Tokyo International Conference on African Development Partnership Can Help Bring Green Jobs to Continent's Youth, Women, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Forum
Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s opening remarks to the eighth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, in Tunis today:
I wish to start by expressing my gratitude to the Government and the people of Tunisia for their hospitality and to the Co-Chairs of the Summit, the Government of Japan and the Government of Senegal for their leadership and support for Africa. I also take this opportunity to wish [Japan] Prime Minister [Fumio] Kishida a speedy recovery and to convey greetings from the UN Secretary-General to this august gathering.
Today I am privileged to be on this podium, but as an endangered species. As the first Tokyo International Conference on African Development foresaw over 27 years ago, there can be no sustainable development for all — until sustainable development is achieved in Africa. This conviction has borne fruit in the years since.
While we have made progress in many areas, today, the challenges before us are immense and put at risk the gains we have made. Thanks to platforms such as the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, we already have the partnerships in place to respond to these challenges together. This partnership must ensure concrete commitments and political ambition are delivered to achieve the 2030 Agenda and Agenda 2063 for the people of Africa.
Africa’s wealth is in natural resources, arable land and its vibrant young population, as well as our women. The continent holds the key to its own development, and through its integration into the global economy, will ensure that the world is able to overcome many of today’s challenges. But, too often, the world relegates Africa to the detriment of us all.
Yet, the “Africa We Want” is still within reach. Taken together, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union Agenda 2063 provide the blueprint to achieve sustainable development on the continent. To do so, the world must urgently and collectively address the cascading impacts of multiple crises.
The COVID-19 pandemic recovery, the impacts of the war in Ukraine, the climate emergency and the financial crisis are placing already vulnerable populations under extreme stress. This “perfect storm” is, in turn, creating a fertile breeding ground exacerbating existing and future conflict and unrest, thus compromising our collective efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and save lives and livelihoods.
We have an unprecedented chance to overcome these challenges and address Africa’s security and sustainable development needs. The African Continental Free Trade Area represents a great opportunity to industrialize, diversify and digitize economies, and enhance regional cooperation and resilience. African leaders and institutions like the African Union, African Development Bank, Afrexim Bank and the African Continental Free Trade Area are at the forefront of this endeavour.
Looking ahead, efforts are needed to accelerate action across three main transitions, to benefit African economies and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In this, Japan is a key player.
First, ensuring universal energy access and a just and equitable transition to renewable energy. A comprehensive approach that charts Africa’s energy development pathways, anchored on sustainable investments and strong partnerships, such as the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, is essential.
With the energy access gap impacting about 600 million people, Africa will need the “energy development space” to keep pace with its ambitions for universal, reliable and affordable access to clean energy. This will be supported by the Secretary-General’s Global Road Map on Energy, and his calls to accelerate a rapid transition to renewable energy to keep the 1.5°C goal alive.
The current global rise in energy prices can also prompt African countries to maximize the continent’s great potential for renewable energy. But, this will require timely investments at scale.
Second, it is urgent to transform our food systems. This means achieving food security, nutrition, self-sufficiency and jobs for youth across the continent. Expanding Africa’s breadbasket requires enhanced agriculture productivity and food systems that leverage new technology of modern irrigation systems, the mechanization of farming and the reduction of post-harvest losses, which are high priorities for the continent.
The Tokyo International Conference on African Development partnership can propel food systems transformation through appropriate investments and affordable technology and innovations at scale. At the core is the opportunity to bring green jobs to our youth and women.
Lastly, there can be no solution to these interconnected crises if we don’t address inequality and its underlying factors. There is need for a shift in the perception of Africa as dependent continent to one that is a key actor on the global stage, with the same rights and standing as any other region. Be it economic or political.
The mobilization of adequate financing for sustainable development is an imperative. At the global level, this requires concerted efforts from all of us — including the G20, international financial institutions and multilateral and regional development banks to free up additional fiscal space and find solutions to the current debt crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
The United Nations will continue to advocate for immediate debt relief and increased liquidity, the rechannelling of unused special drawing rights to countries in need and reforming the criteria to assess eligibility. We must ensure all countries who need it can immediately access financial support, on good terms and over a long time period.
The Tokyo International Conference on African Development’s multilateral and comprehensive partnership platform, including strong private sector participation, and principle of African ownership, can promote public private partnerships.
This would include improving efficiency in public expenditures, strengthening revenue collection, harnessing private savings and private financial sector for development, and prioritizing investments in social protection and decent job creation while leveraging fintech. The role of and impact in the lives of youth and women must be a key outcome.
It would also mean exploring opportunities for Africa to contribute as a player in global value chains, and to the global food and energy markets, leveraging the African Continental Free Trade Area.
This conference comes at a time when we must urgently consolidate our partnerships and — together with all of you — build a prosperous and sustainable Africa in which no one is left behind.
I urge all of us to seize the opportunity of the upcoming General Assembly, the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group, the G20 meeting and the twenty-seventh United Nations Climate Change Conference to reinforce the actions we must take together to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic and respond to the impact of the continuing war in Ukraine.
In doing so, we must remember that we are not starting from nothing — what we need now are solid building blocks to achieve our ambition of delivering Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Africa.
Once again, I would like to reiterate that the United Nations stands ready to continue to accompany African countries in this journey. Let me end by quoting Nelson Mandela who said: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”