate economic relations, Indonesia convened the first‑ever Indonesia‑Africa Forum in 2018 and Indonesia‑Africa Infrastructure Dialogue in 2019. Both meetings resulted in boosted economic cooperation and business agreements worth more than $500 million and $822 million, respectively. He noted various progress Indonesia has made in reducing malaria cases through early diagnosis and treatment, particularly among the most vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, infants and toddlers. It is important to share these experiences and best practices through South‑South cooperation, he added.
DMITRY S. CHUMAKOV (Russian Federation) said it is important to support NEPAD in its transformation to the African Union Development Agency, noting also that Russian‑African ties are strengthening. “We have written off African debt to the tune of $20 billion,” he added. The Russian Federation is allocating funds to the continent through various United Nations agencies including through WHO and the World Food Programme (WFP). The Russian Federation has supported African partners which have suffered from natural disasters, including Cyclone Idai as well as health crises such as the Ebola outbreak. “A key issue in ensuring the well‑being of Africa is to ensure the settlement and prevention of armed conflict,” he said, emphasizing that regional players are best equipped to deal with regional security challenges. Cooperation between the African Union Peace and Security Council and the United Nations Security Council remains imperative and fundamental to resolving conflicts on the continent. The Russian Federation will continue to cooperate with its African partners to ensure the continent achieves its goals.
THOMAS B. AMOLO (Kenya), associating himself with the Group and 77 and China and the African Group, said that in the fourth year of the 2030 Agenda’s implementation, in Africa there is still severe poverty, hunger has increased, climate change’s efforts pose a complex problem, and States are struggling to mobilize their resources to achieve sustainable development. However, Kenya is grateful to its international partners for their contributions to the continent’s progress. The country is a great beneficiary of NEPAD, with 7,093 women benefiting from 11 projects implemented within the country by the NEPAD Spanish Fund for the Empowerment of African Women, among other successes. However, increased financial assistance from international partners, alongside foreign direct investment, is critical in supporting development.
Roughly 70 per cent of the population of Kenya remains at risk of malaria, he said, although the disease’s prevalence has been reduced from 11 per cent of the population to 8 per cent nationally in recent years. In the last eight years, there has been a 12 per cent drop in outpatient cases. In September, Kenya, in partnership with the WHO, rolled out the world's first malaria vaccine in a phased programme which will be piloted in eight counties. The free vaccine can prevent 40 per cent of malaria infections and prevent severe malaria by more than 30 per cent among infants aged six to 24 months. Despite such gains, much more must be done, as the epidemic remains one of the top 10 causes of death in the country, and a leading killer of children under age 5.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, called the African Continental Free Trade Area a game changer for the continent and its potential to boost intra‑African trade. The expansion of trade amongst African countries requires a robust strategy for manufacturing and industrialization across the continent. The African Union is prioritizing industrialization, he added, noting the important work of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in assisting African countries in that regard. The African continent boosts a large youth population “who no longer consider themselves to be victims of circumstances”, he said. “Our Governments, with the support of the United Nations and international community, need to stand behind these young people and exploit their talents and ability to innovate for the good of all our societies,” he added. South Africa urges the international community to support African countries as they develop both national and cross‑border infrastructure projects. Illicit financial flows have for decades robbed African people and countries of much‑needed resources. “It is done deliberately by those who have the means but who seek to avoid any responsibility and accountability,” he added. He also urged all international partners to support the “Silencing of the Guns” initiative, including efforts to stem the inflow of small arms and light weapons into African countries.
DAVID TSHISHIKU TSHIBANGU (Democratic Republic of Congo), speaking on behalf of the African countries of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), said that the international community needs to support efforts to eradicate malaria. The world must step up its contributions to the prevention, treatment and protection of people from the disease, particularly young children. In 2018, the African Union Commission adopted as a political commitment a campaign called “Zero malaria starts with me”, he said. The campaign is a way to incorporate all people from all sectors of society into the fight against the disease.
Seventy per cent of preventable deaths from malaria are concentrated in India and 10 African countries, he continued. India has made significant progress in its fight against malaria, resulting in a one‑quarter drop in the number of deaths in that country. However, the 10 African countries have seen increases in their numbers, although elsewhere on the continent, Algeria has succeeded in eradicating the disease. The Democratic Republic of Congo is concerned about resistance to malaria drugs. In addition to implementing a global plan for containing the disease and a global plan to manage resistance to insecticides, the international community must implement a surveillance system to track resistance to treatments. Furthermore, producers of long‑lasting insecticide and mosquito nets must transfer their technologies to African States, he said.
XU ZHONGSHENG (China), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said NEPAD is an important framework for Africa’s development. The efforts by African States in recent years to boost their development have resulted in fast economic expansion, demonstrated by 3.5 per cent growth in 2018. However, unilateralism, terrorism and climate change, among others, represent daunting challenges. China supports African States in their respective development paths. Developing countries should increase their development assistance with no political strings attached, he said. In addition, African’s external debt should be “ameliorated”. China supports Africa by working to enhance its capacity to independently maintain peace and security and counter‑terrorism. The African Union should deploy the African Standby Force, and early warning mechanisms, he said. Africa has been China’s largest trading partner for decades.
COURTNEY NEMROFF (United States) said that her country continues to innovate and implement new methods of cooperation with the African Union. The Trump Administration launched its Africa Strategy in December 2018 focusing on advancing peace and security and promoting good governance and self‑reliance across the continent. Closer United States‑Africa private sector ties will contribute to the continent’s development, she said, expressing strong support for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. The United States is focused on providing technical assistance, supporting bankable projects and investing directly in women‑owned companies in Africa. Targeted backing from the United States can catalyse significant amounts of private capital for emerging markets. “This is only becoming more prominent as the needs of African countries have become too great for Governments alone to address,” she said.
The United States is focused on promoting a better business climate to attract investment, create employment and increase production in both the United States and Africa, including through the Prosper Africa initiative announced in June, she said. Her Government is also working with African partners to bring forward fair and reciprocal trade agreements. “Not all countries investing in Africa have followed this model of engagement,” she said, adding, “their bottom line is economic dependency and not self‑reliance.” She stressed the need to avoid debt traps that have often left countries worse off and do more to improve the underlying business climates. “United States economic engagement in Africa, both bilaterally and through international organizations such as the United Nations, will continue to be predicated on respect for our partners’ sovereignty; ensuring that local workers benefit from our cooperation; upholding environmental standards; combating corruption; and producing outcomes that are built to last,” she said.